Food Safety Risks & Small(er) Food Businesses

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Food Safety training for small food business is essential.

Have you ever made something so delicious that everyone around you, after licking their fingers clean, said – you should sell this? Many famous brands started with an old family recipe and a home-based operation or a small store-front somewhere before moving into a larger kitchen.

Here are a few food safety risks to watch out for if you have a home-based food operation:

Cross Contamination

An inherit risk to smaller home-based food businesses is the potential for cross-contamination. The lack of physical space available in small home-based kitchens increases the likelihood of cross contamination during food preparation and storage. Larger kitchens may have separate raw meat vs. cooked or ready to eat fridges, in a smaller kitchen that may not be possible. The owners have to take special care to make sure that raw products such as raw eggs, meat or poultry are adequately separated from ready to eat foods.

Remember that germs like to hitchhike on things around your kitchen so utensils, cutlery and other surfaces can also contaminate food if not managed correctly.

Chemical cross-contamination between cleaning or equipment cleaning chemicals can also be a source of cross-contamination. As a Public Health Inspector, it was disheartening to get chemical poisoning complaints where someone accidentally used a non-food chemical mistaking it for a food ingredient because preventing these things from happening is not hard. In this case proper storage of these chemicals and labeling is crucial.

Expired Ingredients

Small businesses do not typically go through ingredients, especially ones that are not used very often and as a result, there is a higher chance of someone using an expired product. In this case, proper inventory control and appropriate purchasing is critical. Doing this right doesn’t only prevent foodborne illness, but can also save the business a lot of money.

Food Safety Training

Even though a business owner would have to take a government approved food safety course they often have casual staff or friends and family that help them prepare their food product. These “helpers” may not have the food safety training and may unknowingly contaminate food. The best way for business owners to manage this is to make sure they talk to their food handlers about the importance of safe food handling practices. They must also enforce good personal hygiene i.e. handwashing, clean cloths, hair tied back, no jewellery etc.… regardless of who the food handlers are – no uncle Ted is not an exception.

Finally, the business owner should know where the highest food safety risk is in their operation – for example, if the business uses meat ingredients, often the cooking process is the most critical food safety step – it is where the harmful bacteria are destroyed. Knowing this, the owner would make sure to pay special attention to this step such as always using a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the food and make sure it is cooked properly.

There are obviously many other food safety risks that weren’t discussed here but I hope this post shows why it is crucial for food business owners and staff to be knowledgeable about safe food handling practices.

Home-based or smaller food businesses are a vital part of any community. Practicing safe food handling processes is good for the business and for consumers.

For more information about food safety risks and to learn more about food safety controls – check out our Food Safety Leaders online food safety and hygiene course Here.

Michael is the co-founder of Food Safety Leaders and has over two decades of food safety experience. He is an adjunct instructor of advanced food safety at Concordia University, and a regular seminar speaker.

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