Food Safety Fails: How to Keep Your Customers Safe and Happy

As food industry professionals, we have seen our fair share of food safety fails. While some of them are amusing, most of them are downright yucky. From cross-contamination to improper temperature control, these mistakes can lead to serious health risks for customers and a bad name for the business. In this article, we will discuss the importance of food safety, common mistakes in restaurants, and how to prevent them. 

The importance of food safety in the food industry 

Food safety is of utmost importance in the food industry. It is not just about avoiding lawsuits or fines, but about ensuring the health and safety of customers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year, one in six Americans gets sick from foodborne illnesses, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths. These illnesses can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, and chemicals in food.  

When working in the food industry, we have a responsibility to ensure that the food we serve is safe for consumption. This means following proper food handling, preparation, and storage techniques, as well as adhering to food safety regulations and guidelines. 

Common food safety mistakes in restaurants and food establishments 

Despite the importance of food safety, many restaurants and food establishments make common mistakes that can lead to foodborne illnesses. 

These mistakes include: 


Cross-contamination occurs when harmful bacteria from one food item are transferred to another food item, either directly or indirectly. This can happen when raw meat comes into contact with ready-to-eat foods, or when utensils and surfaces are not properly sanitized.  

Improper temperature control 

Foodborne bacteria can grow rapidly in the temperature danger zone (41°F to 135°F). Improper temperature control can occur when food is not cooked or reheated to the proper temperature, or when hot food is not kept hot and cold food is not kept cold. 

Poor hygiene 

Poor personal hygiene, such as not washing hands properly, can lead to the spread of harmful bacteria. Additionally, food handlers who are sick or have open wounds should not be handling food.  

Food safety training and certification 

To prevent these common food safety mistakes, food handlers and food managers should undergo proper food safety training and certification. Training can be done online or in person and covers topics such as proper food handling, temperature control, and personal hygiene.  

Certification is often required by law and shows that the food handler has completed the necessary training and passed a certification exam. This demonstrates to customers and regulatory agencies that the establishment takes food safety seriously. 

The benefits of hiring an online food safety company like Always Food Safe! 

For establishments that want to ensure food safety but do not have the resources or time to train employees themselves, hiring an online food safety company can be a great option. Always Food Safe is a 100% online, video-based company that offers comprehensive food safety training and certification programs that are accepted nationwide by your health inspector.  

The benefits of hiring an online food safety company include:  

  • Convenience: Employees can complete the training at their own pace, on their own time. 
  • Cost-effectiveness: Online training is often less expensive than in-person training. 
  • Customization: Training can be tailored to the specific needs of the establishment. 
  • Compliance: Online food safety companies keep up-to-date with food safety regulations and guidelines, ensuring that the establishment remains in compliance. 

How to prevent food safety fails in your establishment 

Preventing food safety fails in your establishment requires a commitment to proper food handling, preparation, and storage techniques. Here are some tips to help prevent food safety fails: 

Train employees properly 

Ensure that all employees undergo proper food safety training and certification. This should include training on proper food handling, temperature control, and personal hygiene. 

Implement a food safety plan 

Develop a food safety plan that outlines standard operating procedures for food handling, preparation, and storage. This should include procedures for cleaning and sanitizing utensils and surfaces, as well as procedures for handling food safely. 

Monitor temperature control 

Regularly monitor the temperature of food items to ensure that they are being stored and cooked at the proper temperature. Use thermometers to check the temperature of food items and keep a log of temperature readings. 

Practice good personal hygiene 

Encourage employees to practice good personal hygiene by washing their hands properly, wearing gloves when handling food, and staying home if they are sick or have open wounds. 

Use proper storage techniques 

Store food items in the correct temperature zones to prevent bacteria growth. Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods to prevent cross-contamination. 

Food safety regulations and guidelines 

In addition to following proper food handling, preparation, and storage techniques, establishments must also adhere to food safety regulations and guidelines. These regulations and guidelines are set by federal, state, and local regulatory agencies and include: 

  • Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code 
  • Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) 
  • Safe Quality Food (SQF) 

 By following these regulations and guidelines, establishments can ensure that they are in compliance and minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses. 

Case studies of food safety fails 

To illustrate the importance of food safety and the consequences of food safety fails, let's look at some case studies: 


In 2015, Chipotle Mexican Grill experienced an E. coli outbreak that sickened more than 50 people across 11 states. The outbreak was linked to contaminated produce and was attributed to poor food handling and preparation techniques. 

Blue Bell Ice Cream 

In 2015, Blue Bell Ice Cream had to recall all of its products due to an outbreak of listeria that was linked to three deaths. The outbreak was attributed to improper cleaning and sanitizing techniques. 

Jack in the Box 

In 1993, Jack in the Box experienced an E. coli outbreak that sickened more than 700 people and resulted in the deaths of four children. The outbreak was linked to undercooked beef and resulted in new food safety regulations and guidelines being put in place. 

These case studies demonstrate the serious consequences of food safety failure and the importance of proper food handling, preparation, and storage techniques. 

Tips for keeping your customers safe and happy 

Keeping customers safe and happy requires a commitment to food safety and customer service. Here are some tips for achieving both: 

Communicate with customers 

Communicate with customers about your commitment to food safety and the steps you are taking to ensure their safety. This can be done through signage, social media, or in-person communication. 

Listen to customer feedback 

Listen to customer feedback and address any concerns they may have about food safety. This can help improve customer trust and loyalty. 

Train employees on customer service 

Train employees on customer service techniques, such as active listening and problem-solving. This can help ensure that customers are happy with their experience and are more likely to return. 

Offer high-quality food 

Offer high-quality food that is fresh, flavorful, and safe for consumption. This can help improve customer satisfaction and loyalty. 


Food safety is of utmost importance in the food industry. By following proper food handling, preparation, and storage techniques, adhering to food safety regulations and guidelines, and hiring an online food safety company for training and certification, establishments can ensure the safety and satisfaction of their customers. Remember to communicate with customers, listen to feedback, train employees on customer service, and offer high-quality food to keep customers safe and happy. 

If you are needing to train and certify your staff for food handling, email us! We are an ANSI Accredited company that is accepted nationwide.  


Which Proctoring Method is Right for You

You’ve done your course, and you are now ready to take your certification exam.

Food Protection Manager Certification exams require that the exam be proctored. If your business does not offer internal proctoring, you will have to find another way to proctor your exam—whether that’s online or in-person.

If you are debating whether to have your exam proctored in-person or online, here are some things to think about when making your decision.

Benefits of remote proctoring

If you want to save money, remote proctoring is more affordable than a traditional testing center.

It is also more flexible. You can take the exam at whatever location works best for you, and you can select a time that works with your schedule.

However, you will need to have the correct equipment in order to take the exam. This includes a working webcam and microphone, as well as an updated browser. A tablet will not work, so you will need a laptop or desktop. If you do not have this equipment yourself, you will have to find a way to get access to this.

We partner with ProctorU to administer online exams.

Benefits of in-person proctoring

Some people just like to do things the traditional way. If you prefer to do things in-person as opposed to online, or lack the proper equipment, then an in-person proctor might be the right choice for you.

To take an exam in-person, you can find a proctor or testing center in your area.


Need to get your Food Protection Manager certification? Check out this page to learn more about our online course and exam.

What is HACCP and How to Develop One Using the 7 Principles

As a food protection manager, you have a responsibility to oversee food safety throughout the entire process. This is where HACCP becomes relevant.

HACCP stands for “Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point.” The FDA defines this as “a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling, to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.”

HACCP helps coordinate and manage the flow of food through the entire processing cycle.

While developing an HACCP plan may seem like a daunting task, here are the 7 formal principles of an HACCP plan.

Conduct a hazard analysis

First, start by brainstorming potential hazards. Develop a list of hazards that could cause injury or illness if not controlled. These can be biological, physical, or chemical. The second phase of this principle is to determine which or the hazards listed should be included in the HACCP plan, based off the level of severity the potential hazard and how likely it is to occur.

Determine critical control points

Find out which control points can be used to neutralize the hazard’s threat. The most common example in restaurants is temperature control, such as properly chilling food and cooking food to it’s recommended internal temperature. Determine the critical control points for each hazard.

Establish critical limits

Building off the last principle, the next step is to establish critical limits. What is the maximum and/or minimum values needed to reduce or eliminate the risk of a food safety hazard? Going off of our previous example of temperature control, what is the minimum internal cooking temperature needed to reduce the bacteria to a safe level? Again, establish critical limits for each hazard.

Establish monitoring procedures

Now that you know the critical control points and the critical limits, it’s time to establish a monitoring procedure to ensure the critical limits are met. For our temperature control example, this could be using a thermometer to check the internal cooking temperature.

Monitoring procedures need to be conducted on a regular basis to ensure that critical limits are being met.

Establish corrective actions

The next step of developing an HACCP plan is to figure out what corrective actions should be conducted if critical limits are not met. In other words, what should be done to avoid a food safety hazard? The plan should also specify who should perform the corrective action so that there is no confusion, and so it will get done.

Establish verification procedures

This principle involves verifying whether the HACCP plan is valid. This includes making sure the plan is being followed, and that it is scientifically and technically sound.

Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures

I final step is to be sure to document your HACCP plan and keep records of its execution.


If you want a more comprehensive guide on developing your HACCP plan, the USDA has a comprehensive step-by-step guide to the process.


Looking to learn more about food safety so that you can better develop your HACCP plan? Check out our Food Protection Manager, Food Handler, and Allergen Awareness trainings.

Why Food Safety Should Be Part of Your Patient Care

Make food safety part of your patient care.

Your patient population is made up of those with a high-risk of contracting a serious foodborne illness if food safety procedures are not followed.

High-risk groups include:

  • Elderly people
  • Children under 5
  • Pregnant women
  • Weakened immune system due to illness or radiation therapy

This means you need to be diligent with your food safety to protect the health of your patients.

Here are the most important things to do when it comes to food safety in a healthcare facility.

Have A Plan

In any food establishment, having a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan is important. Note any possible hazards and critical control points and make a plan to preserve your food correctly, then follow it.

Follow Food Safety Basics

Follow the most important food safety practices, such as time and temperature control, personal hygiene, and preventing cross contamination.

We rounded up some of the most important ones in another blog post.

Keep Up to Date on Training

Protect your facility’s patients by keeping your staff up to date on their food safety training.

Implement continuous training into your program to keep food safety knowledge fresh in employee’s minds.

Looking for food safety training for your hospital staff? Check out our Food Protection Manager, Food Handler, and Allergen Awareness courses.

Restaurant Startup Tips: Make the Most of Your Food Budget

By Janet Campbell

As a new restaurant owner, you already know that rising food prices are a problem. However, there are many ways to save money on operational costs that won’t impact quality. From closing your brick-and-mortar location to saving on your taxes, the following tips can help you keep your finances intact so you’ll have the money available to grow when the time is right.

Make food safety a priority.

One of the best ways to save money is to simply ensure that all the food you serve is fresh. This both reduces food waste and keeps your customers safe. The Always Safe Company offers training for food handlers that covers everything from food safety and the law to allergens and how to ensure that your food is at the right temperature all the time.

Consider a food truck or delivery-based food service.

If you’re currently considering opening up a storefront and money is tight, take a moment to determine if this is actually the right choice. As DoorDash explains, there is a huge demand for convenience and nine out of 10 people look for restaurants online first. This means that even if you have an eat-in establishment, your customers will find you online, and offering delivery is a smart move. When you prefer to be face-to-face with your customers, opening a food truck or kiosk is an affordable option.

Reduce your menu offerings.

Although it might sound counterintuitive, offering less can actually be more valuable to your customers. When you have fewer menu options, you’ll save on labor costs, simplify training, and, importantly, help your customers have a better understanding of your restaurant’s concept. A smaller menu is more efficient and, as TouchBistro explains, makes it easier to order online. This is also an excellent way to further reduce food waste.

Save on taxes.

No matter how large or small your business, you have to pay taxes. But, you may be able to reduce some of your tax liability while protecting your personal assets by establishing your legal business structure. Fortunately, if you’re planning to file as an LLC, Minnesota makes it easy by letting you do this online, skipping the attorney fees. You’ll want to do your research first, however, to find out how this flexible business structure can actually help you grow.

Pay your staff more than the competition.

Whether you file as an LLC or not, your business structure also determines how you pay your staff. And, if you can save money by streamlining, you can afford to pay your staff more than your next best competitor. Remember, employee turnover costs you money, so pay them well and treat them even better.

Participate in food festivals.

No matter where you live, there is a food festival near you just about every season. These events help you reach out to your community to show them exactly what you offer. If your business is already accustomed to making large batches (and following proper safety protocols) then opening a pop-up at a local food fair or vendor event can get you great exposure for a fairly reasonable cost. You can take your easiest-to-prepare and most popular food offerings as a teaser to bring people through your doors or to your online ordering portal.

Look for low-interest lending or grants.

Many small restaurants are launched purely with the owner’s personal savings as capital. But, there are many different ways to find financing, including traditional bank loans, a merchant cash advance, or crowdfunding. No matter what avenue you choose, make sure that you get a fair interest rate and that you do not borrow more than you can pay back.

All small businesses cost money, and your restaurant is no different. But, what is different about opening a food service company is that food is your biggest expense. The above tips can help you offer the best quality and dining experience while still earning a profit.


The Always Food Safe Company was founded in 2016 and offers a range of training services to help restaurant owners and employees reduce foodborne illnesses.

Groups at High Risk for Foodborne Illness

Anyone can acquire a foodborne illness. However, some groups of people are just more susceptible to foodborne illnesses due to a compromised immune system.

The following are the four groups that the CDC lists as at a higher risk for foodborne illnesses.

Adults aged 65 or older

Adults ages 65 or older are more likely to have more severe symptoms when contracting a foodborne illness and are more at risk of hospitalization or death.

Children younger than 5 years

Children under the age of 5 are still developing their immune systems, meaning that it is easier for children to get sick.


Certain health problems can lead to a weakened immune system, making it harder for their body to fight off sickness, including foodborne illnesses.

These include, along with others:

  •        Cancer patients going through treatment
  •        Diabetes
  •        HIV or AIDS
  •        Transplant Recipients
  •        Autoimmune Disease

Pregnant women

Pregnancy changes the immune system, putting the baby at an increased risk for foodborne illnesses.

Foodborne illnesses symptoms can be worse during pregnancy, and could possibly lead to miscarriage, premature labor, and issues with the babies development.

Preventing Foodborne Illnesses in These Groups

When working with these groups, it is important to follow safe food handling practices, such as washing your hands and temperature control.

To get even more insights on how to protect these vulnerable groups from foodborne illnesses, check out our Food Protection Manager, Food Handler, and Allergen Awareness courses.

5 Best Practices for Front of House Food Safety

Food safety isn’t just for the kitchen.

Keeping the front of your restaurant clean seems like a given, considering a dirty restaurant can scare off customers. And while presentation is important, you might not know how important having a clean front of house is when it comes to preventing cross-contamination.

Here are some best practices when it comes to keeping a clean and safe front-of-house.

Properly set the table

You might not have thought this was a food safety risk, but it can be when it comes to cross-contamination from your hands. Be sure to properly wash your hands and use the following tips:

  • Only hold silverware by handles
  • Never touch the rim of a glass; always hold by the middle or bottom
  • Always hold plates from underneath

Clean where people touch

It’s important to clean and sanitize the table after use, but there are a few other things that you may not think of but are touched very frequently. These include laminated menus and electronic ordering systems. Just think about how much these are touched throughout the day, and how high of a risk for cross-contamination this can become.

So, if applicable, when cleaning off a table after use, take the time to sanitize the menu and electronic ordering system as well.

Clean off your bar area

This area can be overlooked, but throughout the day, people are eating and spilling drinks on the bar area. Be sure to sanitize the counter throughout the day, and properly clean any spills—which leads us to our next point.

Properly clean spills up

Throughout the day. There will be spills. Use a wiping cloth to clean and sanitize these. But remember, be sure to do a proper cleaning and sanitizing at the end of the day.

Follow buffet best practices

Having a buffet can be hard to navigate when it comes to food safety. We have a whole blog article discussing how to safely run a buffet.

Here are the main points from that article:

  • Track temperatures and keep food out of the temperature danger zone
  • Have only one utensil per food item
  • Watch out for customers cross-contaminating food.
  • Monitor and switch out food if necessary

These are just a couple of the ways to keep your front of house germ-free and your customers protected. For more food safety information, check out our Food Protection Manager, Allergen Awareness, and Food Handler training.

Virginia Law Change Requires Person in Charge to be a Certified Food Protection Manager

The state of Virginia has updated their Food Regulations to include changes to the FDA’s 2017 Food Code.

One important change to note comes from section 12VAC5-421-55, where it now states that the Person in Charge (PIC) must be a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM).

But what does this mean for you?

In Virginia, a PIC is required to be on the premises during all hours of operation. This change means that every PIC should have their Food Protection Manager Certification, so at least one person must be a CFPM during all hours of operation.

This change will be enforced starting June 24, 2023.

Until this date, at least one PIC on staff must be a CFPM.

Although this new requirement will not be enforced for over a year, it might be useful to get a head start on getting staff their Food Protection Manager Certification.

Looking for Certified Food Protection Manager training to fulfill this new requirement? Always Food Safe’s Food Manager training will fill this requirement. Learn more about our CFPM training.

Safely Running a Buffet

Food safety is vital to operating any restaurant, and it is especially important when it comes to buffets.

Buffets and self-service areas can be a food safety challenge, with many things that could go wrong—from temperature abuse to cross-contamination.

Here are the most important things to remember when operating a self-service food area.

Keep food out of the temperature danger zone

One of the challenges of buffets is keeping food out of the temperature danger zone. As a food handler or manager, it is your job to ensure that hot food is held at a minimum of 135°F, and that cold food is kept at a temperature no higher than 41°F.

Have only one serving utensil per food item

There are two different reasons to use separate utensils. The first is to prevent cross-contamination between foods, especially raw and ready-to-eat foods. Having the same utensils can cause harmful pathogens to transfer between foods.

The other reason is to prevent allergen cross-contact. When a serving utensil is used for different foods, the proteins from an allergen can transfer between them. To prevent an allergic reaction from happening in your restaurant, be sure each food has their own serving utensil.

Monitor self-service areas

Any area where guests are plating their own food need to be monitored to ensure that there are no food safety issues.

Check the temperatures

To prevent temperature abuse, you should be checking the temperatures of the food consistently. If any food has been sitting in the temperature danger zone for too long, you should discard and replace it.

Switch out food and utensils if necessary

You can’t control what your guests will do, which is why you should keep an eye on the self-service area.

If you see someone using the same utensil for multiple different foods, switch out those foods with fresh ones and discard the contaminated ones. Also supply a new, clean and sanitized utensil for each food.

Another thing to watch out for is guests using their hands to pick up food. If this happens, discard any food they touched and replace it to prevent cross-contamination.

Buffets are not the only area of food safety you should worry about. To learn more about safely operating a foodservice business, check out our Food Handler, Allergen Awareness, and Food Protection Manager courses.

FDA Releases Plan to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response

The FDA, as part of their new era of smarter food safety, has released their Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan (FORIP). They seek to enhance the speed, effectiveness, coordination, and communication of outbreak investigations.

In the United States, tracking foodborne illness outbreaks involves many different states and jurisdictions. With the FORIP, the FDA hopes to make this process even more efficient to prevent the outbreak from spreading further, and to prevent similar outbreaks from happening in the future.

FORIP focuses on four different areas:

  • Tech-enabled product traceback—Digitizing the traceback process
  • Root cause investigations—Conducting timely root cause investigations and expediting process of getting any necessary public health information out there to prevent the situation from happening again
  • Analysis and dissemination of outbreak data—Strengthening analysis of outbreak data and share this with other regulatory partners
  • Operational improvements—Improving operations for root cause investigations, product tracing, and distribution of outbreak data

With these improvements, the FDA will be better equipped to respond to foodborne outbreaks, helping to prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States

For more information and specifics on this new plan, read about it  on the FDA’s Website.