I recently attended a conference about food safety education. Educators, researchers, government agency representatives, and consultants with interest in the topic gathered to share new information and learn from each other. Talk about preaching to the choir! These people get it. It is ironic when groups of these conference attendees eat out and see how sometimes the message isn’t getting to the right people – usually those working front lines in retail foodservices. Managers and other administrators get it; but often time pressures or the hectic nature don’t allow those working in the trenches to practice (assuming they know the right thing to do). So what is the answer?
I propose the work smarter not harder approach. In one of our observational studies, we saw that restaurant workers should wash their hands about 28 times per hour (based on what Food Code dictates as handwashing occasions). Food Code requires a 20-second handwash period – so do the math (28 x 20 seconds is 560 seconds in a 3600 hour – which is 15% or about 10 minutes in each hour). That is a lot of time spent away from production. Line workers can adopt the chef’s approach of mise en place – which is all about planning and organization. Think about tasks to do when hands are dirty – just cleared a table, then take direct to the dish room or bus station, take out trash, handle money etc. If hands are clean, then stay with the task and get someone else to open the refrigerator door or restock new ingredients that are needed. Think separation – between clean and dirty; raw and cooked. Work smarter, not harder!