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Preparation and serving of food is highly labor intensive and therefore can easily become a major source of contamination potentially causing outbreaks of foodborne disease. Food preparation may follow a complex pattern from point of delivery of raw ingredients or finished products that are put into storage or taken immediately to the preparation area. The ingredients or products may be prepared in numerous ways including mixing, grinding, chopping, combining, and cooking at a variety of temperatures and holding times, thereby spreading existing and new contaminants throughout the food. A substantial amount of different types of equipment may be used and not properly cleaned and sanitized. Serving may be from steam tables or cold tables, thereby exacerbating the potential for disease spread because of the presence of consumers along the food line. Other types of serving by wait staff at tables may be poor and cause potential contamination. Menus become a source of cross-contamination since they are handled by numerous people. Cleanup and removal of dirty dishes and utensils as well as partially eaten food may be handled poorly. A contaminated rag may be used to wipe off the tables and also the seats of the chairs or booths. Dishwashers tend to operate in many cases at improper temperatures. There are potentially serious insect and rodent infestations, poorly cleaned facilities, improper use of sanitization techniques, etc. (Further, there are many other items which could be listed as potential sources of contamination during the preparation and serving of food. It would take a complete inspection of the establishment conducted by a well-qualified environmental health person to determine all of the problems.)

Because of the size and nature of the food preparation and serving industry, there is a constant turnover of large numbers of untrained or poorly trained people and low-level managers who actually carry out the various functions of the establishment. Many of these people, although wellmeaning and eager, are very inexperienced and very young and without proper guidance. A lack of off- and on-site training as well as a lack of continuous close supervision unfortunately has become part of the problem. When you find serious problems in a food service establishment, it is necessary to immediately recognize they may be caused by inadequate supervision and managerial control. It is the responsibility of supervisors and managers to make sure that all necessary actions are taken to prevent the contamination of food and the spread of foodborne disease. Scheduling is also a serious concern because a tired worker may become ineffective and therefore more readily spread disease.

Best Practices in Preparation of Food

  • • See Food Problems through Use of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) Principles above.
  • • See General Best Practices for Food Security and Protection above.
  • • When making an inspection or special study, follow the flow of the food through delivery, storage, use of equipment, preparation, serving, cleaning and storage, and waste disposal.
  • • Determine critical points of potential infection or contamination and evaluate these using appropriate time and temperature controls and determination of physical exposure to the food. (See endnotes 8, 41.)
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