Food safety and sanitation is a major concern effecting the developing world and first-world countries alike. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012 there were 831 foodborne disease outbreaks, leading to 14,972 illnesses and 23 deaths in the United States. Restaurants were the most commonly reported location of food preparation. Due to the many risks involved in food preparation, food businesses should be wary in maintaining high levels of sanitation and quality in their venue. Restaurant health inspections are an excellent reason to stay up to sanitation standards, but for those who need extra motivation, these CDC findings show the significance of the sanitation problem.
Safety is another constant concern in the kitchen, with fires hazards being one of the most pressing worries. Having properly functioning equipment and employees that are trained to use the equipment properly is the major step to ensuring safety in the kitchen. Though much of a restaurant’s hygiene is a result of employee practices and kitchen cleanliness, the foodservice equipment can also have a defining effect. Foodservice equipment also molds the abilities of a restaurant to serve their customers, and accounts for the carbon footprint of the venue. As a way to organize these concerns, various organizations offer certifications for foodservice equipment which meets regional, national, and international standards in these fields. Such organizations offer certifications on products based on evaluations, testing, inspection of the manufacturing facility, and test results analysis, providing a safety net for food businesses concerned with the quality of their equipment. Though most restaurants don’t deal with the certification process, by knowing what each certification means foodservice venues can make educated purchasing decisions.
American National Standards Institute
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) oversees the creation of standards: norms and guidelines that apply to specific devices, materials, and processes in various business sectors, as well as broader initiatives such as quality and environmental management. The standards aim to encourage international business as well as the quality of life of local citizens, through publishing guidelines for maintaining a certain level of quality throughout many different business sectors. Though ANSI doesn’t quite fit into our list of certification organizations, it is an important player in the process of defining the concerns and measures that must be addressed in food safety, sanitation, environment, and equipment performance. The standards they promulgate shape the certification requirements of most of the certification organizations described below.
The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certification focuses on equipment sanitation. The standards of certification are so up to par with industry expectations, that many public health inspectors now require that equipment in a commercial kitchen have the NSF certification. The NSF often works with ANSI standards to shape the foodservice equipment sanitation requirements that must be met by the equipment manufacturers in order to receive certification.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL) offers certifications for foodservice equipment meeting safety standards. They focus on air quality, fire safety, electrical hazards, and sustainable energy, along with other safety concerns, in food business fields as well as other disciplines. The UL often works with ANSI standards, but also create their own as needed.
Energy Star® is a voluntary program of the Environmental Protection Agency which focuses on energy efficiency and saving. The foodservice equipment certified as Energy Star® is likely to help the business save money on electricity expenses and reduce their carbon footprint. Additionally, this government-affiliated organization provides tax incentives to many businesses for choosing Energy Star® appliances.
Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute
The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) provides a certification that is often recognized at local, state, and federal levels as a way to highlight safe and effective air-conditioning, heating, and refrigeration equipment. For example, the AHRI “Standard for Performance Rating of Walk-in Coolers and Freezers” addresses the pressure, temperature, fan, refrigerants, and capacity specifications for such equipment.
Though all the different abbreviations and names of certifications on foodservice equipment can be confusing, knowing their meaning can help food businesses choose equipment that will promote safety, sanitation, and energy efficiency in their venue. Equipment meeting international or local standards provides a security and easy indication for businesses concerned with the quality and function of the equipment they purchase.
Food businesses should always prioritize equipment purchases based on their needs and local regulation requirements. However, as a general rule, looking for the best products will lead to the best kitchen in terms of convenience and safety. The different certifications available are an easy way to spot equipment that can be trusted to meet the standards set in place for various foodservice equipment. Whether promoting safety, energy efficiency, and function to ensure the smoothest work environment possible, or focusing on sanitation requirements to meet health inspector requirements, these certifications play an important role in quality assurance.