Food Safety for Start-ups and Entrepreneurs

Text by ROMMEL GERODIAS

Entrepreneurship has been taking center stage among the younger generation as the food industry has been a popu¬lar choice in many business ventures. Unfortunately, many young entrepreneurs focus on the business of putting up a restaurant, bar or food kiosk, with little to no focus on preparations for food safety. As a food safety advocate, I have seen a lot of budding entrepreneurs put up food businesses after attending a 10-day cooking class, without the slightest idea regarding food safety procedures. It is also not surprising to see that many start-ups fail, as they neglect to keep the food that they serve safe.

Being an entrepreneur myself, it has always been my advice to many young and future business owners to take expertise and professionalism seriously in their choice of business. In the food industry, food safety is a serious matter as every entrepreneur should take necessary steps to uphold food safety procedures.

Here are some important food safety prerequisites that aspiring restaurateurs should consider:

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GET NECESSARY CERTIFICATION & LICENSES

It is but proper that the entrepreneur be the first to take food safety certification to send the message to his team that he is serious about food safety procedures. Proper training with regards to the stan­dards that the business will adopt in its food safety program is a necessity. 

Training and certification in programs involving Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), ServSafe, and Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) are recommended especially to owners and operators of food businesses.

Some facilities require mandatory inspec­tion from the government such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or local health office. Make sure that inspection reports are satisfactory and proper licenses are obtained to operate the business.

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CREATE A FOOD SAFETY MANUAL

A food safety manual is extremely important especially when new crew members join the team while waiting for formal training. The food safety manual will serve as a reference for all possible standards needed in each and every part of the operation - from purchasing, receiving, storage, preparation, cooking to serving.

TRAIN YOUR PEOPLE & CREATE A CULTURE OF FOOD SAFETY

Each team member involved in the business should be trained. The principles learned in food safety training must be instilled and should serve as principles of the food business. The training of each employee must also be properly documented and kept in file. In the Philippines, the popular reference is the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) Model Food Code.

STRUCTURE YOUR FACILITY IN COMPLIANCE WITH FOOD SAFETY STANDARDS

A facility may have the best trained team, but a facility that does not allow the effective roll-out of food safety programs may pose a threat in its operations. Choose food grade materials, stainless steel tables, utensils and cookware, and certified equipment and installations. Structures from ceiling, walls to fIoors must also be according to GMP standards.

CREATE A FOOD SAFETY PLAN FOR EACH MENU

To make sure that the food being served by the facility is safe and free from any possi-ble hazards, it is important to create a food safety plan (also called the HACCP plan). The plan identifies food safety hazards and how to control or eliminate them along the fIow of food production. A plan must be made for each item on the menu.

CREATE A RISK MANAGEMENT TEAM

A food safety program will always have a probability of failing, regardless of how well-structured a program is. A risk manage¬ment team must be present to make sure that the occurrence of unfortunate cases of a foodborne illness or failure in the program has a well-structured mitigation plan. Other factors and programs often left un-attended, but are equally important, in many food business start-ups include the Cleaning and Sanitation Manual, Pest Management, Restroom Care and Handwashing Programs, and Food Safety Audit Schedules. Make sure to have all of these.

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Putting up a food service business is very promising especially in the Philippines where eating is part of the culture. But when entering an industry that is well-loved by many, better be on the safe side and include food safety in your checklist.

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