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Houston Department of Health and Human Services > Food Inspection and Safety (Consumer Health) > Food Safety Tips > Top 10 Food Safety Resolutions

Top 10 Food Safety Resolutions

As you look around to make yet another New Year’s resolution, let us suggest making one for food safety reasons. Houston Department of Health and Human Services sanitarians inspect food establishments in the city of Houston. They have compiled a list that allows you to be ready for his/her next surprise inspection!

Do whatever you can to comply with these items and chances are that you may be on next year’s Blue Ribbon Award. Here they are in the order.

10. All ready-to-eat foods are marked with preparation date and disposition date.

If you prepare an item that is ready-to-eat and held for over 24 hours in your food establishment, mark the potentially hazardous food with two dates – preparation or opening date and disposition or consume-by date. You may use 7 days for 41°F storage temperature and use 4 days for storage at 45°F.

9. Store wiping cloths in the sanitizing solution.

If you use wiping cloths, make sure that you provide a bucket with sanitizing solution (50 ppm of available chlorine) to keep those wiping cloths in between uses.

8. Have employee wear effective hair restraint.

If you handle, prepare foods (Even if you are the manager) or if you wash utensils – YOU MUST WEAR AN EFFECTIVE hair restraint! A simple cap, chef’s hat, hair net, etc. may be adequate to keep the hair out of food and the fingers out of the hair.

7. Employee drinking or eating in the kitchen.

Tell your employees to go out in the dining area and take a drinking/eating break rather than in the kitchen. It is OK if employees use a "contamination-free" process of drinking beverages from a closed and non-spillable container.

6. Improper holding temperatures.

Just remember:

KEEP IT HOT (140°F or above) KEEP IT COLD (41°F or below) OR DON’T KEEP IT!

5. Improper sequence of sanitizing utensils

It is WASH – RINSE – SANITIZE and AIR-DRY

Wash with soap and water in the first compartment sink, rinse with clean water in the second compartment and rinse with sanitizer solution in the third compartment. Please keep cloth towels away so the employees allow the utensils and dishes to air dry. If you use dishwashing machine, make sure it is dispensing proper sanitizer or providing at least 160°F hot water for final rinse.

4. Improper cooling of cooked foods.

Once cooked to its proper temperatures, all foods must be cooled rapidly. You have six hours for bringing the hot foods to 45°F / 41°F (140 to 70 in 2 hours and 70 to 41/45 in additional 4 hours). Use ice bath, rapid chillers, stirring, shallow containers, adding ice as an ingredient, etc.

3. Foods not kept covered during storage.

All foods in storage must be covered. Use containers with a lid, plastic wrap, foil wrap, etc. If cooling periods are properly documented and explained to the sanitarian, you are allowed to keep food containers open during the required period for cooling cooked foods. Once cooled, please cover those containers in the refrigerators.

2. Improper hand washing.

Wash your hands as often as needed during the day. Use the handwashing sink to wash your hands after eating, drinking, smoking, touching garbage, visiting restrooms, handling soiled containers, switching from raw foods to cooked foods, etc. If you must handle ready-to-eat foods with your bare hands, use disposable gloves OR proper utensils OR apply approved hand sanitizer to your bare hands before touching that ready-to-eat food.

And the number one item on the sanitarian’s list is:

1. No certified manager on duty.

Houston Food Ordinance requires a food service manager on duty at all times. This violation is the most documented item on the inspection reports. Please get the managers certified by attending either the one-day renewal course or the two-day initial food service manager’s certification course. If you have taken a nationally accredited course, all you have to do is come into the office to receive a reciprocity certificate for a fee of $10. Don’t forget to bring the proof with you. Call 713-794-9200 to make reservation for the class. We have this program available in five languages: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean.

For this, or any food-safety-related information, please contact

Chirag H. Bhatt, Division Manager of Bureau of Consumer Health Services at 713/794-9200.

Contact the HDHHS Bureau of Consumer Health Services