Food safety remains top priority

Paperwork, food inspections make food safety more time-consuming.

Food safety is still very much top of mind for most operators, according to The Big Picture. Half of the respondents to our survey indicated that they are more concerned about food safety now than they were five years ago, and 46% say they are just as concerned now.

“We’ve always been concerned with food safety, but with the globalization of food sourcing, especially meats and spices and some produce, it becomes more and more challenging to enforce and monitor any kind of food safety protocol,” says Therese O’Connor, manager of training and staff development for Campus Life at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y. 

Michael Rosenberger, foodservice director for the Irving Independent School District, in Texas, believes much of the increased concern is the result of the media. “There seems to be much more media coverage of food safety issues than in years past,” he suggests. “With the increased media coverage comes an increase in overall concern about food safety.”

But he adds that school foodservice professionals in general are not more concerned than in years past because “it’s always been a No. 1 concern of ours. Protecting students has to be top of the list.”

Jeremy Manners, culinary and nutrition director for West Haven Manor, a long-term care facility, in Apollo, Pa., agrees. “In healthcare you can’t afford to take anything for granted,” Manners says. “Food safety always has to be a top priority in this business.”

Al Caldiero, director of food and nutrition services at the University of Rochester Medical Center, in New York, says he’s more concerned about food safety because he fears that producers aren’t being as vigilant. “There is a growing worldwide demand for food caused by emerging Third World markets like China and India,” he says. “I worry that competition to get to market first is causing growers and manufacturers to take shortcuts.”

When it comes to time spent on food safety, the great majority of respondents say they spend more time today than they did five years ago, with very few operators saying they spend less time today than they have in the past (3%). 

“I would say we spend more time,” says Cathy Graham, foodservice director for Pewaukee Schools, in Wisconsin. “There is a lot more paperwork required now than when I started in the business 21 years ago.”

But paperwork isn’t the only aspect of food safety that has changed.

“We spend much more time dealing with food safety—everything from hand washing protocols to the many, many recalls of food,” O’Connor says. “Monitoring temperatures and inspecting food deliveries are big challenges for us now.” She adds that 80% of Dining Service’s full-time staff and 50% of student staff are trained through the National Environmental Health Association’s ANSI certification programs. 

Only a few operators spend less time now on food safety than five years ago. Those in long-term care facilities (8%) and hospitals (4%) are the most likely to report this. Technology is one reason operators say they can spend less time on food safety now. “Because of technology, we can know almost immediately about a food recall or outbreak of foodborne illness and can react more quickly,” says Caldiero, who adds that food safety training still takes roughly the same amount of time today as it always has. 

Improper Hand Washing Top Food Safety Worry

Operators’ top two food safety concerns are poor hand washing or other lapses on the part of staff and improper temperature controls. Operations with annual food and beverage purchases of $5 million or more were significantly more likely to report poor hand washing as a top food safety concern (60%) than locations with lower annual purchases (46%). Hospitals were significantly more likely to report concern about improperly cleaned equipment/workspaces (30%) than the other segments (15%). Cross contamination was college operators’ top food safety concern, at 52%. The other food safety concern mentioned most often by respondents was food allergies.

Food Safety Concerns

The majority of operators report they devote more time to food safety now than they did five years ago. Operators at contracted-managed locations were significantly more likely than those at self-operated facilities to say they devote more time now to food safety (81% versus 71%). 

With 73% of operators spending more time on food safety today, it should not be surprising that 96% are more or just as concerned about food safety as they were five years ago. Furthermore, only five or less respondents in each segment were less concerned about food safety than they were five years ago.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
sushi plate

We wanted to add sushi, but that’s not really my expertise. So we found a great local company that offered to put three sushi chefs on-site every day. They supply the ingredients, and if we meet the minimum revenue each week, than we receive a percentage of sales. We have been exceeding the weekly minimum sales, which we track in our POS, in two days.

Managing Your Business
coffee barista

Whether it’s a morning routine, an afternoon pick-me-up or an evening social ritual, few things are as universally appealing as coffee. Sixty-five percent of respondents in Technomic’s 2016 Beverage Consumer Trend Report say they ordered a cup of hot joe from a foodservice location in the past month, and 59% say the same about cold coffee. Everyone has an opinion about what makes it good, whether it’s a low price, a unique blend or a friendly barista.

“Coffee is so personal. There are a lot of people that are Dunkin’ fans. There’s a lot of Starbucks people,” says James Dravenack,...

Ideas and Innovation
star wars storm trooper

My favorite event—because I’m kind of dorky—is our “May the fourth be with you” (aka “Star Wars”) day on May 4. The whole dining team dresses up, and we offer things like Chewbaklava, Boba Fettuccine and BB-8 Buckeyes. We had a guest cry because they got to take a picture with Chewy.

Menu Development
spilled coffee beans glasses

Following an initial test at the end of May, Starbucks announced that more than 500 of its stores will be pouring nitro coffee by the end of summer. Capitalizing on the cold-brew coffee trend—which reached $7.9 million in sales in 2015 on 115% growth from the previous year, according to researcher Mintel—select U.S. cafes will give up the counter space to serve the creamy, nitrogen-infused java made from the cold-brew base. But how did nitro become the hottest new thing in coffee?

Bringing the bar to coffeehouses

It was the chrome double tap, similar to a bar’s beer tap, and the...

FSD Resources