Caution urged for food sellers

If you have a business that sells food to the public, a power outage could affect the health and safety of your customers and employees.

It is up to you to ensure that the food you serve is safe, your facility also is safe, and your employees know what to do during outages, say Department of Environmental Health staff.

If the electricity goes out, there will be a lot inconveniences, potential hazards and possible costs.

Customers will have to eat and/or leave in the dark.

The cash register will not work.

Employees could slip or trip.

There is a potential food loss because of food remaining too long in the danger zone (40o F to 140o F).

There is a potential loss of business because of either having to close down or curtail service.

Customers could become ill with a food borne illness.

The concern of the Department of Environmental Health is public health and safety, especially the following:

Food temperature

Hot food must be kept hot (above 140o F) and cold food must be kept cold (below 40o F). How are you going to keep it in the proper temperature range?

Hot water for washing

Does an electric heater heat your water?

Running water

Is running water available, in order to properly wash hands before, during, and after food preparation?

Ventilation

How can smoke and fumes be removed without the fans operating?

Light

Is there adequate light in the food prep and utensil wash areas?

If you are unable to serve food that is safe, you should voluntarily close your business and not open again until you can serve your customers safe meals in a safe environment, bearing in mind that if you serve unsafe food to your customers. It will make them ill.

Develop a plan and train your employees to follow it.

Have a backup for lights, such as battery-operated lamps and flashlights.

Plan a backup menu that will not require power during preparations or rely on having the refrigerator door open very often.

Design a system for handling the receipts while the register is not working.

If possible, procure plenty of ice to cool food quickly.

Know how to close your operation down quickly.

Adopt procedures to deliver food promptly; also encourage patrons to consume meals as quickly as possible.

Make sure there is always at least one person on duty that can make decisions about food and personal safety. It’s your business that might be liable.

Designate a person to pour water over food preparers’ hands for washing, in the event that there is no running water.

When the electricity goes off:

Keep refrigerator doors closed, to maintain the cold temperature inside the cooler. Further protect food by placing it in a clean container with dry ice or in a cooler.

Make a decision about cooking. Remember, there is no ventilation.

Decide:

Is the alternative light bright enough for safety?

Are the employees and customers safe?

Is the food safe to serve?

Is staying open good for business in the long run?

Is it time to close?

After the power comes back on:

Use your thermometers to check food temperature. Food that has been between 40o F and 140o F for more than four hours must not be eaten. When in doubt, throw it out. Remember, you can’t rely entirely on appearance or odour to tell if food will make someone sick.

Check frozen foods to see if items are completely thawed. Don’t refreeze thawed food.

Check the hot water to make sure it is hot enough to properly wash hands and utensils.

Check the coolers and freezers to make sure they are working and keeping the right temperature.

Check the toilets to make sure they are functional.

For more information on food hygiene and safety, contact the DEH’s food hygiene and safety section at 949-6696.