Food Safety – Hold the Phone!
We’re all addicted to our mobile devices. They bring us news of the outside world, important communications and they provide a pleasant distraction in our downtime. However, most people are unaware they are also fertile breeding grounds for bacteria. For this reason, judicious use of them by staff handling food in professional kitchens is strongly recommended.
It’s a disturbing thought that the average mobile phone screen contains more bacteria than the average toilet seat. Nonetheless, it’s true. Consequently, it makes sense for chefs and kitchen managers to train staff in proper procedures when using mobile devices at work.
Humans use their hands for just about everything – shaking hands, wiping our faces, opening doors as well as operating our phones. Then we share our phones with friends who also touch them. So all the germs that were on our friends’ hands are now on our phone in addition to our own. This compounding accumulation of bacteria on our screens means they become infested with germs and pathogens quickly. Additionally, we rarely clean them! Accordingly, it is absolutely essential that all professional kitchens instigate a mobile device policy so food safety remains paramount.
Mobile Devices May Increase Cross-Contamination
Given the ideas mentioned above, it is easily conceivable that a friend who has recently eaten nuts could touch an employee’s phone. That employee could then bring the phone to work, absentmindedly use it on a break before returning to work to make an allergy-free dish allowing traces of those nuts to combine with the meal. The results could be disastrous. It’s a known fact that the slightest traces of nuts can trigger anaphylactic reactions in some people.
Mobile Devices Cause Distractions
There’s a reason operating a mobile phone while driving a car is illegal. It’s dangerous. Our colourful screens display images and create sounds we find engaging. This takes our attention away from immediate tasks that require undivided concentration. In a kitchen, this may result in –
· accidents including burns, cuts and abrasions,
· incorrect ingredients added to meals,
· ingredients omitted,
· poor hygiene,
· incorrect food rotation leading to wastage,
· sloppy adherence to procedures.
Even a small increase in any of these will result in reduced customer service, damage to reputation, poor morale and an increase in downtime. It’s just not worth the risk.
Implement a Mobile Device Policy
In this day and age, simply saying “No Phones” is unworkable as a solution to any of the above issues. It’s far better to manage employee’s use of them by explaining the dangers peculiar to their profession related to mobile device use at work. Some elements of an effective mobile device policy may include –
· Do not carry devices in the kitchen.
· Never use mobile devices in the toilet.
· Wash hands after using devices.
· Clean screens with 60/40 solution of water/rubbing alcohol.
· Don’t share devices with others at work.
· Use only on breaks in employee resting area.
· After taking photos for patrons on their phones, staff should immediately wash their hands in warm soapy water.
These simple precautions will help to reduce the risks mobile devices pose while not denying they are part of the world we live in. Chefs and restaurant managers need to lead by example to ensure staff follow procedures that lead to effective food safety practices.