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Opinion: kitchen design and food safety

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Francine L. Shaw of Savvy Food Safety Solutions, Inc. addresses how the design of a commercial kitchen should maximise efficiency and productivity, while also promoting proper food safety protocols

When designing a commercial kitchen, many people are concerned with how the space will look, but they should be primarily concerned with how it will function. The design should maximise efficiency and productivity, while also promoting proper food safety protocols.

Design flaws

During kitchen design/construction projects, collaborate with a food safety expert, who can advise on how the space can boost food safety practices. Recognise that design flaws could have negative ramifications that could harm – or even kill – your guests. Think of food safety when planning the space – e.g., ensuring that floor mixers aren’t placed near wash sinks, where dirty water could splash in and contaminate the food. Also, when servers take food to your guests, they shouldn’t have to walk through the dirty dish area, which increases contamination risk.

Follow these tips for a safer commercial kitchen:

  • Plan the flow. The flow of your kitchen should be efficient and support food safety protocols. This will save time, money, and reduce risk.
  • Purchase equipment that’s easy to clean, with minimal nooks and crannies. This is important for all kitchen equipment, including mixers, fryers, ice cream machines, meat slicers, etc.
  • Consider even the smallest details. Don’t leave gaps between counters and walls that could attract grime, insects or rodents. Be certain that you utilize grout that can be properly cleaned and sanitized.
  • Ensure that your floors have drains so they can be deep cleaned regularly.
  • Make certain areas that are impossible to reach for cleaning are sealed tightly. It is impossible for anyone to clean a ¼ in. gap between a wall and a counter space that the contractor neglected to close. This will eventually become an insect or rodent haven – and a food safety hazard.
  • Ensure that your hot water tanks hold a sufficient amount of hot water. If they don’t hold enough hot water to get you through your busiest rush period of washing and sanitizing dishes, you either need to get a booster or a larger hot water tank. Hot water is critical to proper washing and sanitising dishes, equipment and hands.
  • Consider the placement of your sinks. Kitchen sinks must never be in an area where there’s potential for contaminated water to splash on consumables, clean dishes, or anything else it could contaminate. In tight areas, a barrier may need to be installed between the sink and a prep area.
  • Install multiple sinks for washing dishes, produce, hands, etc.
  • Designate separate prep space for allergen-free/gluten-free cooking to safely accommodate your guests with food allergies and intolerances.
  • Designate allergy-friendly equipment – such as fryers – that are not used for any common allergens, including breaded products, fish or shellfish, or foods containing nuts. Purple is widely used and recognised to designate allergy-friendly equipment.
  • Design separate storage space for common food allergens (flours, nuts, etc.) to avoid cross-contact with allergy-friendly foods.

By following these guidelines, your team can maximise successes and minimise food safety risks.

About the author:

Francine L. Shaw is president of Savvy Food Safety Solutions, Inc.

The Savvy Food Safety Solutions team has more than 100 combined years of industry experience in restaurants, casinos, and convenience stores and has helped numerous clients prevent foodborne illnesses. Francine has been featured as a food safety expert in numerous media outlets, including the Dr. Oz Show, the Huffington Post, iHeartRadio, Food Safety News, and Food Management Magazine.