Food safety is a constant and major concern for commercial kitchens as well as many home cooks. In an effort to prevent cross-contamination, many regulating bodies require separate cutting boards to be used for poultry, fish, meat, and produce. Little labels are sometimes used to mark food preparation equipment based on the type of ingredients it is used for. But labels can sometimes go unnoticed which presents a danger of cross-contamination in the kitchen. Color coding food preparation equipment can provide an easy and stand-out way to identify and notice which equipment should be used for which foods. Follow these steps to get started.
Choose you food categories
The amount of separation between ingredients in a commercial kitchen largely depends on the venue’s menu and its budget. For example, a vegetarian restaurant will obviously not need separate cutting boards for fish, meat, and poultry, since those ingredients won’t be used, but may consider having dairy and non-dairy equipment or even equipment used only for the preparation of gluten free foods or foods containing allergens. With celiac on the rise and allergies as dangerous as ever rampant amongst the population, even small amounts of forbidden ingredients can have a serious and dangerous effect on diners. Choosing to differentiate between the food preparation equipment of various foods can help increase food safety in such cases. Other venues offering different types of meat, fishes and poultry should separate the ingredients and the equipment used to prepare them based on the ingredient type
and whether or not the food is cooked yet. Cutting cooked meat on the same cutting board as raw meat can cause bacterial contamination and raise the chances of food poisoning. The minimal food equipment separation that should be applied in a commercial kitchen should be in accordance with the safety regulations in the region in which the venue is found. Complying with these laws will keep a venue out of trouble both with the local authorities and diners.
Choose your colors
When choosing colors for color coding kitchen equipment, kitchens should make sure that they are easily differentiable from one another. Choosing bright colors that can’t be easily confused with each other is the best way to go. Blue, green, red, and yellow, white, and black are all great color options. Including pink, orange, and purple along with those colors, however, will raise the likelihood that one of the kitchen tools will be accidentally switched out with one of another color, at some point, if close attention is not paid during the selection of the tool. One wrong grab from the cutting board rack without paying attention can increase the risk of food contamination, but having bright colors that stand out from one another will provide an eye-catching way to prevent such mishaps.
Colors should also be easily associated with the food for which they are used. Using red tools for meat is a common choice. Green can be used for fruits and vegetables, yellow for poultry, blue or white for dairy, and so on. Make sure to have a chart handy in convenient spots throughout the kitchen for new employees to cross reference and double check that they are using the right equipment for a certain food.
Plan for mistakes
Though color coding can help minimize cross-contamination, it can’t guarantee that a meat cutting board won’t be used for vegetables by mistake or that other food safety mishaps won’t occur. Kitchens should train and inform their employees about the protocol for when mistakes are made. Is it enough to soak the board in soapy, hot water and then go back to using it for the appropriate ingredient? Should the vegetables be thrown out if they are cut on the cutting board for dairy products? What if they were cut on a bread board and are therefore no longer gluten free? Some of these questions may not have a right or wrong answer based on official regulations, but businesses should adopt instructions for how their employees should proceed in such a case.
You may be wondering if all the precautions mentioned above are not just a little overboard. However, it is important to realize that some kitchen equipment items, especially cutting boards, are extremely susceptible to wear and tear over time, and that every scratch and nook can become home for dangerous bacteria. It is not enough to simply replace cutting boards regularly (which is important). Ingredients must be separated based on their characteristics and the food safety hazard they present. No one wants to have their salad infected with dangerous microorganisms found in some raw meat, poultry, and fish. Taking precautions by color coding food preparation equipment will help minimize the chances of cross-contamination mishaps and help simplify the preservation of food safety standards by employees in the commercial kitchen. Having a safe food preparation environment minimizes the chance of running into problems with local authorities, unhappy customers, and employee health.