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In the restaurant industry, it’s not surprising that you come across various food requests as people are more and more developing interesting dietary preferences. This can include request for raw meats.

Raw meat has many admirers all around the world. There are more familiar dishes such as Steak Tartare (France), Japan’s sushi and raw horse meat and my motherland’s very own Beef Carpaccio (Italy). In Ethiopia, a traditional dish called Kitfo is made of raw minced beef, marinated in spices and butter. In the Netherlands, there is an old school dish called Ossenworst which is a clove-spiced raw ox sausage.

In an Inuit cuisine, they serve raw seal, which is said to taste similar to a duck. Other dishes where raw meat is used: Yukhoe/ Yook Hwe (Korea), Parisa (South Texas), Koi Soi (Thailand), Mett (Germany), Gored Gored (Ethiopia/Eritrea), Crudos (Chile), Carne Apache (Mexico), Cig Kofte (Turkey/Armenia, Bo Tai Chanh (Vietnam), Kibbeh Nayyeh (Lebanon/Middle East) and Basashi (Japan).

Here in Australia, we are proud to be one of the best suppliers of meats in the world. But best doesn’t always mean safe.

For people who prefer raw meats, they appreciate the freshness, the taste and how it melts in their mouth. Some enthusiasts insist that being on a raw meat diet gives them increased energy, sex drive and they move their bowels regularly.

But there are dangers in eating raw meats that everyone should be familiar with:

For one, the Hepatitis A virus which causes liver disease not only spreads through contaminated raw meat but also raw or undercooked seafood.

Parasites such as pinworms can be present. Pinworms are relatively harmless, but when digested, they can live in the intestines and rectum of humans. They cause itchy rectal area, especially at night when the female worms crawl out to lay eggs. Physicians can prescribe two treatments of a dewormer to rid of them altogether.

Bacteria that can lead to food poisonings, such as E. Coli and salmonella can be present in raw meat and poultry. In 1995 a 4-year-old Australian girl died from a fatal stroke after eating mettwurst produced by a certain company. The meat was tainted by E coli bacteria. Many other people were hospitalised as well.

Toxins in the meat attacked the blood vessels and kidneys. 23 children developed lifelong damage to their kidneys, suffering Hemolytic-uremic syndrome. This resulted in all 23 victims receiving compensation and free healthcare for life.

Your Responsibility

While you want to be able to cater to customers’ request, you know that some issues come with raw meat. Your responsibility is to ensure that your team is equipped with the skills and certifications to prepare raw meats as well as the practicality to inform your customers. You also need to have systems in place particularly in response to staff turnover or when hiring temporary chefs.

This way, confusion will be reduced to a minimum and everyone will be focused on delivering exemplary service. Better yet, when you need to hire temporary chefs, contact reputable agencies so that you will hire chefs that are already knowledgeable of standard food safety and practices. Our agency, Anytime Chefs is dedicated to providing our clients with short term hire chefs that provide just that.

Are you based in Perth and needing a chef now? Click HERE.

Providing consumer Advisory / Disclosure – when serving raw animal food such as eggs, beef, fish, poultry, pork or shellfish the consumer must be made aware of the risk by a DISCLOSURE AND REMINDER.

DISCLOSURE: The animal foods that are raw or can be served raw or undercooked must be identified and properly described or marked with an asterisk and a footnote that states so.

REMINDER: This is a written statement that states the health risk of consuming raw or undercooked animal food. You can place these reminders on any page of the menu, on a placard, table tent or by other written means.

When you inform your customers of these risks, you provide information that can be a deciding factor for them when ordering their food. But most establishments believe that it serves a more significant purpose for their business which is a misconception. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Misconception on Disclosures

What’s commonly believed is that If customers insist on choosing raw meats, the disclosures and reminders will protect your business from lawsuits. The consumer advisory absolves the restaurant of liability.

Unfortunately, this is false.

Disclosures do not entirely protect a restaurant from a lawsuit, but it does expressly display warnings and reminders. If someone becomes ill from eating raw food that he/she ordered, it is possible for that person to still have a case against your restaurant of improper handling or storage of meat.

See? There are still ways that things can work against you which is why an effective system should be in place to prove that your overall responsibility is to serve safe and delicious food.

Make sure your consumer advisory is current, placed in a prominent area and asterisks are present on all food items that apply. There were cases where restaurants have been sued because the was no consumer advisory or that it wasn’t noticeable enough.

How do you ensure that you serve safe and quality raw fish and meats?

Have the Right Meat Supplier

As a restaurant owner, it is vital that you work with the right meat suppliers. Your goal is to get freshness, quality, availability and the best price to ensure that you are serving delicious meals AND your customers are not put to undue health risks. Here are some tips when choosing your meat suppliers:

Visit their warehouse – Visit their facilities first hand. See for yourself how their products are stored and handled. Their distance from your restaurant is also a factor. If possible, choose meat suppliers whose locations are less than an hour’s drive from your restaurant. Ask around other restaurants to find out where they go to. Most meat suppliers will be willing to show you their process of slaughtering and packaging.

The following are what you should focus:

  • Ask what the difference of slaughter date is from the package date.
  • Do they raise their beef, pork or chicken and do they butcher them on the site?
  • How they raise and feed their farm animals. Do they raise their fish or seafood? If they catch them in the wild, where do they get them?
  • Do they have enough refrigerators and freezers and stacking space?
  • Are freezers and refrigerators efficiently and adequately controlled?
  • Is the facility clean inside and out?
  • Is there a foul odour? Or are cleaning/sanitizing products overwhelming?
  • Take note of the employee’s dress and hygiene. The workers should be wearing the appropriate protective gear such as gloves as well as have clean hands and fingernails.
  • Are there signs of an insect or rodent infestation?

Here are additional questions that you would want to be answered:

  • Will they guarantee consistent deliveries at a specific date and time?
  • Do they allow recall and what are their procedures?
  • Will they guarantee a full refund if the meat is spoiled or contaminated?
  • How often do they change prices? How much advance notice do they give before a price increase?
  • Are there extra charges for split cases or special orders?
  • Do they have minimum order amounts?

Know for yourself the characteristics of good quality fish and meats

Fat content – The presence of marbling or interspersed fat gives a deeper, more delicious taste.

Firmness – When receiving your deliveries, feel and squeeze the meat. It should feel firm because cold fat is hard.

The darker the meat, the more vibrant taste it has. The colour should be clear, deep and red.

A red flag that fish isn’t fresh is a strong fishy smell.

Do not pick meats that are brown at the edges or greyish.

The meat should not be wet and wobbly. Instead, the meat should be firm and dry.

Take note of how the pieces are cut, which should be even and cut clean. If you notice any mangled edges, they are probably using blunt slicing instruments and shows suppliers lack of attention for quality.

How animals were fed – Animals that graze build meat and fat in natural proportions because green grass gives tastier meat and more marbling than other feeds. Other examples: pigs raised on acorns, and corn-fed chicken show that different feeds can change the taste of meat considerably.

Sex of an animal – In beef and pork selection, female meats tastes the best.

Age of an animal – Whenever possible, avoid meats from animals older than four years old. Young meats are more tender but not necessarily tastier. Castrated bull called steer or bullock is also tastier because castration slows the growing process in the animal. Meats from animals slaughtered before they reach sexual maturity are also good choices.

When you buy cheap meat, you are more likely to be paying for added salt water. My advice is to choose smaller but tastier cuts.

The temperature of the refrigerator and freezer

Bacteria and fungi may grow in the fridge if dryness and cleanliness are not maintained. They can grow at low temperatures and cause foods to deteriorate and develop unpleasant tastes, odours, and textures which compromises the quality and wholesomeness of food.

Raw and cooked chicken are potentially hazardous foods and require storage and display under temperature control . The danger zone is between 5C to 60C. This means that below 5C is safe and above 60C is safe .

What to do:

Determine if the equipment is set at the right temperature and food is held at the correct temperature.

Do not leave raw fish out for more than two hours, or longer than one hour if it is right in the middle of the danger zone. Parasites can survive in raw fish when its internal temperature rises too high or when the fish is improperly frozen.

Kitchen practices

Cross-contamination is when harmful microorganisms are transferred from one food item to another via a non-food surface such as human hands, utensils or equipment. It can also be a direct transfer from a raw item to a cooked food item. Therefore, keep raw food separate from cooked food.

Read more about FOOD CROSS CONTAMINATION

Raw chicken can contaminate food and contact surfaces, therefore must be kept separate from any cooked/ready-to-eat foods.

What to do:

Frequent hand washing – Wet hands with clean warm running water and apply soap. Rub your hands together, lather, and scrub all parts of the hand for at least 20 seconds. Rinse your hands thoroughly and dry using a clean paper towel. If you can, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet. Better yet, include sanitizing sink and faucets regularly.

Clean and sanitise equipment and work surfaces and maintain a clean work area. – Wash surfaces using hot and soapy water and rinse thoroughly with water. You can opt to use a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water to sanitize surfaces.

Manage workflow to prevent cross-contamination. Place raw meats, seafood and poultry in sealed containers or at the least have them securely wrapped so that the raw juices will not contaminate other foods. Also, store raw items at the bottom of the fridge so they can’t spill on other food preparations.

Hands/gloves or equipment used to handle raw chickens may be a potential source of microbial cross-contamination of cooking chickens and other food and equipment.

What to do:

Wash hands correctly to reduce the potential for cross-contamination.
Use gloves correctly, e.g., changing between tasks.

Dirty clothes or dirty workbenches, and dirty water can contaminate cooked dishes.

What to do:

Clean and sanitize work areas
Wear clean clothes/uniforms
Contaminated water may be a potential source of food contamination, so use safe drinking water for food preparation if doubtful with your water source. Or have water purifying or filtering systems in your kitchen.

Make a weekly practice of throwing out refrigerated foods that have been in the fridge for some time. Discard cooked leftovers after four days; while raw ground meats and poultry should be discarded after 1 to 2 days.

When cleaning appliances, clean both inside and out, particularly paying attention to buttons and handles as this is where cross-contamination of hands usually occur.

Staff Training

Ensure your chefs and kitchen team have the required skills and knowledge There are many options that a food business can choose from to ensure that food handlers obtain the skills and knowledge required to produce safe food.

Examples of these include:

  • In-house training
  • Ensuring that employees have access to relevant documentation and information on food safety
  • Operating procedures that clarify the responsibilities of food handlers and supervisors should be in place
  • Encourage attendance at food safety courses run by local councils or other bodies
  • Completion of online food safety training courses
  • Hiring a consultant to present a course. ANYTIME CHEFS can help set up a course preparation on food safety practices and pizza presentation. Get in touch with us HERE.
  • Have employees attend formal training courses

It may be useful for food businesses to keep records of staff training, to help ensure your staff has relevant and up-to-date skills and knowledge. Keep a record or plan to help you identify the training needed by each staff member or category of work, and monitor the details of what training has been completed and when.

It is vital that appropriate skills and knowledge are maintained and updated as needed, particularly in response to staff turnover or the introduction of new processes. Businesses should also consider training materials available for staff where English is not their first language.

In Summary:

I understand that we all want to go above and beyond for our customers. This includes taking pride that we can safely serve our meats raw.

Like making special arrangements for people with different needs, it is crucial that you see food safety practices as an integral part of your job and not an annoying distraction from the job.

There are many guidance materials (such as fact sheets, online training courses, guidebooks) covering various aspects of food safety and food hygiene are available free of charge from national and local governments as well as industry organisations.

You can also visit the National Register of VET (Vocational Education and Training) for more information on food safety and hygiene courses. But do note that your jurisdiction may have specific competency and training requirements for the food safety supervisors where their training must be delivered by a registered training organisation.

You can check out websites such as Meat Standards Australia for more standard procedures and updates on meat standards.

Remember: You get what you pay for. This means that very cheap meat will not be very good. You have to invest money to get excellent raw material.

Together with the food safety practices, this helps you proudly serve safe and delicious dishes to your customers.

Ciao for now,
Thomas


 


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