Hazardous Food Sales Displays

Workplace HygieneFood Storage and Preparation now complete – How do you display it for sale? Food Displays may look impressive but, if not carried out correctly, these elaborate displays of culinary delights could be potentially hazardous. Food Safety not only applies to the kitchen, the service of food must also comply with food standards, as potentially harmful bacteria can lurk anywhere.

Displaying warm food (less than 60°C) in a bain-marie is common, so it is important to ensure that your equipment is set to the correct storage temperatures to not only prevent bacterial growth, but not overheat the displayed food either. A correctly adjusted bain-marie can hold food at 60°-65°C without generating too much steam. If food on display is less than 60°C, the unit could be set too low or the operator might have used the bain-marie to reheat food. The bain-marie is not designed for reheating food. If reheating is attempted, the food typically spends many hours at a perfect temperature for bacterial growth, causing potential food hazards that can result to food poisoning. Food must be freshly cooked or reheated prior to display in a bain-marie, as this is for display purposes only and just for short periods of time.

Displaying salads and cut meats above 5°C is potentially hazardous. Cold food must be kept at that safe temperature of 5°C. However, it is common for salad and sandwich bars to display cold food at 5-10°C, and it can be difficult to correct this rather unsafe condition without the involvement of significant investment. Brightly lit displays, with “cold plate” refrigeration, stacked high with food, may look more appetising, but are much more difficult to manage and maintain to a safe temperature. Compact displays with overhead cooling can be also just as impressive, and is a display system easier to maintain for the storage of safe food.

If there is a fault with the display temperatures, this can sometimes be traced to operator actions, such as placing spacers (cardboard, foam or bread) between the cold plate and the food tray to avoid freezing. In this case, using plastic trays may be a better solution, allowing easy maintenance of the temperature control. Often the only solution available to operators is to display suitable quantities of food and to remove food from display, consistent with the “4-hour/2-hour rule.” Condiments, sauces and other non PHF do not have to follow the rule.

Displaying pre-cut sandwiches and rolls should be kept within the safe cold food storage bracket of less than 5°C, to prevent hazardous bacterial growth.  It is common practice for sandwich shops to sometimes prepare sandwiches ahead of the lunch rush hour. Sandwiches are a potentially hazardous food, and time or temperature control is necessary. If adequate refrigeration is not available or maintainable, then sandwiches must be sold within the 4-hour time frame and time control must be evident.

Storage and the safe display of food within a food service business is risky business – if not carried out correctly. Food Safety and Workplace Hygiene are practices put in place by Health Organisations, to help business owners and staff prepare, store and display food in a safe environment and avoid any nasty surprises. For more information on how to learn the ins and outs of Workplace Hygiene, visit our website and undertake your online training today.