Food recalls seem to be cropping up at an alarming rate lately, and foodborne illnesses like E. Coli can have a traumatic impact on consumers and the larger community, especially if the origin is unclear. For public safety, legal, and brand trust reasons, restaurants must respond appropriately to any threat of foodborne sickness and take swift action in response to food recalls.
Establish a Recall Plan and Take Action
Plan ahead for potential recalls and how affected products will be handled. Once a recall has been announced, examine your stock and check the brand, code date, lot number, source or manufacturing facility, and another other information provided to match (or exclude) the product to the recall information.
Clear Inventory and Sanitize the Area
Pull all matching recalled food products from your restaurant’s inventory and secure them in a safe area where they will not be returned to inventory or potentially contaminate the rest of your operation. Clearly label recalled food items so they will not be mistaken for new or usable stock. Keep single use utensils, linens, equipment, and any other food items away from the recalled food. Clean and sanitize all kitchen equipment and prep areas, utensils, serving ware, and anything else that may have come in contact with the food, and remove single use items that may also be contaminated. All personnel involved in the cleanup should wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water.
Verify Proper Handling of Recalled Food Items
When a recall is issued, the food vendor provides important handling information in the notification. Verify that all items have been handled and disposed of according to this document in order to be eligible for reimbursement from the company for the unusable food.
After the food items have been properly removed, the risk of employees using the contaminated food is eliminated. However, because the process can take some time to complete safely and fully, be sure to notify all staff of the food recall and the cleanup process so that all employees know to not use the recalled food items or to handle them in order to avoid cross contamination and a larger risk to public health. It’s also important to equip staff with appropriate information about the recall and the restaurant’s handling of the situation so that they can accurately and helpfully answer questions from customers.
Food recalls can be scary for both the public and the food service industry, but with care and thoroughness, a restaurant can quickly address a food recall, restore safe conditions, and regain public trust.
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