Cross-contamination of work surfaces and food preparation areas can ruin all your care and planning in preparing meals for customers with particular dietary requirements.
For example: there’s nothing worse than going to the trouble of creating a gluten free pizza base and adding appropriate toppings, only to learn that gluten has accidentally found its way into the food during kitchen preparation or cooking. (A typical reason in this case might be that leftover wheat flour dustings on the workbench have contaminated your gluten free cornflour or polenta pizza base.)
If your customer has a serious gluten intolerance, he may suffer some nasty effects after eating, in which case you can bet he won’t come back (except to complain!) and he’ll probably tell friends that your food is no good!
So here’s what you need to do to protect against cross-contamination:
1. All work surfaces and utensils need to be scrubbed clean and maintained at all times. This includes benches, boards, knives, spoons and so on.
2. Identify any utensils or appliances which are likely to have come into contact with foods or food ingredients to which some customers may have an intolerance or allergy.
3. Avoid direct contamination from ingredients likely to cause intolerance or allergy by using separate containers for ingredients and condiments and fresh utensils for serving from each.
4. When making food like gluten-free pasta, you can’t re-use water used for cooking regular wheat pasta — you need fresh water and a clean (scrubbed) pot.
5. Be careful about dusting surfaces with wheat flour (including wheaten cornflour) — this includes dusting meats prior to browning. This will render the food unusable for a customer with a wheat or gluten intolerance.
6. Clean all kitchen appliances regularly and thoroughly to remove food/ingredient residues which can cause cross-contamination.
7. Ensure all ingredients, especially those to which customers may have an intolerance or allergy, are correctly labelled and separately stored in sealed containers.
8. MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL: educate your staff so they understand about cross-contamination, know which menu items have been designed to cater for customers with allergies or intolerances, can answer questions about meal ingredients and are trained to communicate correctly with the kitchen about any special dietary requirements.