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Keeping Your Buffet Safe

Food Safety Information

   Introduction

In recent years, many food service businesses offer buffets as a strategic move to give their establishments a greater public appeal.  The buffets, regardless of whether they are Chinese, Western or Korean types, normally include a wide variety of foods and therefore demand food handlers to observe strict good hygiene and food safety practices in order to prevent foodborne illnesses.

This document, prepared to assist the industry in providing safe foods, contains information on food safety problems and their control in preparing and serving buffets.  The content of the document is divided into two parts:

Introduction of Food Safety Plans -

           Benefits of Food Safety Plans

           Stages involved in developing a Food Safety Plan

Food Safety Facts for Providing Buffets -

           Food safety problems related to buffets

           Pathogens causing foodborne illnesses

           Causes of foodborne illnesses

           Preventive measures


Benefits of Food Safety Plans

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System (HACCP) is recognized internationally as an effective food safety management system and has been adopted worldwide by many food manufacturing companies.

A Food Safety Plan (FSP) based on the principles of HACCP can be developed according to the following guidelines.

Benefits of a Food Safety Plan:

   It prevents potential food safety problems.

   It protects your customers and your reputation.

   It enhances consumers' confidence.

   It helps lower production costs in the long run.

Stages involved in developing a FSP

Stage 1   Planning

Assemble a team

   Select suitable members who

  • have basic food safety knowledge and

  • are familiar with the foods produced as well as their processing procedures

   Give them adequate authorities and resources

Stage 2:  Draw a flow diagram

*         List all process steps of the production (from purchasing to point of service)

*         Draw different flow diagrams for different operations

Stage 3:  Develop a Food Safety Plan

Six Elements

1.         List Hazards

2.         Identify preventive measures and their control limits

3.         Establish monitoring procedures

4.         Establish corrective actions

5.         Keep records

6.         Check and review

Implementing the above elements appropriately, together with the application of basic hygienic practices (e.g. cleaning and sanitation, personal hygiene, pest control, waste disposal and staff training), will prevent food safety problems during food production.

*  Please refer to the booklet "How to Implement a Food Safety Plan" for details.

Food safety problems related to buffets

1.   Preparation of large amount of food in a short time / too far in advance

    Inadequate equipment (e.g. refrigerator) to chill or hot hold food

    Prolonged storage of foods at room temperature

2.   Supply of high-risk foods

    E.g. oysters, sashimi, etc

    Without cooking, these food items may contain harmful micro-organisms

3.   Supply of wide variety of foods

    Display both ready-to-eat foods (e.g. Kimchi) and uncooked meats (e.g. raw meat) in Korean BBQ buffet

    Cross-contamination occurs (e.g. cooked foods contaminated by uncooked foods)

4.   Prolonged displaying and serving of food

    Display time may be longer than 4 hours

    Growth of pathogens during display

5.   Contamination of food by customers during display

    Customers contaminating foods when picking them

    E.g. consumers using their hands to taste/pick foods


Pathogens causing foodborne illnesses

In Hong Kong, the most common pathogens that cause foodborne illness in relation to buffets include:

the most common pathogens that cause foodborne illness in relation to buffets

Other pathogens causing foodborne illnesses:

Vibrio Cholerae Hepatitis A virus


Causes of foodborne illnesses

The causes of foodborne illnesses in relation to buffets can be classified into two groups:
(1) microbiological contamination of food and
(2) survival or growth of pathogens in food.

microbiological contamination of food 



Preventive measures

Based on the causes of foodborne illnesses, we can identify the potential food safety problems during food production and develop measures to prevent these problems from occurring.

         To prevent cross-contamination

         To kill pathogens and prevent growth

In general, four different types of processing are identified in preparing food items for buffets.  The critical control points and their preventive measures involved in these types of processing are summarized as follows:

     Type 1:    Cooking involved

     Type 2:    Cooking and hot holding involved

     Type 3:    Cooking, cooling and reheating involved

     Type 4:    No cooking involved


Type 1
: Cooking involved

Examples: Steamed fish, fried mixed vegetables

survival or growth of pathogens in food 

( * Critical Control Point)

Critical Control Point

Preventive Measures

Cooking

Cook food until the core temperature of food reaches 75℃ or above

Display

Please refer to Type 4

 

Type 2:    Cooking and hot holding involved

Example: Fried rice

Cooking involved 

( * Critical Control Point)

Critical Control Point

Preventive Measures

Cooking

Cook food until the core temperature of food reaches 75℃ or above

Hot holding

Keep food at 60℃ or above

Display

Please refer to Type 4

 

Type 3: Cooking, cooling and reheating involved

Example: Gravy

Cooking and hot holding involved 

( * Critical Control Point)

Critical Control Point

Preventive Measures

Cooking

Cook food until the core temperature of food reaches 75℃ or above

Cooling

Cool food from 60℃ to 20℃ in 2 hours and then to 4℃ in the next 4 hours

Cold Storage

Store food in 4℃ or below

Reheating

Reheat food until the core temperature reaches 75℃ or above as fast as possible (e.g. within 30 minutes)

Display

Please refer to Type 4

 

Type 4: No cooking involved

Cooking, cooling and reheating involved

( * Critical Control Point)

Examples: Sashimi, sandwiches, Tiramisu, ready-to-eat raw oysters, salads, cut fruit, etc.

Critical Control Point

Preventive Measures
Purchase
  • Buy food from reliable and reputable suppliers
  • Specify delivery temperature (e.g. Chilled food should be kept at 4℃ or below)
  • Use safe ingredients (e.g. Use pasteurized egg to prepare Tiramisu)
Receiving
  • Check the general hygiene of the delivery vehicles
  • Check the appearance of food
  • Check the integrity of package
  • Check label on durability, i.e. ‘Use by date' or ‘Best before date'
  • Check temperature of raw materials: chilled foods should be at 4℃ or below / frozen foods should be entirely frozen
  • Store chilled / frozen foods at 4℃ / -18℃ or below immediately after receiving (e.g. within 10 minutes)

Storage (Frozen / Chilled)

  • Store ready-to-eat foods away from raw foods
  • Cover / wrap all foods
  • Ensure packaging intact
  • Avoid prolonged storage of food (Use first-in-first-out rotation)
  • Keep storage area clean and hygienic
Preparation
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly (Remember to wash your hands thoroughly)
  • Limit the time of chilled foods at room temperature (e.g. finish the preparation within 1 hour)
  • Use separate knife and cutting boards to handle ready-to-eat foods and raw foods
  • Thaw frozen foods:
    - in thawing cabinets or in refrigerators
    - in cool running water

Cold Storage

  • Store ready-to-eat foods away from raw foods
  • Cover/wrap all foods
  • Keep storage area clean and with good air circulation
  • Store food at 4℃ or below
  • Use first-in-first-out rotation (Use date codes or marks to show the time sequence of food storage)

Display

  • Do not display food too early
  • Protect foods while bringing them from kitchen to display counters (e.g. cover / wrap food properly)
  • Keep cold food cold (e.g. raw oysters, sashimi and salad to be kept at 4℃ or below)
  • Keep hot food hot (keep at 60℃or above)
  • Display food in small portions to shorten display time (Avoid placing food at room temperature for more than 2 hours)
  • Display ready-to-eat and raw (uncooked) foods separately and provide different styled utensils (e.g. tongs in different color or shape) for customers to pick foods
  • Avoid topping up a displayed batch of foods with a fresh one
  • Do not keep leftovers
  • Appoint staff to monitor hygienic conditions of buffet tables and remove contaminated food and utensils immediately

Taking into account of the above mentioned preventive measures, you can develop monitoring procedures and corrective actions that are suitable for your own establishment.  Please refer to the booklet "How to Implement a Food Safety Plan" for details.

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2007 copyright logo | Important notices Last Revision Date : 30-12-2006