Keep Food Hygiene In Check

David Davies, Managing Director of Checkit, provider of work management solutions,

discusses the role of real-time task management technology in strengthening food hygiene standards within care environments.

Maintaining high standards of food hygiene is crucial for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of care home residents. The elderly, as well as people with pre-existing health conditions, have a higher risk of suffering serious complications following food safety incidents, so good food hygiene is of vital importance. In addition to the risk to residents, for the catering managers responsible for maintaining the hygiene standards, incidents can have serious financial consequences and can potentially inflict irreversible damage to the company’s reputation.

The best way to protect the business from possible hygiene breaches is to pre-empt them by ensuring that the kitchen and other food storage, service or handling facilities comply with hygiene requirements at all times. However, in a busy environment or in a location spread across multiple sites, staying on top of the hygiene and cleaning regime can be a challenge. This is where real-time task management soſtware, including digital food safety management and automated monitoring, can provide invaluable support.

Completing the daily food safety and hygiene tasks, while essential for regulatory compliance and maintenance of quality standards, can be costly in terms of valuable staff time spent. At regular intervals during the day, staff conduct and record numerous checks to ensure the kitchen and storage environments meet the standards required by food hygiene regulations. The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Safer Food Better Business guidelines set out the HACCP tasks that are necessary to uphold best practice consistently.

These daily safety and hygiene tasks have traditionally been managed using paper-based systems that provide no effective control or visibility that tasks are being done. Missed checks, mistakes in recording the results or even fraud can be hard to notice or prevent. Switching to digital food safety and hygiene records can optimise the way staff perform the daily tasks and vastly reduce the time spent on filling in and maintaining the mandatory records. With guidance from the digital checklist, the daily tasks are quick to perform and the time-stamped results get instantly uploaded to the cloud for tamper-proof, audit-ready storage.

Additionally, digital checklists can help to maintain consistent standards in an environment where irregular shiſt patterns can mean that many people are responsible for completing the same tasks throughout the day. The digital checklist prompts staff when a task is due and provides easy instructions on how to perform the job, record the results and of any follow-

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up actions that need to be performed if the results of the checks are not accepted. This helps ensure that everyone completes the tasks the same way, and the easy-to-understand instructions help even junior members of staff complete the daily checks with minimal training.

Food safety can be further supported by automated monitoring. Certain repetitive checks, such as fridge and freezer temperature checks, are oſten done manually, taking several minutes each time, which, by the end of the day, can quickly add up to significant periods during which staff are unproductive in terms of their core catering and service skills. Wireless sensors can be set to monitor key focus areas, such as fridges, and automatically record the results as oſten as required. Automated alerts can be sent to notify management if the temperature is outside the preapproved parameters, allowing corrective action to be taken before customers or staff are at risk.

Careful monitoring is key in improving hygiene standards. By analysing the digital hygiene records, catering managers can monitor performance and compliance and identify possible problem areas, enabling preventive maintenance to take place. Digital records can also provide valuable proof that high hygiene standards have been maintained and regulatory food safety checks completed on schedule, if any food safety incidents do occur.

In addition to supporting a strong hygiene culture in the kitchen, real-time task management technology can also help improve productivity, efficiency and even customer service. As staff complete the required checks and the related admin tasks quicker, they have more time and energy to focus on developing the skills required in their job role, which can lead to improved productivity, better balanced staff schedules and even better customer service, as staff have more time to interact with their customers.

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