Health Code Cheat Sheet

The food business is similar to the commercial aviation business in that both industries must contend with safety issues every day.

Airlines have to sell airline tickets, check people and their luggage in, and do 10,000 different things to run their business. However, their number one most important objective is to not crash airplanes. They need to land every single airplane softly and safely every single time. 

In the food business there are two primary ways that we subject the consumer to danger and/or unpleasantries: 

  1. The retail kitchen space is built out with deficiencies and hazards. When that’s the case, the operation cannot adequately deal with dangers such as insects, leaks, improper refrigeration, or many other things.

  1. The team that works in the kitchen does not comply with safety measures. 

If an operation has health and safety problems, it is because the operation is faulty, the team members are creating problems, or both.

The purpose of this document is to make you aware of the things that are within your control that ensure the health and safety of yourself, our customers, and our facility. It’s absolutely necessary that you take a very deep interest in doing if you wish to do well in this career path. Memorize and practice the things that are on this list.

  1. HAVE AN ORGANIZED KITCHEN: The responsibility of keeping a kitchen from becoming disorganized begins with the builder. If things are not designed well and every item that is built does not have a place and purpose, mess and distraction result.

We understand what working in a disorganized kitchen feels like. Such disorganization has a tremendous impact on how we focus and feel inspired to work. It affects whether or not we are motivated to keep order throughout the day.

Solution: Management must mindfully focus on organizing and putting all things into place and training the team to maintain order every single day.

  1. DO NOT PERMIT HOSTILITY IN A KITCHEN: The management team is responsible for ensuring that employees work harmoniously with one another in the kitchen. Management in any field and in any operation is always responsible for making sure that the team works well together. That harmony must exist at all levels: If those in management or ownership are in turmoil, it will be difficult for the team to be relaxed and cooperative.

It’s important to realize that we have relationships with our coworkers that really are not that much different than relationships that we have with family and friends. Even if we don’t like a certain coworker, we have a relationship with that individual and we must work together. In such situations we build up resentments and over time we don’t work well within that given team. Management must detect this when it occurs. Management must create a safe working space where team members can learn to work well with each other. If underlying resentments and hostility is occurring, individuals on the team will overlook dangers to the public health to spite the team member they don’t like. They will be hesitant to report things as well.

Solution: Consider that in prison you would never rat on your cellmate for not being clean: This might be because something terrible would happen or did happen to you. A business that involves safety must operate within a leadership gradient. The lead person in the kitchen must ensure that those on their team can speak their minds. People should learn to feel comfortable communicating about the work environment.

You may not like working with someone because they’re lazy, they’re sloppy, or they show up late. Or you may feel that they’ve been given special privileges by management when they don’t deserve them. You have to speak your mind to your management about such things. To not do so could lead to a failure in the system. That could have a negative effect on the safety that we’re trying to provide. Ensuring that clear and honest communication occurs at the appropriate times is one of the hardest steps in ensuring success in this health and safety program. But it’s very crucial.

  1. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS: This can be difficult, particularly for young people. To be truly present and focused at what you’re doing is not easy, particularly when you don’t like what you’re doing. When you see your work just as a job and you’re just biding your time, you’re not going to be adequately focused on your work. You’re likely to instead be focused on things that are going to happen later in your life, things that happened in the past, your relationships, your hopes, your dreams, and other things instead of your work. It’s incredibly dangerous to yourself and others when you’re in the kitchen with a sharp knife and you’re not focused on what you’re doing. 

    • Many accidents in the kitchen happen because a team member is distracted by all the thoughts that are flowing through their mind. This is not necessarily a guide to how to become mindful and enlightened. But I want to suggest to you that you must have a way of bringing yourself to the present moment and keeping yourself from feeling bored.
    • Boredom obviously is one of the reasons why we like to drift into the fantasies of our mind. But it’s incredibly important that you bring yourself to being present with what you’re doing. When you're present you could actually bring yourself to enjoy whatever you’re doing (provided that what you’re doing is not painful and humiliating). When you bring yourself to the present moment, you keep your workspace tidy and you regard every task that you do to be of great importance.
    • If you work at this, you will surely be more happy in your job. You will not be suffering. You will not be counting every second on the clock in anticipation of leaving. People who are present with their work do a better job than people who are distracted and apathetic. Although distracted and apathetic people may do a good job, they’re not putting the right spirit behind it. It’s difficult to excel and grow until you are committed in your mind and body to doing well at your work!
    1. Follow Daily Checklists: It is the responsibility of good management to create thorough checklists and ensure that they are adhered to. The team will rely on such checklists for opening, midday, and closing tasks.

      • It bears repeating that these checklists are crucial. Relying on people’s memory will result in the consequence of things that are important being dropped. These checklists must be followed the same way an airline pilot would follow a checklist before takeoff. Before they even get to the runway they will have spent at least an hour going through a list of pre-flight tasks. They will do so no matter how many hours of flight experience they’ve had in order to make sure that they don’t forget anything. The margin for error in aviation is zero!
      • When it comes to sanitation and food safety the margin for error is also zero! Since that’s the case, each day we must follow our checklist, even if we think we’ve committed it to memory. We must look at it with our team members. We must divide the tasks, and we operate within the structures that were created. (Note: Checklists should be initially created in a calm environment outside of the distractions of retailing activity.)
    1. Practice Hair Containment: Nearly every person will shed hairs by the hundreds every day. This is a major health hazard. Perhaps I’m in your kitchen one day, and one strand of hair falls from your head. It drops to the floor of the kitchen and attaches itself to my shoe. Then I walk to a prep area and it falls off my shoe where later someone places a box on top of it. Later, that box ends up on the prep table, and then it ends up on the cutting board. From there it ends up in a dish, a bowl, or tableware, and then it makes its way into a customer's mouth.

      • Your head must be completely covered and contained. That doesn’t mean that you can just put on a baseball cap and let your beautiful hair fly past your shoulders.
      • Hair must be contained in order to keep the public from having to chew on your curls or your braids.
      • You must inspect every garment that you are going to wear in the kitchen for strands of hair and dandruff.
      • If you wear a chef coat, it should be cleaned on a regular basis. Use tape or a lint roller to remove hair from your collar and your shoulders.
      • All of your hair must be contained at all times during your shift.  A hat or other approved covering must be on your head at all times. Long hair must be contained in a net or under a cap. Dreads, ponytails, and braids have to be fully contained. Hoodies are not a substitute for hair nets, baseball caps, knit caps, or other more substantial head coverings. 
    1. Ensure Frequent and Thorough Hand Washing: Hand washing works with soap and water regardless of the temperature. Health codes require that we produce hot water, but keep in mind that the only temperature that water could actually kill bacteria would burn your hand so badly that you would have to go to the hospital. But water combined with soap will kill bacteria. The importance of this is to prevent the spread of bacteria that can cause a huge, wide variety of terrible diseases. 

      • In the health business the customer is very sensitive to our hygiene habits. Our customers watch us in an open kitchen. So make frequent visits to the sink, wash your hands, and make a big deal about it when you do. Every time you move away from preparation to do another task (e.g., cleaning), wash your hands before returning to preparation. Every time you leave the kitchen and return, wash your hands because you’re going to touch surfaces and possibly contaminate them.
      • If you work at a retail environment where you handle food and then have to ring up a customer at the register you must wash your hands before returning to preparation. And if you go to the bathroom, wash your hands for 30 seconds or longer.
      • The area of the kitchen that is generally most contaminated is the retail area where there is cash. Anytime you go into that area and handle things, go to the sink and wash your hands. It is likely that on any given eight hour shift to perform your duties properly you’ll have to wash your hands at least 10 times.
      • You must wash your hands before you put on latex gloves. This is a requirement.
      • You must wash your hands if you sneeze or cough, even if you do not sneeze or cough into your hands.
      • Start every shift by washing your hands for 30 seconds using soap. Wash your hands frequently during your shift. Health Code law stipulates that you must wash your hands at the following times/events: The start of our shift, every time you sneeze, every time you touch your face, after handling the trash (picking up anything that’s dropped, moving trash, changing trash bag), after eating or drinking, whenever leaving the kitchen area and re-entering, serving soup, and after using the restroom.
      • Change gloves if you change “roles” (e.g., from making smoothies to ringing up customers). You must wash your hands before putting on new gloves.
      1. Team members and kitchen staff may never enter the kitchen with open toe shoes or sandals. (Besides looking unprofessional, it’s simply a state and local health code rule without much logic of why it applies.)

      2. Outside worn jackets, backpacks, and cell phones should never touch a food surface.

      3. Personal books and notebooks should not sit on food preparation counters.

      4. Boxes of things like produce or deliveries from UPS, etc., that have should never go on top of counters or food preparation tables because they can bring in contamination.

      5. Do not eat meals or snacks in front of the store or in back of house kitchens. Please eat only on your break and only in the designated break or seating areas. Do not bring unkosher or non-vegan foods inside this business.

      6. By Health Department Law, dogs are not allowed in the store. The only exceptions are service dogs. Please allow customers to come into the store with their dogs as they may be service dogs. DO NOT ARGUE WITH CUSTOMERS OVER THEIR DOGS. Do not ask for proof of ADA (service animal certification).

      7. Never pet a dog during your shift and never feed a dog during your shift.  DO NOT USE KITCHEN BOWLS TO SERVE ANIMALS WATER.

      8. Do not wear gloves to count money. If you count money, wash your hands first before putting new gloves on.

      9. Do not handle any frozen fruits with bare hands (even if your hands have been washed).

      10. Every item in our back of house refrigerator must be labeled with an expiration date and the common food name, whether the items are in boxes from the commissary or boxes from other sources. Label everything carefully before putting into the refrigerator with an expiration.

      11. Personal open foods cannot be stored in the back of house refrigerators.

      12. Watches, bracelets, dangling necklaces, and/or looping or ornamental earrings may not be worn. Wedding bands are permitted.

      13. Food containers (cups, lids, bowls, tops, forks and spoons, etc.) should be kept facing down, stored in a sanitary clean location, and always handled with gloves on.

      14. Every bathroom must have a covered garbage can so that feminine hygiene napkins can be disposed of in a sanitary manner.

      15. Every soap box by the hand dryer must always have soap and something to dry the hands. The hot water faucet must reach a warm enough temperature in less than 60 seconds so that a health code violation cannot be issued.

      16. Regarding bathroom doors that automatically close, they must be in good working order at all times: If an automatic closing mechanism is broken it is a health code violation.

      17. Bathrooms must have adequate ventilation, and an operational ventilation fan must be in place: Lack of a ventilation fan is a health code violation.

      18. Soup: Reheating and serving of hot soup entails very detailed and specific procedures. Please follow the separate handling safety rule sheet. (That will be supplied as additional material because it contains more information than what can be covered in a quick cheat sheet.)

      19. Everything inside of the refrigerator must be labeled with what is in the container and the expiration date. The made date is of no value to the team. It may be good for the chef, but the team will not know how to calculate what is going bad. Put in the word “EXP” with the specific date that it expires based on the chef’s order or an expiration date sheet which we will put together.

      20. Food must be covered in the refrigerator. The refrigerator must be organized, and the interior walls of the refrigerator must be kept clean.

      21. Every refrigerator must have an independent thermometer sitting on a shelf. Refrigerators that have external thermometers that you can read must be working, but they’re not required. If your refrigerator is missing a thermometer, you must report it immediately because it is a health code violation.

      22. Monitor the refrigerator at all times to ensure that it is working.

      23. Storage on ice: Regarding the many products that we store on ice, make sure that the ice is regularly refreshed and that each product sits on ice in such a way as to keep it at refrigeration temperature. There is no exact way to gauge the temperature inside of the product. But if the product is properly stored on ice it will not freeze: That is because it is sitting in ambient room temperature but it will stay as cold as it would in any refrigerator. Inspect all products stored on ice frequently throughout your shift to make sure that the items are properly placed on the ice.

      24. Fruit flies and insects: The kitchen must at all times be free of even one fruit fly, house fly, or any other creature other than a human being. Especially loathsome and damaging to our reputation are encounters with mice, rats, water bugs, and roaches.

        • Insects and vermin result from operational failure of management to take preventative measures. Management must ensure that the kitchen is free from crawl spaces that insects can get into. Not keeping a kitchen thoroughly clean, especially leaving food debris on top of servers and floors, invites insects.
        • Fruit flies are mainly a problem in the warmer months. The kitchen may be impeccable and spotless and free from any food residue, but fruit flies may still invade the space. It’s possible that fresh fruit coming from a farm and left anywhere outside of refrigeration may have fruit fly eggs embedded into the body of the fruit. For that reason, all produce (including pineapples, oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits) must be washed thoroughly in the produce washing machine. Continually monitor your facility for fruit flies, and immediately report fruit fly issues to management.
      1. Sharp knives must not be unattended. If you’re doing food prep and you walk away, that knife must be put into a knife holder. Separate knife holders properly. There cannot be a knife holder every five feet, as this would cause its own separate problem.

      2. When you are producing food, avoid talking to your coworkers because if you’re talking then you are spitting. And if you’re producing food then you’re spitting into the food.

      Violation of any of those items constitutes immediate infraction of rules and laws stipulated by Department of Health Codes and/or Department of State Health Regulations

      Additional support writing:

      Three Compartment Sink Instructions:

      Step 1: Rinse thoroughly.

      Step 2: Dip item in soap (hot water).

      Step 3: Rinse.

      Step 4: Dip item in sanitizer (cold water) making sure it’s fully submerged.

      Blender Beakers

      Please note that blenders must be rinsed, washed, and sanitized after each and every use. 

      Critical Temperatures For Food Service

      • Refrigeration (food and juice) temperature: Must be 41º F or below. This applies to all items on ice in our displays.
      • Make sure that ½ of the glass jar or bottle is submerged in the item display. 
      • Freezer (food) temperature: Must be 16º F or below.

      Support Documentation for Soup

      Soup must reach 175º F or above within two hours to be ready to serve (if soup does not reach 175º F by the two hours mark it must be discarded).

      Using the COOK TEK SOUP Kettle makes it easy to be health code compliant.

      • Turn the soup base on, and then put the stainless steel kettle into the base.
      • Press the reheat button.
      • The 175º F display should appear on the screen. The soup is now reheating.
      • The kettle will beep every 15 minutes to indicate time to stir.
      • Stirring is required and necessary for even cooking and best taste.
      • Once the kettle reaches the desired temperature of 175º F, press the hold button, then press the little blue kettle stir button until the option to turn on or off the alarm button is displayed. Turn the alarm off or it will beep every 15 minutes.
      • You are now ready to serve.
      • Stir the soup once or twice every hour or it will begin to burn.