Food businesses are customer-facing organizations with a responsibility to protect their consumers and ensure their products are safe. Food quality assurance is essential to establish consistent safety and production standards in your gastronomy business.
Quality assurance is originally a manufacturing concept. When you apply it to a food business, it’s a mix of safety and production standards, which ensure that food is handled properly at every step of the service process.
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What should you include in a food quality assurance checklist?
Food quality assurance is a combination of three aspects: food manufacturing, food handling, and the location where you prepare food. It’s possible that you won’t be concerned with all of these stages. If your business is solely a restaurant, you may not be too involved in food manufacturing – although it’s a good idea to audit your suppliers so you can make sure you’re receiving quality raw materials.
If you want to create a seamless food quality assurance process from beginning to end, your checklist will need to ensure:
- Food handling hygiene
- Equipment sanitization
- Proper food storage
- Clean premises
- Ingredient and material quality
- Working machinery or equipment
- Appropriate food labeling and packaging
Manufacturing standards for food quality assurance
When you’re a food manufacturer or sourcing products from food manufacturers, you’ll want to make sure that everything meets your specified standards. And quality products start from quality raw materials. When auditing your raw materials, inspect:
- Physical appearance
- Chemical composition
- Nutritional information
- Any allergens present
Take extra care to verify that your orders meet expectations if you’re working with a supplier you haven’t used before. Once you’re satisfied, approve the materials/ingredients for use. The next piece of your manufacturing process is your equipment. It needs to be in working order to turn out quality end products.
Check any manufacturing equipment for signs of wear or damage. Make sure that your machinery isn’t carrying any contaminants into the food. If anything needs to be calibrated, make sure to regularly re-calibrate it so that all your measurements are accurate.
Evaluate the results of your manufacturing process by taking a random sample from your production line. Regular sampling helps keep any issues from carrying over into the final product. Food quality assurance factors you’re assessing include:
When you’re happy with the quality of your finished food products, the final step is to properly package and label them, so that all openings are sealed to prevent leaks or contamination and all ingredients, especially allergens, are clearly listed. And remember to regularly inspect your manufacturing process so you can continuously improve whenever you notice inefficiencies.
Safe handling and food quality assurance
Making sure that everyone handling food does so safely is vital to ensure food quality. Chefs, kitchen staff, and servers all need to take care not to contaminate food served to customers. You can make sure of this by:
- Making sure everyone in the kitchen wears PPE like gloves and hairnets to avoid spreading any germs
- Requiring that kitchen staff wash their hands regularly
- Regularly disinfecting surfaces, utensils, and cutting boards
- Using separate cutting boards to chop raw and cooked foods, and when chopping meat or other things
- Cooking items thoroughly, ideally using a food thermometer
It’s also important that you store food properly to avoid spoilage before use. Some basic rules for food storage include:
- Storing food away from hazardous chemicals like cleaners
- Making sure you’re storing food at the right temperature
- Storing foods at a height above the floor and away from direct heat
- Storage rooms have enough air circulation
- Refrigerated products should be stored in their own containers
- There is no expired or spilled food in the refrigerators
The correct temperature for storing food varies depending what it is and where it needs to be stored. But refrigerators should be no warmer than 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), and freezers should be no warmer than -17 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit).
Facility maintenance and food quality assurance
Keeping your premises clean helps enormously to assure food quality. Staff behavior is one aspect of food safety; the other is where the food is prepared. Keeping surfaces clean is just the start. Keeping your kitchen up to code means:
- Preventing rats, insects, and other pests from spreading
- Making sure there are no unauthorized people or unnecessary items on the premises
- Providing enough ventilation to prevent extreme heat and humidity
- Equipping hand-washing stations with soap, paper towels, and disinfectant
- There are separate sinks for foods treated in different ways
- There are multiple bathrooms on location
In addition to preventing your food from spoiling or becoming contaminated, many of these measures prevent common safety hazards workers face. For example, heat and humidity can be a serious health hazard, leading to potentially fatal heat stroke. This means maintaining the premises improves productivity as well.
The various components of food quality assurance mean you’ll need to conduct several different types of inspections in your business. From safe handling to facility maintenance to food preparation, you’re keeping track of a lot of factors. Workflow automation software like Lumiform helps you perform inspections quickly and collect all your data in one place.
The desktop and mobile apps let you digitize any existing checklists or create new ones in minutes. From there, just assign inspections to your staff, who can complete them from anywhere as long as they have a mobile device.
Workflow automation optimizes your food quality assurance processes by:
- Automatically storing completed inspections, streamlining document management
- Enabling workers to report issues in real-time so you can address concerns as fast as possible
- Shortening the time you spend inspecting your workplace by up to 40%
- Facilitating continuous improvement with detailed analytics that show patterns and help you fix failures