Did you know that there is no federal regulation that for zero tolerance of Salmonella and Campylobacter on the chicken you purchase?
That is right, your chicken could and probably is swimming in potentially harmful bacteria. There is an initiative to reduce the amounts that are present but feds are not considering a zero tolerance policy at this time.
So how can you prevent these bacteria from wreaking havoc on your customers or family?
Avoid cross contamination
Do not wash your chicken in a sink. There is no need to wash chicken. You only increase the chance of spreading these pathogens all over your kitchen especially if you use a spray hose.
If you must rinse chicken place in bowl, filled with water, gently place chicken in bowl. Agitate and drain off water.
Wash your hands
Hand-washing after handling raw chicken with warm or hot water, plenty of soap and vigorous scrubbing will reduce the risk that you transfer pathogens to other surfaces in your kitchen.
Clean and sanitize
Using a good detergent wash areas that the chicken has touched.
Rinse with clean water and then sanitize using an effective solution.
Avoid Temperature abuse
Cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F and you will destroy those harmful bacteria. Don’t forget to promptly refrigerate foods after cooking to avoid other pathogens from causing problems.
There are 4 common methods of thawing food. You can place in the refrigerator, in the microwave but you must cook the food immediately after, and as part of the cooking process, or under running water
When you are thawing foods under running water you need to follow these simple rules to protect the food from time and temperature abuse;
1. Submerse the product in a pan or bowl. Do not ever place directly in a sink.
2. Have water running over product that has enough flow to constantly change the water in the bowl and agitate loose particles off the food.
3. Water should NEVER exceed 70°F.
4. Do not attempt to thaw items that will take a long time like a whole chicken. Anytime food is 41°F* or above for more than 4 hours it needs to be discarded. For instance, if the surface of the chicken is above and the inside is still frozen you would need to discard.
*Note, when thawing ROP food the temperature must remain under 38°F.
When thawing fish that are stamped with “Keep Frozen – Remove from packaging then thaw under refrigeration” there is a risk of clostridium botulinum, a very serious and potentially deadly bacteria. It is important that proper thawing take place. FDA Food Code 3-501.13(E) states that: REDUCED OXYGEN PACKAGED FISH that bears a label
indicating that it is to be kept frozen until time of use shall be
removed from the reduced oxygen environment:
(1) Prior to its thawing under refrigeration as specified in
(A) of this section; or
(2) Prior to, or Immediately upon completion of, its thawing
using procedures specified in (B) [discussed above] of this section.
The best method to use would be remove the product from packaging when frozen and place in the refrigeration. Alternatively, you can thaw under running water as discussed above but the product must be removed from the package the moment it is thawed.
Holding food at incorrect temperatures is one on the top 5 reasons there was an outbreak in this county.
Depending on your jurisdiction you may not be required to log the temperature more than once or twice a day and often there are no requirements for logging. I recommend that you check and log refrigeration equipment temperatures every 2 hours to ensure time to take a corrective action. The inside thermometer is sufficient for logging however, you need to ensure the thermometer is accurate. I recommend checking the internal temperature of a sampling of food at least once a week and comparing with the internal thermometer. You should also do internal sampling anytime a thermometer is dropped to ensure proper calibration.
Verification through logging
Have staff record the internal temperature of all equipment in a daily log book and a shift manager should review recordings for possible problems. In my experience, as a third-party inspector, I often see log books that are completed with temperatures outside the critical limit with no action being taken. This has cost business big money when all TCS foods must be discarded.
If you find that food is stored above 41° F and the time is less than 4 hours and verifiable, you can move the food to a freezer or walk-in for quick chilling. You must check the temperature before the end of 4 hours to ensure the food has been returned to 41°F or below. If it is still above 41°F you must discard.
Staff should be properly trained on how to take internal food temperatures and the proper location the hanging thermometer should be placed in the unit. Hanging thermometers should be placed in the warmest part of the unit, which is usually just below mid-point on the and toward the front where the door opens. When taking internal temperatures use a thermometer that has been calibrated. Do not touch pan sides or bottom.
FDA food code 3-501.16(A)(2) and COMAR 10.15.03.06 b(7) states that cold food be held at 41°F or below.
In Maryland, you must store pasteurized crab meat at 38°F or below.
Always check with your local jurisdiction as recommendations / requirements may be different.