Category Archives: Food Safety

Refrigerated Storage Tips

The mysterious world of refrigeration.

One thing that is certain through years of experience I can safely say, refrigeration whilst it’s a prescribed mechanical science (you would think it would be the same recipe/method/result all the time) Nothing could be further than the truth!

There is no shortage of work for good refrigeration technicians, systems are Always playing up somewhere, somehow for good reasons or sometimes no reasons, there are so many factors that are involved for the reasons why systems fail, both from the manufactures side and customers side.

Aside from ensuring you have your condensers cleaned at least monthly, in some extreme cases this may need to be fortnightly, and you don’t muck around with the thermostat settings on the unit too much there is little else you can do to help the unit work properly OR, is there?

Tip 1.

In 90% of cases your refrigerated unit or coolroom will NOT be even in temperature.

Tip 2.

Its all about Air Flow, In around the unit and for the exterior of the refrigeration motor.

  1. If you walk into your coolroom with a laser temperature reader (I’m not a fan of these they are too inaccurate in use) but its quick enough and simple enough to prove the point. Take a reading from each corner of the room, top and bottom (8 in total) plus directly under the fans and slightly to the back of them and then directly opposite the fans on the next available shelf.

What were your findings?

Depending upon on the point of the refrigeration cycle and the recent room usage I bet you found quite large variations of temperatures.

Did you find your Hot Spots?

That’s right, hot or warm spots nearly every room has them often on the same side as the fan location can be high or low. You may find for example this area could sit perhaps around the 5-6 degree mark whereas the rest of the room is 2-3degrees..

When you are sorting out your coolroom, this ‘warm spot’ is where you want to store your Fruit and vegetable for example, not your Oysters or chicken! Sounds too simple and ridiculous to be true, well it is, and I have seen it oh so many times, where the lettuce is almost frozen and the raw chicken isn’t even cold!

Now the Coolroom and Refrigeration mechanic reading this will fume and say ‘that doesn’t happen in my rooms’, great if that’s true, but in the real world it happens in 90% of cases. There can be many factors such as incorrectly sized fans, or condensers icing up which will lead to reduced air flow in the room. Or no coolroom curtain strips at the door which could be letting in too much warm air into a section of the room.

typical warm spot in a coolroom

As a Hospitality professional It’s your LEGAL responsibility to get to know your coolroom and its hot spots, it’s not acceptable when your in court explaining why 100 people that had the chicken are all sick because you didn’t know that part of the coolroom wasn’t cold!

We did a recent site survey for a large food importer to set up an www.i-temp.com.au temperature monitoring system. The coolrooms were massive, you could drive forklifts in them! What we found was that we needed to place many sensors in the room to get all the variable temperatures to be able to claim an ‘average temperature’ across the room. These were million dollar facilities and there was very little variance in the room, but there was some.

One of the reasons why the above example had little variance is because the operator had spaced and packed the room correctly.

This part is essential DO NOT OVERLOAD your coolroom and or refrigerator.

Take a walk into your local big supermarket, take a look at the refrigerated deli shelves or meat sections, note how they are loaded. Nice and even, never overloaded or just packed to the rafters in every little space is filled.

Nice neat lines evenly spaced between and from the front, not too much product on top of each other. They are ensuring that there is even airflow around the product the refrigerated air can move and pass through the layers. The difference between stacking and sorting the shelves like this IS the difference between the system being able to hold the foods at correct temperature or not.

Correct loading for commercial refrigeration

IF you were to load all that product higher/deeper and no gaps between I can guarantee it WILL NOT be at correct temperature.

Now your big name supermarket holds/stores/sells MILLIONS of dollars of food in each store, they cannot afford the risk of loosing product due to incorrect storage temperatures, or the risk of food poisoning. Their refrigeration costs are also one of the biggest expenses they have, they cannot afford to have systems working overtime either consuming excess power, in a business with very slim margins it makes a massive difference to their bottom line.

If you have problems with your staff overloading refrigerated cabinets/rooms you could do a lot worse than take them through the supermarket to look and see how they do it.

What about smaller refrigerated cabinets?

The effect can be even worse! Most systems have one fan area usually from the top of the cabinet or just the one side. If the unit is overloaded the far end of the cabinet be it bottom or the far end does not get cold enough, the air just can’t get down that end. Classically I have seen this happen in Ice cream and Gelato shops where they have often a 1 door vertical freezer for all their back up stock. The unit gets packed tight from top to bottom and side to side with tubs of product, packed tight.

Then the customer is complaining that the ice cream in the bottom of the freezer isn’t freezing properly and they are losing product. Its not the freezer it’s the user!

HOW Is the cold air that is blown from the top fan going to get to the bottom if there is no way for it to pass through all the product? Its not going to happen.

Once the freezer stock is reduced and the tubs are evenly spaced out of shelves with gaps between them to allow air to pass the through and circulate through the cabinet the problems is solved, product on the bottom is staying frozen.

Refrigerated Air MUST be able to circulate around the cabinet or room evenly.

Foodservice refrigeration loading

Now that we have seen that overloading is a problem, do you know that ‘underloading’ also can be?! What you say, can’t win, overload/underload.If you have a room or a cabinet that is empty the refrigeration system is just working all the time keeping air cool, sounds fine what the problem? Nothing really its just working its backside of wasting power! If you loaded your cabinet room up, lets say 60/70% capacity your refrigeration system will have to work less and save you hundreds and thousands of dollars in power!

How is that so? Thermal Mass the product (take a Coke fridge for example) once cold will keep its own cold in the mass of the product for a certain time frame.

For example, if you turned the coke fridge off, the cans of coke won’t be warm within say 15 minutes they, might go say from 1.5c to 5c but not warm. The thermal mass will take some time for it to warm up. But if that coke fridge was empty and we turned it off it would be a lot warmer in there than the same time, the air warm ups quickly, there is no MASS. The same happens with food products also, the bigger and heavier the slower they warm up as they have more cold mass. Think an icy cold cut of beef say a large top side or blade roast, its going to take some time for that big piece of meat to warm up.

So keep your cabinets and rooms at least 65% loaded your refrigeration systems wont have to work as hard.

Refrigerated beverage cabinet well stocked

2.

Air flow ‘around the system’, and the conditions of that air. This is the other airflow part, the air ‘around the refrigeration motor’ be it a self contained cabinet or a coolroom.  How well the air can be pulled in and expelled out of the refrigeration.

In its most simplistic form refrigeration works by extraction of air and changing the state of that air into the next stage. The method is to ‘pull air’ into the system and exchange that air into cold air into the cabinet or room. During this process the excess Hotter air that is pulled from the air that has been taken it is expelled out of the system, leaving just cold air to go into our cabinet/room.

How refrigeration works

Now the air that is ‘expelled’ during this process has to go somewhere, and it does. You will feel the hot air blowing back off a refrigeration (or Air Conditioning system) it might be off to the side, front.

The key with this air is we need to it to go away! We don’t want the refrigeration system to be sucking this HOT air back into to the system, we want it to suck cooler fresh air. And this is where so many of the breakdowns and problems occur, its known as ‘recirculating’ where the refrigeration system is breathing back in its own hot air and it then struggles to cope as it can’t pull down all this hot air.

Air flow again, you need to work out a way to get rid of this hot air if its being recirculated.

We see the above example often with vertical ref/frz cabinets where the ceiling height is low and the cabinet has a top mounted motor. There is just nowhere for the excess hot air to go and they start to recirculate their own air.

In the above example you could a) install a simple extract fan (like a bathroom fan) into the ceiling on intermittent timer to extract the hot air. Vents in the ceiling and or rear walls can help, but its pretty hopefully to assume the hot air will find a way out.
Having the room fully Air Conditioned (running 24/7) can help in the above example also.

So as well as allowing sufficient clean air for your refrigeration system to breath in, it has to be able to expel the air also. This is a big one.

Here are some other helpful tips below, and some more refrigeration facts and guides can be found here, https://www.airah.org.au/Content_Files/Special-Technical-Groups/Cool-rooms-SME-owners-and-operators.pdf

  1. Store Meats on the Lowest Shelves

Always store your meat on the lowest shelves of your appliance. Keeping your meat on the low shelves makes clean up easier if you have a spill, but more importantly this practice prevents potentially dangerous cross contamination. If any other food touches any juices or marinade from the meat, you must promptly throw those things away. If you store meat on the higher shelves, they are much more likely to drip down and contaminate the rest of your food, which can ultimately spread harmful bacteria to your customers.

  1. Leave Space Between Items

The cold air in your commercial fridge and freezer needs to be able to circulate. Although the impulse is to pack things in as well as you can to use every bit of the space efficiently, your fridge needs about three to six inches of space between the walls and the food products to get the best refrigeration. The circulation of air in your fridge prevents hot spots and uneven cooling and freezing.

  1. Keep Food Off the Fridge Floor

In order to prevent water or other contaminants from seeping into your food, it is important that you store all food off of the floor, including while in the refrigerator. While this is a health code requirement, not every person in your kitchen may be aware of the specific codes that will get your restaurant in trouble. In the heat of a rush of customers, it’s also easy to forget this rule. Having adequate shelving will prevent this problem. Make sure all your staff understands that this rule prevents food contamination and pest infestation in your commercial fridge. A note on the door is often enough to remind them.

  1. Store Delicate Produce Away From Fans

The fans in a commercial kitchen refrigeration and freezing units are extremely strong in order to encourage circulation, but this air flow can actually damage some of your foods. Berries and fresh greens are vulnerable to damage from these fans. In the freezer, storing food close to the fans increases its potential to get freezer burn. While you may need to fully utilize the space in your freezer, make sure to watch the labels and use the items closest to the fans quickly.

  1. FIFO; or First In, First Out

Product shelf-life and use-by dates are important for maintaining the quality of your foods. Make sure that you utilize the first-in, first-out (commonly abbreviated as FIFO) principle when organizing your storage units. When stocking, place newer items in the back of your fridge and freezer. If date codes are small, write the dates in bigger numbers on the box before you store it, and be sure to place the items so the dates are apparent. Make it easy for employees to see which products need to be used. Always use open items before opening anything new. This is an efficient method that will end up saving you a lot of money.

  1. Label Everything

Label the shelves. This may seem unnecessary, but mistakes can happen, so it’s good to have a reminder. Labeling lets someone else who isn’t as familiar with your system come in and find things easily, which can be helpful when you have new hires trying to figure out the kitchen. Labeling your shelves makes it apparent when something is out of place or completely out of stock.

Make sure every employee knows that anything that goes into the fridge has a label. This label should include both the day you made or received the product and the use-by date. It is important that you know when prepared foods, such as chicken broth or puddings, were created. Have a rule about unlabelled food, so no one forgets to label items. Make sure you have pens and stickers for easy labelling so this rule doesn’t waste unnecessary time in your kitchen.

 Reasons Why Organization Is Important:

  • High quality food is not cheap. Your storage plan maintains the integrity of everything you purchase so that it can be used and doesn’t go to waste.
  • You avoid those dreaded health code violations by following organization guidelines. Improperly stored food is one reason your restaurant might be fined or even shut down.
  • Utilizing your space effectively increases quality of the food.
  • Organization in your commercial kitchen creates a smooth operation. When your staff isn’t wasting time looking around for a specific food in an unorganized refrigerator, they can get back on the line quicker.
  • Disorganization in your fridge and freezer makes these units work harder, which means you’ll need to call for repairs more often when your food isn’t cooling appropriately.
  • There is less need for cleanup when shelves are organized. Food will have a place and things won’t be thrown in wherever it fits.
  • Clean up is easier when shelves are organized.
  • Ordering and restocking is easier when everything has a place. You can quickly see items that you need and won’t be looking for more cases in another place.

Organization Pays Off

Do you need more space in your commercial fridge or freezer? Before ordering more units for more space, make sure that the shelves in your current units are organized. Taking the time to do this may be a chore for your staff, and it certainly will take time away from their regular duties, but it will save you money in the long run. If you still need extra help, know that there are plenty of apps for kitchen organization that you should consider using.

Keep track of food waste and track the reasons you are throwing this food away. If it’s quickly going bad in the fridge or freezer, you should invest in better organization for better utilization of product. Don’t let a poorly organized fridge cost you money that should be going elsewhere in your business.

Customize your kitchen to your own individual needs. There are a number of different refrigeration systems that can be installed to keep your food at ideal temperatures before it is cooked and served. Take advantage of different products that work in your commercial kitchen.

Teach your staff the importance of fridge and freezer organization in your kitchen. This is an important foundation to have in your commercial kitchen, so you need to make it a priority. Make sure everyone knows how vital these rules are to your establishment.

If you have a real problem with employees with bad habits, try to influence staff with a reward for doing their work correctly after a week, a month, eight weeks, and so on so that everyone has more reasons to make it a priority in their own performance. You’ll see improvement quicker and create camaraderie within your business when everyone is working toward the same goals.

With so many variables it’s amazing that we can keep food cold at all! And it’s painfully obvious that ‘writing down’ a couple of temperatures per day on piece of paper hardly qualifies as an accurate record of the consistent temperatures  of a storage system over the longer 24/7/365 cycle.

The only way you can accurately obtain and prove such data is with digital technology, interdependently and accurately  recording data 24/7/365 , go to www.i-temp.com.au to learn more.

i-temp temperature monitoring

Australian Food Standards Update

The Australian food safety standards were recently released with a new updated version. Not a lot has changed from previous versions, and in my view they really missed an opportunity to improve training and compliance standards.

I’ve cherry picked a few items below that are interesting.

You can download your own copy here. http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx

Australian Food Safety Standards

extract: from standards 2.2.2 re training

(1) A food business must ensure that persons undertaking or supervising food handling
operations have:
(a) skills in food safety and food hygiene matters; and
(b) knowledge of food safety and food hygiene matters, commensurate with their
work activities.
Persons supervising or conducting food handling operations must possess the skills and knowledge
in food safety and hygiene matters required to handle food safely.

“Specific mandatory training in food
safety and hygiene is not required by this clause, as it is recognised that skills and knowledge may be
gained in different ways.”

?!?!?!! What! ‘not required, ‘may be gained in different ways’ Like how?! I’m sorry , I don’t see people in the hospitality industry spending their weekends reading and studying the details of food safety, systems, procedures, issues and concerns…if you don’t take the industry away from the workplace and train them in this area then we are asking for trouble…and its exactly why standards are SO LOW THESE DAYS , the lack of awareness, knowledge and understanding not only of food safety by operators but also the legal and business ramifications is poor to say the least.

They really missed an opportunity to really put some firm black and white minimum training standards in place here…the wording they used is weak and ambiguous at best.

extract: from standards 2.2.2 re mobile and temporary food stands/stalls 

This one could easily take up pages…needing to keep it brief… ‘How’ are a few trestles, esky, all laid on on some dirt, with a bit of cold water and detergent in a plastic sink, in anyway comparable to properly designed commercial kitchen or food van?

The answer is that they are not. I love local food markets/stands/stalls/vans etc , but even in among themselves  this group is widely different in standards. It’s not uncommon to see a description as above competing with an operator who has a correctly designed and built trailer or van worth tens of thousands of dollars. Correct refrigeration, waste management, hot water, santised surfaces, vermin control, v’s $500 of health risk.

Again they  missed the opportunity to get some decent standards in place. Once you start reading the 3.2.3 standard it’s clear that most mobile or temporary food stands haven’t got a chance at meeting many of these standards, yet they are increasing daily, most with poor standards.

4(2) When complying with subclause (1), the proprietor of the food business must answer all
questions asked by the appropriate enforcement agency in relation to the matters listed in
subclause (1) in the form approved from time to time by the relevant authority under the Act.

This read as …’we have wiped our hands of this issue and concern and will handball it off to the local council inspector, we really don’t want to know about it!’

extract: from standards 2.2.2, re food storage temperatures

General best practice for refrigerated storage
To make sure that cold food remains safe during storage, proper refrigeration is essential. For best
practice, businesses should ensure refrigeration equipment is operating and used correctly using the
following measures:
• Food temperatures are checked with a probe or infra-red thermometer to make sure the food itself
is at the required storage temperature, rather than relying on the refrigerator’s temperature gauge.

Great advice about not relying on the actual fridge display temperature as these can be hugely inaccurate , but so are infa red thermometers …it all depends on what is aimed at! I can get massively different readings just by pointing at items and areas. They are good for a quick guide, but they  are ‘loose’ to say the least.

‘Some food businesses may have temperature monitoring devices installed which provide an
ongoing measurement of chilled storage.’

Well they missed the boat here…if you have a device that measures and records your storage temperatures (and one that allows live 24/7 viewing of those temperatures) you know EXACTLY what your storage temperatures are , all the time AND you have evidence, should be mandatory minimum standard.

Without the above, there is no quality, independent, verifiable evidence, it’s basically just a bunch of numbers jotted down on a piece of paper , by anyone, anytime, with no meaning  and really wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a legal challenge.

If food manufacturers and major supplier/producers have accurate verifiable digital standards in place , why isn’t the wider food/hospitality industry doing the same?

There is a large section of 3.2.2 dedicated to temperature , monitoring and control, both of stored and cooked foods. To comply with the requirements as they are written is a seriously labor intensive job. I see areas such as health care, complying to it, general hospitality not.

3.2.3 deals with design and build.

My pet hate, not a new one, it’s always been in the code, the one that I wish architects would investigate at the commencement of a project rather than the end, because 9/10 times they have not allowed enough space.

(b) provide adequate space for the activities to be conducted on the food premises and for
the fixtures, fittings and equipment used for those activities

this also has always been there ….

The design and construction of food premises must:
(a) be appropriate for the activities for which the premises are used;

upgrade to ventilation codes…i have covered the new style canopies in other section on this site… but this is the one a LOT of new operators get caught with….they are Falsely (normally by real estate letting agents)  that the ‘old kitchen’ will comply with what their new plans are . BS!!!  in many cases that old exhaust canopy will need to come down…= big cost.

This is often also the case for plumbing/sewerage, just because there is commercial trade waste on site DOES NOT mean that it is suitable for your operations needs, especially if you are renovating and or upgrading facilities from an older premises….in many cases it will require an expensive commercial trade waste upgrade….a hydraulic consultant is the only person who can tell you this, and they can only tell you this in conjunction with your kitchen design and menu and anticipated volume of business .

The Building Code of Australia for Class 2 to 9 buildings (ABCB 2016, which includes commercial
buildings) — Part F4 on Light and Ventilation states that a commercial kitchen must be supplied
with a kitchen exhaust hood complying with AS/NS 1668.1 and AS 1668.2 -2012 where cooking
apparatuses have power inputs above specified levels (e.g. where any cooking apparatus has
a total maximum electrical power input exceeding 8kW or a total gas power input exceeding
29MJ/hour).
• AS 4674-2004 — in addition to referring to the Building Code of Australia and standards AS/
NZS 1668.1 and AS/NZS 1668.2, this standard covers provision of an extraction system where
a dishwasher or similar equipment vents steam and causes condensation on walls and ceilings.
Example
Change in ventilation system needed when a food premises changes hands
A business purchases a pre-existing food premises and begins operating in it using the
existing fit out, including ventilation equipment. Over a few weeks, the proprietor notices
that a greasy film is appearing on the walls and ceiling around the cooking equipment.
This shows that the mechanical ventilation that was suitable for the previous business is
no longer adequate. It needs to be upgraded or replaced with a system that will effectively
remove all the new business’s cooking vapours.

Summary:

In all there is 225 pages of content, a lot of is it also ‘examples’ and ‘training’ its actually a really good document and one that everybody that is ‘professionally’ involved with food should get to know. I keep a copy on all my digital devices and am constantly going to back to it ‘just to be sure’.

My Grief and much of the commercial food service industry’s grief is the clear lack of ability for local council inspectors to follow this guide correctly, they all are supposed to be following it.

Food Safety is no different in Nth Qld than it is Tassie. Yet time and time again i see new premise licences issued to new builds that clearly don’t comply to all of the standards, some but not all. And the worst is ‘existing premises’ that are so far off the standards it’s scary.

I have seen some of the ‘check lists’ that are used by various local authorities, they are brief. But what I can’t understand is that within meters of each other different premises can be so widely different in standards, (which also equals operators costs), it’s grossly unfair to the operator spending the money to comply as best as they can, it’s costly to comply.

Local politics  has a lot to do with it also, I won’t go into specifics, but i have seen it first hand played out, by players at the top. The local inspector often has their hands tied, and cant ‘really enforce’ because of such.

‘Food premise inspections and approvals should be carried out by independent bodies in my view, this keeps politics out of the way.’

An example where design can impact food safety.

A Chinese Restaurant on the Gold Coast that put caustic soda in the salt shakers!!! (yep true story*) …end of the day the chemicals and food should not have been stored anywhere near each other! If the design achieved this the chance of mix up would have been seriously negated. Those types of chemicals shouldn’t have even been in the kitchen ! OR? was the Salt (food) being stored in the chemical area?? That place had several inspections in recent times…I wonder if they were ever pulled up on it, initially its a design fault, then user fault, my guess the design didn’t have a dedicated chemical area out of the kitchen.

Good design can’t stop these things happening 100% but it certainly can make it really hard for it happen, to the point of only being able to be blame human error. (which still should have been avoided!)

*same happened in a chicken franchise WA few years back.

Good design not only can means increases in inefficiencies, improved sales and profitability , but it’s also paramount in achieving good food safety.

download your copy of the standards here, http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx

 

Monitoring Food Storage Temperatures – Using tech to help the Chef

TEMPERATURE CONTROL RULES Why is Temperature Control important?

Temperature control is important because harmful bacteria are a hazard present in many of the foods handled in catering businesses.

They also tend to multiply rapidly at temperatures above 5c, the higher temperature and longer the time exposed to the temperature the faster the bacteria growth . As bacteria are invisible to the naked eye and cannot be physically removed from food, all we can do is control their numbers.

There are two main ways in which temperature can be used to achieve this:

  1. We can destroy harmful bacteria, or reduce their numbers, by cooking or reheating and
  2. We can control their growth by keeping food hot or cold.

Lets look at cold.

The following practices are recommended to keep food safe. Your refrigerator should operate at an average of 5°C or below. These temperatures would then be the Critical Limits for Refrigerated Storage. Refrigeration of food temperature of 5°C or below is effective in controlling the quick multiplication of most bacteria in perishable food. It is recommended practice to operate refrigerators and chills at 5°C or below. Freezing of food should be done at -18c.

 

Time and temperature.

Just because food storage exceeds 5c for a short period of time does not mean that bacteria instantly grows at a rapid rate, your refrigeration being above temperature for a SHORT period of time is not dangerous.

Scientifically it has been shown that bacteria on high risk foods rapidly increase when the food is above 5c for periods exceeding 2 hrs, at 4hrs the food should be discarded.

The issue arises when refrigeration is cool but not cold! Eg A prep cabinet running at an average of 8-10c instead of below 5c. Whilst the bacteria won’t grow as quickly as if the food was at room temperature it will grow and at a dangerous rate, and this is where most hospitality operations get caught out.

I see so many refrigeration units that constantly run in the 5-10c zone, it’s scary. And to be honest in a hot kitchen environment it’s often difficult for small refrigeration units that have doors constantly being open and closed, especially with ingredient wells in the top to maintain correct temperature.

If you are only checking your refrigeration twice a day then you are assuming or guessing that the other 99% of the day the temperature is correct.

Aside from correct food safe procedure, ensuring proper refrigeration temperatures can result in improved shelf life of product and general quality of.

Food manufacturers and major suppliers don’t make guesses or assumptions that all their refrigeration temperatures are correct 24/7/365, they use digital technology to ensure it is, and it’s also far more economical to have technology to this and provided accurate records than employ staff to do so.

Using technology to help Chef’s

The ‘IOT’ world (internet of things) has arrived and its now entering the commercial kitchen space. Basically IOT means things that are connected to the internet , and hopefully add value to our lives.

We can now add temperature sensors to all refrigerated storage areas in the kitchen and have those sensors talk to the internet.

We can tell the sensors how often to talk to the internet and when to be alarmed about a set of data. From that we can direct the sensor to do something.

Basically if the sensor see’s that your coolroom is running at a temperature deemed to be too high for too long we can ask it to tell us, in most cases many people, normally via  SMS text and or email to a smart phone/pad or computer.

As long as the customer has access to the internet they can see current and past history of temperatures of their entire site at the push of a button form anywhere in the world!

With this information the kitchen manager/chef/food safety supervisor can make a decision on what needs to be done, could be a simple as shut the coolroom door properly , or check the food and perhaps discard.

The sensors collect  massive amount of data, basically they are checking your refrigeration temperatures 24/7/365 and then they are storing this data for future access or better still to produce a weekly report as evidence that food storage temperatures are at correct temperatures.

The minimum standard in Hospitality is to collect data samples twice a day , in some health food service sectors it maybe every four  hours. If you  have a lot of fridges this can be a very costly exercise, time wise, time=money. Why pay staff do do it (that may or may not do it correctly if at all!) when technology can do it for you?

Not only can technology do the task for a fraction of the costs of human labour it does it ‘independently ‘ , ‘accurately’ and with lots of data and evidence that can actually be called a ‘fair sample’ of evidence. Twice a day is nothing, it’s less than 1% of the day the other 99% is unaccounted for !

For further information on automated temperature monitoring visit www.i-temp.com.au 

Fine Foods Australia 2017

Fine Foods Australia 2017, the food service and hospitality trade show was back at the new look ICC Sydney, and it was bigger, than ever before , more brands, suppliers, product, information so much so that i honestly can say I didn’t get to everything and everyone, and that’s with 2 full days on site.

The new International Convention Center Sydney

In a very rare statement , i will go out and say I saw a LOT of new product and ideas this year, in fact heaps, too much to actually cover here! There were new offerings from existing suppliers and new suppliers with new product and a lot of QUALITY product that had been well thought out.

A trend through out many of the information sessions was embracing new technology to help your business and how technology will impact the industry, from how social media marketing such as Tribe can add massive marketing power to an operation for very little to how robotics will impact. A well known ‘futures’ speaker addressed the senior leaders of the equipment industry at a presentation about such, and No2 on his list was IOT and Sensors! I was asked to present further information on the talking food stage and with an audience that included chefs, catering managers, hospitality teachers and local health inspectors the message was clear, technology is the only way you can ensure accurate data and recording keeping economical.

i-temp.com.au using technology to help food safety

Equipment trends, cooking with charcoal and wood was definitely up there. Personally i find the trend to be an old one as its taken nearly 10 years to catch on! I was promoting the benefits of this type of cooking using Grill Dome Kamado’s  , back in 2007! I’m glad chefs have finally woken up that wood, smoke, and sealed cooking = flavour!, even if the suppliers  are 10 years behind!

Fantastic Charcoal Oven/Grill combinations from Spanish manufacturer Josper (this type of cooking is very common in Spain) and these guys have been doing it since 1969.

Josper oven and grill Sydney 2017

Not only is the flavour, aroma and visual presentation better with wood/charcoal cooking its much better for the environment. The equipment requires no water/plumbing/drainage no power, no gas its fueled by naturally sustainable timber, the left over ash can be used in compost also, fantastic for the garden, and in most cases the fats that are expelled during cooking from meats are burnt off on the coals as you cook so there are no fats going down the drain. Added to this the thermal build properties of equipment designed for this purpose are always extremely thick/insulated/ often with stone hearth and heavy cast, which means amazing heat retention, in the right unit you can cook all day and night on just a couple of loads of charcoal and timber, Wood/Charcoal Cooking is much more environmentally friendly  than most of the cooking equipment we use commercially. And importantly the equipment is built to last for many many years, unlike the current industry trend where they design and build with replacement market sales in mind. 

There is a draw back to all of the above in Australia though, and that is our exhaust canopy rules and regulations, keeping it really short, currently you require a separate canopy and duct system, and that can add a lot of money onto set up costs.

A fantastic shiny red cooking suite by Mareno looked amazing, not as practical as what it actually looks but a real eye catcher.

Mareno fine foods Australia

There was a massive range of food service display equipment some really high quality also, one item that is common in the USA and not here in Australia yet is the grab and go open deck, sealed top display, I can see this really taking off, especially this unit that was really well spec’d and built.

Grab and Go Cafe display

Warewashing, always the part where everybody rushes past, i’ll admit its hard subject to get passionate about! There was heaps there and a lot of innovation. Under counter machines made in black stainless which helps with that ugly s/steel glass washer in view of the public and matched the black bar fridges. Bin Washers, a vertical 2 door up right multi level dishwasher, looks just like a 2 door drinks fridge, (i’m not placing any bets on the success of that concept, 1Hr wash time and super expensive)

Almost water less pot washing by GRANULDISK using tiny pellets that blast the soiled containers, pretty radical , but in Europe and other countries where they are really serious about the environment (unlike Australian Government )  saving water and chemicals is a big  thing, so big that the Marriot hotel group are ordering these in volume and have been awarded  a green hotelier award, in fact many hotel chains in Europe are using these  , the maths on water/chemical and power savings is astounding.

GRANULDISK commercial Kitchen Design Australia
Commercial Kitchen design inspects GRANULDISK

Auto sensing exhaust canopy systems, using a sensor it can tell when it needs to adjust fan speeds, so when nothing is cooking its very low, saving power and noise, then when things crank up it senses the odors and emissions and adjusts the fan speed to suit, no more noisy kitchens during prep time!

auto sensing exhaust systems

What else caught my attention?

Fantastic dry aged beef cabinets, beautiful deli slicers, multi purpose compact brat pan/pasta cooker/bain marie a machine i could use in just about every kitchen design! Display fridges with no center mullion and frame less glass doors allowing massive visual display, Retro look fridges, countless wood fired grills, refrigerated display drawers, excellent build quality and spec display cabinets, heaps of induction cookers, Solid Teknicks  Australian made steel pans (awesome design build and excellent for induction) , pressurized multi cooker stirrer kettles, Shepherd filter savers,  (award wining)

There was also a huge range of new imported brands of cooking and refrigeration equipment , most of which did not need close inspection as the quality (or lack there of) could be seen from a long way away! I’m always looking for new brands/suppliers and equipment , but the trend by many to try and import in a cheaply and poorly built knock off a regular brand is frustrating. Typically these suppliers target first time mums and dads operators, newbies to the business if you like that simply don’t know better and can’t see any problem with a fridge or oven that looks the same (if you don’t look too hard) being 25-30% of the cost of a reputable established brand/supplier. What results is the inexperienced operator purchasing purely on price , suffering huge losses in breakdown costs, energy costs and then having to replace all that rubbish they purchased initially with quality, its foolish false economic savings.

It’s also really bad for the environment producing poor quality, high energy equipment that  really just ends up in the tip in a short time, that’s land fill, and more resources wasted building crap again! There should be a law against anything that is manufactured clearly below certain minimum standards, we do it with cars, but not other items.

Catering equipment is an unregulated market in Australia, there is no real standards protecting  consumers with regards to quality its pretty much open slather , anyone can import what ever and see if they can make a quick buck, buyer beware.

‘If it looks to good to be true, it probably is!’

Having said all the above it is still very frustrating with some lines just how expensive some of our equipment is, with google its pretty easy to see how much the same thing costs overseas! The way the industry is set up (and controlled by a few massive multinationals)  and low sales volumes and high freight here in Australia the end user is faced with little choice but to pay. So I totally understand why people try and come up with more economically priced solutions.

As per usual at these shows a showcase lot processed mass volume foods , that I rushed past.  This years food trend,  lots of wheels of cheese, heaps of wheels of cheese , it was Pecorino /Chedder/Parmasan overload this year! Couple of stand outs food drink products below.

Espresso martini machines, best ready to go product was ONYX coffee spirits , and award wining flavour Pearls from Peninsular larder.

espresso martini
Maximum visual merchandising True Refrigeration 

There were also some great information sessions during the event, I’m always surprised more people don’t attend these, self education is not a strong part of the hospitality industry! In particular i sat in on a great ‘food waste’ session,  in Australia we are very wasteful, we don’t recycle well and much of that has to do with the fact that waste is cheap . One statistic that was researched and documented found that 60% of food waste within the industry comes from the customers plate! And the number One  reason why the food was  left behind/wasted, ‘there was too much food!’

Fine Foods Australia 2017

 

 

 

USA updating food safety laws & NSF

Back in 2011 the USA’s food safety governing body FDA set about updating and rewriting their food safety legislation and guidelines, it’s taken up until now to for much of it to be finalized and available to read, and there is plenty to read! FDA info here https://www.fda.gov/

The USA take food safety seriously, very seriously and as such really leads Australia in direction and standards.

This you may find unusual for a country that seems all to happy to consume copious  amounts of processed fast food crap! But if you go into those stores you will see such things as ‘drinking straws individually wrapped’ , ‘tooth picks individually wrapped’ and in my observations the average Americans hand washing technique and time taken to so is far better than the average Australian. There is an in built culture (or paranoia!) about germs  and food safety, just not calories and nutrition!

Part of the reason for strictness in food safety also links back to the massive ‘franchise’ food network in the states, it’s really hard to find a food business that is not part of a chain or group, and some of those chains are in the THOUSANDS not just a few stores! So IF an issue of food safety occurs at one store, and word gets out it’s not that store that is the main problem it’s the damage done to the other 1,000 stores in the chain! The issue can taint all of their brand and reputation and bring a large organisation to their knees for something that may have happened as a once off on the other side of the county…a good example would be chiplote..there is heaps of articles about it  this is just one example, https://www.wired.com/2016/01/chipotles-health-crisis-shows-fresh-food-comes-at-a-price/

Bad news sells, the media love to bring businesses down, they have probably fed millions of meals over the years with no hassles at, but that doesn’t sell in media land!

The other issue in the states is shear volume, massive population and massive food producers, some may say to few producers, but when big business runs all the smaller players out of town you end up with super food factories. You might end up with for example one or two factories producing all the burger patties for Mcdonalds for example…IF something goes wrong at that factory with the product because they are supplying to millions of customers each week you are in fact risking millions of people, not just the 100 who ate at store A!

an oldie but a goodie on the subject, America a fast food nation, http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1097.Fast_Food_Nation

So generally as a result the states is pretty strict, as mentioned before even small wares (tong’s spoons etc)  used in the industry all have to be passed and rated NSF. Makes sense  if you think about it, here in Australia a typical small franchise would look to save $1 on a set of tongs…but not consider quality and safety…now if they were cheaply made tongs with silicone/rubber ends that franchise could easily find themselves with a customer at a store with bits of tong rubber in their salad! The chances of such happening in the states would be much lower as they would only use NSF approved tongs, so they would have been tested for quality and durability to reduce the chance of the same happening. more about NSF here http://www.nsf.org/

So back to the FDA changes.

I haven’t read the entire documents just the basics. But the big shift is what they are aiming for is early prevention rather than reaction. And a lot more proactive on spot inspections where it will be compulsory for all operators to have all their food safety plans and documentation accurate and up to date.

The reading suggests using digital data monitoring and logging of food storage temperatures,  and lets be totally honest with ourselves here, WHO does it ACCURATELY , REGULARLY and Honestly? Very few is the answer to that. Secondly whats the point of checking and recording twice a day, its POINTLESS a grade 4 science teacher would fail you if you suggested that checking temperatures for 2 moments of time over 24hrs is sufficient evidence to base a finding on, clearly its not! You may have checked a refrigerator both times of the day and struck it on full defrost cycle, the data from that would suggest you have a serious temperature issue! The real fact is for the other 23.5Hrs of the day your storage may have well in the correct zone.

and old saying ‘ to monitor ones performance, first we must measure the results’ 

if you haven’t already check out http://www.i-temp.com.au/

www.i-temp.com.au

or watch this video

 

Oil’s ain’t Oils!

Well I’m not going to attempt to break down all the different types of frying oils/fats (or mediums being the technical term) with exception of Palm and Cotton Seed, this is more about ‘filtering and different types of fryers.

Palm Oil…do a quick google on the harmful environmental issues of Palm Oil…enough said .http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/environmental_impacts/

Cotton seed can’t be much better seeing we damn half of this country and bugger up all the water ways down stream just so we can grow cotton??Aside from that go and pull out a 10 yr+ old fryer from a fish and chip shop that has been using cotton seed oil…the toxic resin/gum that builds up is horrific, cannot be good for you!

Fryer Types

Its hard to break this down without going into pages and pages…but Fryers are a major part of many commercial kitchens and business, they cost heaps to run, heaps to purchase and can consume insane amounts of oil, the lack of attention clients give to selecting the fryer for their operation is staggering, the wrong choice could cost them thousands per year.

Years ago all fryers were flat bottom, mainly width was the main performance difference, the burner technology (Gas) was primitive to say the least, round baskets in square/rectangle fryers were normal! Yep that makes sense round shape in square base..no wastage of energy or oil there!

The big change happened with ‘V’ base fryers and also more compact in size to suit the neatly fitting baskets, size/shape is easy to see the performance difference there, but what about the V bottom?

Basically it was worked out that many fried products were crumbed or battered and a lot of that ended up coming off the food and floating in the fryer, but once it cooked these crumbs would fall to the bottom of the fryer and form a layer of crumby/crust gunk! So A) the gas burners had to get the heat through this layer of gunk to get to the oil so wasted energy B) doing so actually just burnt this gunk/waste more and more resulting in ‘dirty’ tasting oil and also causing  premature oil failure, (think of an old smoking fryer you may have seen used). This resulted in needing to change the oil more often or sooner than ideally required, which equals BIG $$$ per month per year.

So the ‘V’ base works as it allows the crumbs to fall deep down into the middle of the fryer and down into that big valley. That Valley is MUCH cooler than up higher onto top of the burger sections, so the crumbs don’t cook and burn, resulting in massive oil life increase, in some studies 25-30% more..also the efficiency of the burners being just under the baskets means much faster recover times of the oil temperature.

So ‘v’ these days is the norm for nay place doing volume. Is there a place for flat bottom fryers?

YES! yes you say but what how/why? Chips (not coated plain type) as there is very little waste of plain chips we don’t have that problem caused by crumbs and batter. So we can flat bottom the fryer and it will take up to 25-40% less oil in the tank! So straight away a 40% less oil to purchase, no brainer you say…hmmmn I say not so fast…as I am seeing so much ‘coated’ or ‘treated’ chip product out there these days, and with that a lot of that treatment will fall off in the cook. So its a case by case consideration.

Tube Burners are quite popular as many are priced at the affordable end of the scale. Hopefully the below image shows the difference in types, many tube style fryers incorporate a v also. The down side to tube burners is that they are harder to clean, the manufacturers would say differently but it is a fact.

Where they win is ‘efficiency ‘  of the burners (gas) as the tubes are immersed in the oil they are contacting more of the oil and tend to have a higher performance rate than other burner types, so for items like chips they are a good choice.

Deep fryer types

Pressure Fryers

The other type of fryer, often not thought of in Australia with exception of a well known chicken franchise, but in the states commonly used in many different business. The short story is faster, moisture cooking especially for boned in chicken pieces. Rather than write too much I found this great explanation video…couldn’t of said it better myself, take notes on the the discussion about the cold zone, and self filtration machines.

Electric or GAS?

Save your homework, go into all the ‘major’ fast food franchise restaurants of the world they use electric, they have have invested huge chunks of time and money into their product/Equipment  R&D they haven’t come up with this same answer time and time again by mistake!

Put your hand over the back of a deep fryer (over the flue) and see for your self NO DON’T DO THAT you will get burnt! That’s how hot that wasted air/energy is , and you paid for it if its your fryer! With electricity the elements are in the oil, there is much less energy wasted.

Having said that getting enough power into a kitchen can often be an issue, especially on renovations and expansions, so Gas is often the answer

Thermostat so important! If your fryer isn’t at correct temperature when you drop those baskets of chips you are going to ‘soak’ a lot of oil up into the product, rather than the medium ‘sealing’ the product and frying it, under temp fryers can cost you thousands in oil each year, not to mention a poorly cooked greasy food item! Invest in a fryer that shows you by a light or display of some sort that says it’s reached temperature and its ready to go!

Accuracy of the thermostat is crucial, for the reason above and also to ensure you are not cooking at too high a temperature, to high simply means you risk burning the oil/food, ruining taste and also risking fire! Too high will also reduce the lifespan of your oil.

Filtering at the risk of preaching to the converted this is SO CRUCIAL the more you filter , the better you filter the longer your oil will last and save you thousands of dollars per year, plus the food will taste better.

How to do it and how often? As often as possible especially fryers that have messy products eg S&P calamari, do it after every service, seriously EVERY SHIFT watch your oil life increase and costs decrease.

How? With a filtering machine and proper micro filters, get the best. If you can afford it and you have multiple fryers invest in a self filtering , auto top up system, most of the brands have them, with these you can filter many times per day all day, without staff, so much safer and cheaper, these systems in busy places will often pay for themselves in oil saving within 1-2 years.

An example of one type of auto system is shown here,

 

Other ways you can increase the life of your oil is to filter your self with a floor based system where you empty the oil into a tank and it filters and pumps back into the fryer. These systems are fine when done after hours and no one is working near the fryers, they do have a fair bit of OHS risk also if the oil is too hot and someone knocks the tube, but they work well and are good base IF they are used regularly.

A combination of the two methods above is a Vito machine, the advantage of such is that it doesn’t take up floor space and can be simply move from one fryer to another, you can also run multiple filters per vat per day.

Here is how they work.

The Inspiration for a fryer topic?

I’m in the position of being able to walk into MANY different kitchens each week, and the common trend these days I see is to have ‘someone sort out your oil for you’ . What a great service and idea, no more storing drums of oil/fat , dealing with disgusting waste oil/fat stores, ordering it’s all managed for the client, the truck comes each week and swaps it all over , its a great improvement for kitchens and chefs for sure, massive as they can spend that time on more important tasks. However with it I have  seen a complacency to be aware of oil/costs/use/ and lifespan as it’ now all taken care of by someone else.

If you were to implement some of the above tips, maybe you could  extract  an extra 2 days out of your oil before it ‘really’ needed to be replaced , rather than this is the day of the week it gets done. Lets say a client implemented just the Vito strategy on 4 fryers after each service and they did extend the oil life, maybe they could be looking at an extra 50-100 days of oil x 4 fryers. Work out how much your organisation  spent on oil last year / 365 and that’s your oil cost per day, now take that at x 50 or 100…the maths is compelling.

The thing to keep in mind with the oil /swap/fill service, is that their money is made each time the filling truck comes to you, they are not in the business of extending a customer oil too much otherwise they are cutting their own income off, its like BP showing you a way to increase your cars fuel performance x 25%, its not going to happen!

Operators are keen to cut penalty rates on Sunday’s, increase meal costs to customers, but rarely do they get into the nitty gritty of ‘non obvious running costs’ such as power consumption or in this case oil/fat consumption, I bet everyone could save thousands off their oil costs by filtering properly and often.

Keeping your cool!

Another one in the obvious but clearly not obvious category.

Cool room door strips, Cold Shields. If you don’t have them on your doors you are wasting money.

They were/are designed for a specific purpose that is to keep cold air in and hot air out, and guess what they work! Manufacturers will claim numbers like 25% improvement in temperature controls, which in some cases I would say yes, others less so, all depends on the operating ambient temperatures and or drafts/breezes.

Chef’s hate them as we have to brush through them and if you are carrying a tray of something delicate you can bet that the strips will smack into the goods and ruin them!

But for the inconvenience of having to have someone open the strips for you occasionally, the business is going to be saving thousands of dollars in energy costs, coolroom motors cost a lot to run and if they are working over time even worse, for  a few hundred dollars you can save thousands  and also give your coolroom a chance of actually working to correct food safe temperatures, they are a non negotiable.