‘Drink’ Food Safety? Yes, Absolutely … For Real

I remember years ago when I was a waitress, I would be annoyed by some of the customers asking me for lemon in their water.  It was a new trend then.  I came to recognize pretty quickly, that if I forgot to add the lemon to the water, that I would be rushing back to get lemon for the customer’s water. Then, “Oh My,” how annoying to come back and have their companion ask for lemon too. Ugh. As a result, I was not the only one who started just shoving lemon in everyone’s water so as to not have to rush back and forth for a lemon that might or might not be forgotten. Nowadays, the savvy customer is requesting their water with “no lemons, please,” due to outbreaks associated with lemons in drinks over the past years as a result of servers’ dirty hands touching the lemons or the lemons not being washed at all.

I will be honest, I’ve been teaching food safety for a long time now, but it’s only been about six years ago, I actually started to wash lemons myself. I always ask my students do they wash their lemons? Most of them answer, “no.”  That’s the point, you have to wash all produce whether to be eaten in a dish or in a drink as a garnish. Even pineapples! Food safety has to be practiced in every step in the flow of the food and this applies to your drinks too.

Food Safety needs to be applied to making drinks too! Whether it be the server, serving an iced tea, soda, plain glass of water or the bartender creating the most complicated delicious concoction. Cooking is not applied here, but preparation and service is.

The four leading factors still have to be applied in food safety to make drinks to avoid foodborne illness and to keep drinks safe:

1)   To Control Time and Temperature:

  • As we always say, BUY a thermometer! 
  • Check food (i.e. milk, half and half, frozen drink mixes, cut up produce, garnishes) temperatures at the minimum every four hours if it’s being held.
  • When holding or displaying food – discard food at the minimum at four hours if the temperature is measuring inside the Temperature Danger Zone (41°F – 135°F).
  • Keep your cut up fruit & garnishes as well as your dairy and fruit juices on ice or under refrigeration whenever possible.
  • Display smaller quantities of food and replenish from refrigeration as needed.

2)   To Avoid Cross Contamination:

  • Clean hands! Wash your hands when dirty and before touching a new food.
  • Wash ALL produce before cutting. Make sure all surfaces that touch food are clean and sanitized.
  • Don’t use the same ice that was used to keep food or drinks cold in your drinks.
  • Keep washing your hands! … especially, when changing food handling tasks or after tasting food with your hands and licking your fingers. (Don’t lick your fingers please!)
  • Keep your drink garnishes covered as much as possible. We don’t want flies leaving their business on them
  • Avoid touching the fruit garnishes whenever possible. Such a simple solution – but so not implemented is to use little tongs or even tooth picks to grab each fruit garnish.
  • Don’t add new garnishes to old garnishes.
  • Change or clean and sanitize the tongs or serving spoons at the minimum every 4 hours.
  • NEVER use your hands nor a glass to serve ice!

3)   Practice Proper Personal Hygiene:

  • Did I mention, keep washing your hands?!

(a) After touching money

(b) Clearing dirty glasses and before making a new drink

  • After touching chemicals to sanitize a counter or washing glassware
  • If you do wear gloves to make drinks, remember they are not a substitute for washing hands and must be changed into a new pair after washing hands. Don’t blow into them to make it easier to put them on.
  • Don’t come to work sick, especially with diarrhea.
  • PLEASE DON’T grab glasses ever from the rim.  Keep them stored with rims down.

4)   Proper cleaning and sanitizing:

  • Wipe Clean with a sanitizing cloth the bar regularly especially after a patron leaves.
  • Clean and sanitize your knives and cutting boards before use for a new garnish.
  • Clean and sanitize glassware properly.
  • Make sure you test your sanitizer solution effectiveness regularly and change it out as needed.
  • Keep that bar cleaned at the end of the night!
  • Wash and clear the soda machines and beer lines.
  • Clean and sanitize that garnish holder and throw out unused garnishes at the end of the night!
  • No one likes cleaning the lines to beer and soda machines, but it is necessary.
  • Avoid fruit flies by keeping the drains clean.  They are the hardest things to get rid of.
  • On a regular basis, empty those ice machines and clean and sanitize them.

Your customers do watch you and appreciate when they see you doing the right thing, i.e. not grabbing the glass by the rim and grabbing lemon wedges with tongs versus bare hands.  Stay safe and earn bigger tips!

About the Author

Juliet Bodinetz is executive director of Bilingual Hospitality Training Solutions and has over 30 years industry and training experience. She and her team of instructors specialize in food safety, alcohol training and ServSafe training in English or in Spanish and writing HACCP Plans in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area., or 443-838-7561. For latest food safety tips: Become a fan on Facebook or Twitter: @BHTS

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