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Food Safety issues

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hello fellow Chefs and Food Service professionals. I apologize in advance for the length, but I have some questions that I cannot find answer to in the food code.

I recently started (this week) in a contracted coporate food operation as the Chef Manager. Upon getting to know the place on my first day I encountered several violations of food handling; i.e. food that had been cooked and reused several times over a couple days, food that was obviously bad like molded, food that had no label or dates, and some that just plain stunk like rotten, no documentation or verification from the staff on when food was prepared, how it was cooled, nothing also not properly labeled, or dated for more than a week prior to finding it.

Having been a professional for many years and understanding that this is now my baby, I began rapidly discarding products that no one could verify anything about, and things that looked to me had been obviously mishandled. There are NO HACCP procedures in place. I informed my DM of the issues, and feeling I had done the right thing by food safety went about my day cleaning things out.

I also tempped the 2 coolers and 2 freezers to find the main freezer (most of the raw meat) was holding at 30F and the reefers hovering around the 40F mark. So I monitored them making a temp logs and regularly taking temps.

Day 2 I investigated more thoroughly the freezer situation. I found several bags of previously cooked fried chicken that had been refrozen, not labeled or dated  and some things dated for more than 10 days prior, raw chicken partially frozen and slimy, ribs that were mostly frozen yet rancid smelling.. ect ect. So again, doing my due diligence and getting this very dangerous food out in the two days I have discarded about $500.00 worth of food.

I informed my DM of the occurrences and to cover my butt took pictures of the food I threw out on day 2 from the freezer. I also noted my corrective actions and why I felt it absolutely necessary to discard it in writing. I have been met with resistance by the DM, shockingly to me.

So we have agreed that for the two days I have cleaned things out and we shouldn't have this problem any further. I have also has the repair men in to add Freon to the freezer,  and I am happy to report all today it temped around 5F so I am good there, and the reefers are holding below 40 most of the day (save periods of high use).

Ok so today after lunch around 3-4pm I find in the hot holding box food left from breakfast and lunch being held that was previously out on the hot line. Our establishment is a self-serve environment btw.

I instructed them to discard it immediately because I personally cooked that food between 0600-0900 only intending the breakfast items to be held and used until 1000, and the lunch leftovers to be discarded by 1pm. We are talking about 30 pieces of bacon, 20 oz of corn and 20 oz of green beans, about a half pan of spaghetti with meat sauce, so as you can see it wasn't great amounts of food. When I informed the DM I was told all that food needed to be used for the dinner meal. I shut the door to the office and flatly refused citing hot holding of food cannot exceed 4 hours and I could not be party to knowlingly breaking food code. Couple that with the fact that it was exposed to the public, it just isn't safe in my professional opinion and what I have been taught.

Am I wrong here?

So I came home and downloaded my states' food code, and have been digging into the FDA code. The both reference that when time is the control food cannot be held for more than 4 hours. Do I not understand this standard correctly?

I also found in the code that food that is cooked and cooled properly can be refrozen? I was always taught and thought I understood food that is cooked can never be refrozen. Was that just responsible company standards?  Also food that is thawed can never be refrozen, although today I was instructed by the DM to refreeze bagged veggies that were brought in frozen.. I have properly thawed them for the last 2 days (because I found them partially thawed in the freezer and figured I would just thaw under refridgeration use them tomorrow? This is my attempt to try and recover what I could without violating code)

I am a 20 yr professional and have taken and scored in the 90's for Serve Safe for almost 10 years now. I am a Johnson and Wales graduate with honors. I have never been guilty of improperly handling food because I feel like I understand what should and shouldn’t happen. MINUS the rotten food.. I am now questioning the refreezing previously frozen and cooked foods.

Am I not correct here in discarding this food? I understand the frustration of the DM not fully knowing or understanding the horrors of the mishandling of food by the staff and previous management and having now to take the hit in dollar amounts but I am not going to be responsible for someone getting hurt and I can't believe someone hasn't already been hurt.

How do I handle this if I am fired? The DM has made the comment several and I mean SEVERAL times that "I like to throw food away" and “you won’t last long if you keep throwing food away chef.”

The latest health score was a 90.5 and i am NOT suprised. I have for 2 days requested the health inspection report and still havent gotten it.

Outside of continuing to stand for food safety and flatly refusing to compromise that standard, how do I handle this?

Thanks for taking the time to read this... I have NEVER encountered this in my entire career and I am stressed and at a loss as to how to handle this mess politically and keep my job with this company. It's a large food service management company and I just don't want a termination by them on my recored. I have a stellar resume that I have built and I am afraid it will be jepordized for doing the right things here. Any advice or answers would be GREATLY  appreciated. 

Frizbee

Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
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Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
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post #2 of 10

My 2 cents!

 

 

Start looking for a new job if that's how they want to handle things.   It's your reputation on the line as well as the establishment's, and hot holding self serve food from breakfast to dinner is against code and disgusting.

post #3 of 10

Um, check and be sure you are reading the current Food Code.

 

In California, the hot holding temperature has been dropped to 135°F and the period of time is indefinite! Of course, food quality will begin to suffer for extended holding periods but food safety apparently is not affected.

 

Twyst has a point.

 

One point of inquiry, who is a certified Food Safety Manager, ServSafe, NRFSP, or some other third party organization? That person is the authority for food safety matters, IMHO.

 

IIRC, freezing previously defrosted food, without cooking is prohibited however freezing cooked food is not prohibited.

 

Cold holding temperatures in California are:

  • Refrigerated <40°F, preferably <38°F
  • Freezer <0°F

 

and those are to be maintained during service peaks, at least, that is when the inspectors check them.

 

Get your resume updated, and the reason for leaving, if you do, is failure to follow food safety regulations on the part of management crazy.gif

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #4 of 10

Coupla questions..

 

1) Why were you hired?  Lousy food rep.? Last guy in the same situation?

 

2) Why was the staff never trained to label and date food?
 

3) Why can't the staff figure out that they should see their breath in a freezer ?

 

4) Is the place unionized?

 

5) DM = District manager? Does he get hefty bonuses when f/c is abnormally low?

 

6) Just because you got a freon charge in the freezer doesn't mean the temps won't go up in a few days.  Normally, you loose freon due to leaks. Freezers are bad for this, as the compressor unit usually rusts badly due to frost and thaw cycles.  I got a very bad feeling the DM knows this and doesn't want to splurge for a hefty repair bill, or probably a new freezer/new components.

 

 

I guess, it's time to play "CYA".  You did well with the first two days, but now you have to train up the staff so's they don't kill anyone.  This means instructing them and getting them to acknowledge this by signing off on a training form--one for each process.  It is a lot of work.

 

Like I said above, I think the DM is well aware of quality and health issues, and probably has some form of his own CYA--someone else will take the blame.  I think it's time for a heart-to heart with the DM and ask him really what he wants.  It's a crap shoot if someone dies or gets seriously ill, but it's a given that customer complaints are thick and furious from what you describe.  If you were hired to clean up the place and cook decent food, then you should hammer out s.o.p.'s with your boss and get him to sign off on food quality/holding times etc.  Build in a budget for equipment too, those fridges sound like they'll gonna go soon.    If he hems and haws then it's time to go, fast, but at least you made the offer.

 

Hope this helps

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #5 of 10

Just be darn sure whatever you throw out IS an actual safety hazard and would be

considered such by your pertinent health authority.

And do keep up your record keeping of it all....

That all covers your backside..... that said, if they would indeed fire

you for putting public safety first, well, they are pretty much ejits

and you should run not walk to the nearest exit.

 

I also note that its amazing how many people take the food safety course,

only to ignore/forget  almost everything they learned the minute they clock in.

post #6 of 10

The company you are working for cannot be a large outfit.,as they  do not operate like this.

    All the answers above are true. If the food is bad  write it down and dump it.

  If someone gets sick they will blame you and TELL them that. I always used a line that"" I have been doing this for over 35 years and have not poisoned anyone yet. and am not going to start here""

 .  Also on the QT call Health Dept.  or send an anonomous letter and voice a complaint, trust me if it comes to inspect  from them , they will clean up their act.                                You are doing the right thing by upholding your ethics and princables

CHEFED
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CHEFED
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post #7 of 10

Sage advice, Chefs.

Frizbee... if this goes any further I would indeed have a chat with the DM and if you get no relief from that branch on the company chain of command tree, blow that whistle!

If your company is publicly traded and this gets out I am pretty sure the upper branches of that tree will start to feel the heat.

 

mimi

 

*OBTW, it is not just your employers trying to cut corners. I have been seeing and tasting the results of this bad economy for quite some time.

Several times over the past year I have noticed a def lowering of quality standards (not only food establishments but also name brand products).

My theory is that they are loosing customers as a result of raising prices and have been (forced?) into using lower quality ingredients in hopes to stabilize said pricing.

Maybe John Q doesn't notice but I sure have...even to the point of emailing some customer service departments with "I Gotcha" complaints.

 

m.


Edited by flipflopgirl - 10/25/12 at 5:31am
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks to all who responded.

Yes I am actively looking for a new job even though I have only been with this company for 5 days. frown.gif

Actually if I disclosed the company name you all collectively would be shocked, some of you may even work for t hem or have in the past. It’s a global food service management company. I am *sure* the way this facility has been running is in *direct* violation of company food standards. I am a loyal employee so I won’t openly disclose who I work for and disgrace the whole for the actions of some. I have been around long enough to know it isn’t the company it’s the people who have been running it, meaning upper management.

To someone’s point about being able to see breath in the walk-in, I should have stated that the contract by comparison is actually quite small, and I don’t have a walk in anything.. LOL… the only things you can “walk-in” are the kitchen and my office/dry storage area. HA!      

I have (1) 3-door reefer,( 1) 2-door reefer, and (2)-2 door freezers.

Today my staff and I stayed later than the shift required and cleaned as much as I could justify labor-wise. We bleached out the reefers, made a place for proper left overs, designated a portion of one cooler for thaws, etc.

I will be checking in with my state codes, and calling the health department and asking about the cooked food being frozen. (Thanks to who mentioned this point) In this case, any of the cooked food I discarded was either stinky, had no date, or dated for more than a month.  Perhaps I have worked for companies that have such strict food safety standards in my career that freezing food that has been cooked was simply a standard, and not my understanding of food code law?

I appreciate the help and advice with my problem and my questions.

I am Serve Safe certified and I believe my DM is as well. It amazes me the things people will do for bonus or money. I am sure if I were ever privy to the information... My DM prolly does make a killing on food cost bonuses. For me right is right and wrong is wrong screw the money when it comes to safety.

I have closely documented everything to include pictures to CYA and will continue to do so even more vigorously.

This weekend, I will be writing SOP’s and I agree I will discuss these with the DM via email so I have a paper trail. Incidentally, since I have never had to actually write these types of documents, I can, but considering the amount of work I have to do for Monday’s production alone; does anyone have anything electronically that is willing to share? Just to give me some direction?  Please? smile.gif I would hate to overlook something just because of exhaustion. Oh I am in North Carolina BTW, in case there is a fellow North Carolinian willing to share. smile.gif

I have to say my staff wants to do the right things for the most part. At least that’s what they are telling me to my face… time will of course prove or disprove that. From what I have been told by them, they have been instructed to do some pretty shady stuff. I said to them, I am surprised you still work here... Not because I think you aren’t good cooks but because if someone told me to take food out of the trash that the Health Inspector told us to throw away during inspection, I would look  them in the face and say hell no... On my way out the door I would call the health department and the company Pres. This piece of information I learned while we were cleaning today and all 10 of my employees confirmed the story.

WOW. Right???eek.gif

Thanks also for the information on the Freon freezer issue. I didn’t know that and the repairman had told me the unit is prolly 20 years old. He said the Freon they make now isn’t even the kind that this unit uses. When I expressed concern the DM (yes district manager, my direct line boss) said we had approval for a new unit, it would just be a while before time would allow to find one. UGH

No not union.. None of the staff are serve safe certified; they have allowed 1 cook to sign up for the next class given in Nov. I have several books from the years I have taken it and I gave 1 to the cook who is going to take the class until he gets his. I am going to take the others into work and give them to my other 3 cooks and get them to read them. I plan to also find out if there are practice tests online I can download and give to them regularly. They haven’t been properly trained clearly and I am unsure why.

The previous manager was terminated for an issue with “honesty” I was told. They were with the company for more than 20 years and close friends with the DM apparently. The staff told me 2 other people were hired before me;  1 came in and was there a day and quit due to seeing what was happening, and the other lasted a week and also quit. I was not told the extent of the issues this facility is having prior to being hired, just that there were a couple of customer service concerns, but that the place made money and was a good “no fee” contract for them. I see now it’s been at “all costs” though.

I have been saying exactly that Ed B… What you are doing could hurt someone, worse kill someone. I haven’t and I will never be party to anything that could kill someone or make them sick. I have worked hard to build a stellar resume and I won’t let anyone compromise my personal or professional reputation, not even my boss.

I can tell you all that my facility is now at the end of my first week, free from anything that is dangerous. From today forward things will be handled correctly or people will be fired. I just hope for my sake it isn’t me for doing the right thing. Smh

Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
Reply
Do what you do with passion....the rest will fall into place..
Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  ~Rev. Run
Our Lives are not in the laps of gods, but in  the laps of our cooks.
  ~Lin Yutang
Reply
post #9 of 10

Hi Frizbee,

 

If you have the staff on your side, you have a really good chance of making it, and if they stay after shift to bleach out the fridges, then they're "good un's" and worth keeping.

 

About your boss.....

Just like a broken clock tells time accurately twice a day, your Boss has a point about throwing food away.  If I read the situation right, it seems like staff were cooking up mega-large batches of food only once or twice a day because no one could or would do it multiple times, and in smaller batches.  Can you "engineer" smaller batches? Re-vamp the menu or service protocol to accommodate smaller batches?  This would accomplish several things: Not throwing away washed-out steam-table damaged crap, serving higher quality food, and not dealing with so many leftovers.

 

S.O.P.'s.... Every place is different.  Basically what you want is a trackable record that Fred or Barney was trained to cool down soup in a sink of icewater for no longer than 40 minutes, and then the said soup placed on a breathable bottom in the fridge overnight before being served again or frozen.  For every procedure, different requirements, what's important is the fact that Fred or Barney acknowledges and signs off.  You can use this for new dishes, storing leftovers, or whatever.

 

Fridges...

If the freezer is 20 yrs old and running on r-12 gas, then the odds are the other units are too.  Easy to find out, just open the door and look for a stamped plate on the inside wall, it should give you information like model #,  year of mnfctr, gas type, and charge or amount of gas the unit takes.  R-12 gas is banned now, can't get it, with many other types of freon gasses also being banned and newer ones being invented. You need to anticipate the fridges crapping out and being replaced, because the cost of outfitting an older fridge with a new compressor and gas type just isn't economical.  In any case get your boss involved for lining up some kind of back-up freezer.  If and when the fixed one craps out you are prepared, or at least prepared to issue a royal "I tol-ja so!"

 

For now, get a "sign up sheet" on each unit:  Just a piece of paper taped to the door where the opening shift guy writes down the time, date, fridge temp and his initials, should be done every 4-6 hrs.  Easy, cheap, and effective cya.

 

Hope this helps...... 

...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #10 of 10

Friz...you sound like you are starting to get a handle on things.

In just a few days you have brought your kitchen up to code and will have a showplace for your DM ( bonus time is upon us and I guarantee he will use your hard work as an example of his genius.. by replacing the old chef-manager with someone who knew what was right and had the ethics to get the situation under control even tho it cost a bit of $$).

Make sure those "touring" board members can spell your name, maybe slip them all your brand new business cards, so that the next time they are looking for someone to promote your name will be at hand.

Never hurts to be known as that up and coming new chef that turned around satellite kitchen # 5.

 

mimi

 

* someone mentioned your crew. If you do need to catch the next Greyhound out of town, take some of them with you !


Edited by flipflopgirl - 10/27/12 at 4:14am
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