A recall is by far one of the most devastating things that can happen to any brand in the food industry. On top of the negative image that could haunt the business, restaurants may also face steep sanctions and penalties from the government. Fortunately, they can take several proactive measures such as implementing food safety initiatives in order to maintain quality and safety in the production process.
Adopting a technology-based solution such as a quality management system (QMS) would help streamline the process for all of those that are involved in preparation, production, and distribution of food. Whether you’re making a food safety plan for the first time or are trying to improve on what you already have, here important reminders that will help you better handle food recalls.
Establish a Plan
Restaurants with multiple locations can use software and apps to communicate pertinent recall information in real-time and provide detailed information within the supply chain. Once you’ve been informed about the recall, understand the reasoning for the issuance. Recalls are classified into three groups, and USDA lists them as such:
- Class I: A health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that eating the food will cause serious, adverse health consequences, or death. Examples include E. coli O157:H7 in ground beef, salmonella in peanut butter, or food with an undeclared allergen.
- Class II: A health hazard situation where there is a remote probability of adverse health consequences from eating the food. Examples include products containing a foreign material.
- Class III: A situation where eating the food will not cause adverse health consequences. Examples include minor labeling problems, such as improper format or undeclared ingredients that are not allergens.
It’s on the restaurant to ensure that the staff have all been trained to handle a recall. They may need different levels of training depending on their responsibilities, so it’s important to double check on that beforehand or to give your local regulator a call to verify. In some cases, the staff may be asked to communicate with the customers, which is why it’s important for them to know the key details about the recall as well as the action plan that they must execute in accordance with that incident.
In general, the restaurant staff must know how to:
- Identify all recalled products.
- Remove the items from inventory, and place them in a secure and appropriate location.
- Store the items separately from food, utensils, equipment, linens, and single-use items.
- Label the items in a way that will prevent them from being placed back in inventory.
- Inform staff not to use those products.
- Refer to the vendor’s notification or recall notice to isolate or dispose of these products
If you’re looking to train the members of your team, you have an option to enroll them to a local training center or to an accredited online training provider. Assuming that both training partners are already approved by local regulators, you’re free to choose on what type of training would suit your staff better.
Just keep in mind that online training will allow you and your staff more flexibility. On top of that, it’s proven more cost-efficient for restaurants that need to enroll several individuals to the program.
Sanitize the Kitchen
Part of the standard operation procedure for restaurants affected by a recall is sanitizing. While sanitizing itself is part of the regular routine, doing it after recall will require a more calculated and thorough approach from the staff. You must also prepare to extend sanitation outside of the kitchen, especially when authorities or distributors failed to communicate the recall right away. More importantly, the staff must also use exercise the safety measures that they learned from training in order to protect themselves from contamination.
Store Food Safely
Following a recall, remove the affected items from your inventory and place them in a secure and proper location, away from any food, utensils, equipment, linens, or single-use items you are planning to use.
In addition, make sure to wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces and utensils used to prepare, serve, or store potentially contaminated products. For the staff, it’s imperative that they follow the basic procedures of washing their hands with soap and hot water following the cleaning and sanitation process.
Discard Expired Items
First and foremost, inform staff members not to use the affected products. Establish a communications plan that employees can use to explain to customers how the restaurant responded to the outbreak and is addressing the problem. This adds credibility to your place and makes it evident that you know what you’re doing as a business
When isolating or disposing of the products, refer to the vendor’s notification or recall notice. This is critical because product reimbursement often only occurs if you take the required actions provided by the vendor.
While distributors are expected notify restaurants and resellers about recalls right away, communication may be delayed for reasons that are out of your control. When this happens, things can go from bad to worse in a hurry. As such, Foodsafety.gov provides the latest information and updates (via email) on any foods recalls in the US for those who have signed up. In addition, they also send out content with invaluable information from the FDA, the Food and Safety Inspection Services (FSIS) arm of the USDA, the CDC, and HHS.