(Editor’s Note: This is an online-only article attributed to the August/September 2017 issue.)
With Chipotle back in the news with its food safety woes, it’s a good opportunity to be reminded that there are some promising technologies and food service equipment being developed to answer the call of increased food safety among restaurant food chains across the U.S. To meet the ever-increasing demand for health-conscious consumers and overall food safety among patrons, restaurants chains have made it a top priority to invest in proven technology without spreading themselves too thin.
Investing in Digital Technology to Educate Workers in Food Safety
Implementing smart initiatives that raise food safety awareness among workers and employing digital means to educate staff is an effective tool. Furthermore, regulating safe temperatures for food as well as using preventative measures to stop the spread of foodborne illness contribute to the latest effort of restaurant chains stepping up their food safety awareness.
Using Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, or HACCP, which is specifically designed to help workers arm themselves with the proper tools to safeguard against the spread of foodborne illness, effectively cuts the risk of unsafe food conditions in the kitchen.
Hot Intervention Technology
A simple and effective technological method used to inactivate or reduce microbial life in food products is hot intervention technology. To better preserve products and avoid an unfortunate event like that of Chipotles’ 2015 burrito endemic, this method relies on “heat and kill” sterilization technology, making use of extremely high temperatures and quick pasteurization processes designed for liquid as well as solid foods.
Microwave and Radio Frequency Electric Field Heating
Using microwave and radio frequency electric field heating is another cost-effective and reliable method to ensure high-quality food products are maintained; keeping bacteria, spores, and germs at bay.
By employing electromagnetic waves of specific frequency length, the generated heat can be harnessed to warm up the materials. Overall, microwave and radio frequency electric field heating may be one of the best options out there, as this method typically takes less time to rise to the desired temperature needed to process food material (and is intended for solid and semi-solid foods).
In recent years, this technology hasn’t been fully commercialized, and it remains largely varied in use, as variables like size, shape, composition, presence or absence of metallic material, power level, etc., all play a factor in how effectiveness the technology can be.
This method is dependent on two factors: 1) the time it takes to process food products, and 2) the amount of energy and resources to do it. Considering all of this, this procedure still may be an ideal option out there.
Using extremely high pressure through refrigeration systems can effectively inactivate any harmful bacteria that may exist. Used by countless kitchens and restaurant food chains, this method differs in that it doesn’t use heating to eliminate bacteria, germs, or toxins. Instead, it uses cold temperatures under high pressure, while also retaining nutritional value and consistency of food products to ensure a clean, safe, quality product.
French for “under vacuum,” Sous Vide is a highly effective method that involves placing food material under tightly vacuumed-packed seals, which are heated at medium to low temperatures for elongated periods. This method is effective in not only keeping food product fresh and safe to eat (by eliminating any harmful bacteria), but it has also proven to retain food’s tenderness and overall flavor. Many restaurant chains currently use this method as a cheap and efficient alternative to some of the costlier heating systems and technology.
Maybe one of the most useful technologies available today is that of irradiation/ionizing radiation, which uses a low level of radiation that zeroes in and effectively inactivates microorganisms. It also targets lingering chemical toxins and specific kinds of yeast, molds, and dangerous parasites in food material.