Food hygiene during the summer months
As a small business that handles, produces or serves food, you should already be well aware of the hygiene considerations that your business needs to make in order to keep customers safe. However, there are many smaller businesses out there that perhaps don’t have a focus on food, or are new to this industry and aren’t aware that there are certain special considerations that you might need to make at different times of the year. In this article, we’re going to go through a few of the points that you might not have thought about when it comes to food safety in the summer months.
It’s common knowledge that lots of types of food need to be stored in the fridge in order to restrict the growth of harmful bacteria. Proper refrigeration is essential for good food hygiene. In the UK where air conditioning is uncommon in most smaller establishments, it’s very important to be aware that higher temperatures can make your fridge work harder in order to maintain a cool temperature. Older fridges or those in disrepair can sometimes struggle to keep the interior at the temperature that has been set, so you need to take precautions to ensure that this isn’t a problem. In addition, open fridges in retail establishments such as newsagents or delicatessens can be very easily affected by warmer temperatures outside.
Most fridges have variable temperature settings, but these should not be relied upon as a measure for the actual temperature. Similarly, lots of industrial fridges and freezers have a digital readout, but it’s not a good idea to assume that they are correct. Instead, you should regularly check the fridge temperatures using a thermometer to ensure that everything is OK. Under five degrees Celsius is the ideal for any fridge, as this temperature should restrict the growth of most bacteria without spoiling food. As an additional note, businesses with a high standard of hygiene will check fridge temperatures at all times of year – usually twice per day.
We’ve already mentioned the need for refrigeration, but bear in mind that the higher temperatures are likely going to affect food items that you wouldn't necessarily put in the fridge in normal weather. Higher temperatures encourage bacteria to reproduce more rapidly, which means that food will spoil more quickly, and things like fruit can degrade quite rapidly. When weather is hot, be extra vigilant in checking the quality and safety of all of your food. This also goes for any produce arriving at your premises – don’t assume that suppliers have a perfect safety standard. If you’re ever in any doubt as to whether something has been out in the heat for too long, then it’s simply best to dispose of it – you should never take risks when it comes to foodborne illnesses, even if you believe that the cooking process will eliminate any harmful bacteria.
Insects are naturally more common in the summer, and when we combine this with open windows in hot weather, it’s not difficult to see potential issues. Small flies in particular can become a problem, and this is twofold. The first is that many insects are carriers of bacteria, which means that they can spread it simply by coming into contact with produce. The second is that smaller insects can quite simply become contaminants in and of themselves by falling into or landing on foodstuffs during production. As a result, you should take precautions to keep them well away from any of the food that you’re storing, preparing or serving. There are many ways that you might do this, ranging from insect repellents, to fly killers, to physical barriers.
If you feel like you need any further help with food hygiene in your business, then consider taking one of the Virtual College courses on food hygiene. There are a number available for different levels of need and industry. Click here to be taken to the course category page.