It's every restaurateur's nightmare: a customer walks in and tells you they (or their partner, or child, or friend) was violently ill after eating at your restaurant. Or, worse, you read about it after the fact, online, and spend weeks trying to make up for the damage the incident caused to your public image.

But failing to follow proper food sanitation practices can put more than your brand image at risk - it can have serious consequences to your clientele. In some industries, such as aged care, the importance of food sanitation is even more serious.

So, is your kitchen doing everything it can to prevent foodborne illness and follow regulations? Here’s what you need to know to keep your diners safe and healthy.

Importance of food safety for vulnerable people

The importance of sanitation in the food industry can’t be understated in any type of eatery, but certain establishments may find themselves at more risk than others.

For example, the aged care industry must pay careful attention to sanitation in the kitchen. Senior citizens have weakened immune systems and also reduced stomach acid production, which makes them more susceptible to foodborne illness. Also, they find it harder to fight off any bugs they may pick up from contaminated food.

Pregnant women, children and those with an illness are also particularly at risk of food poisoning, though it can of course affect anyone.

Victoria’s food sanitation laws

So, as a concerned restaurant owner or food services manager, what can you do to keep your patrons safe?

Firstly, follow the law. In Victoria, all class 1 and class 2 food establishments are required to have a food safety program in place and get audited regularly under the Food Act 1984.

Class 1 food premises, such as hospitals, aged care and childcare centres and class 2 food premises, which would include restaurants, pubs, caterers, delis, cafes, supermarkets and more, can choose a food safety program template by either the public health department or an independent organisation. These documents outline the steps required to ensure safe preparation of food, and must be kept on business premises.

If you operate a class 1 or 2 food establishment, you must also have a fully trained food safety supervisor, and of course all staff must have food handling training relative to their roles.

Keeping your kitchen - and reputation - clean

Germs that can cost you your reputation are lurking in some of the most unexpected places. In particular, meat, dairy, pre-prepared salads and seafood tends to pose the highest risk of foodborne illness.

Part of staying safe is how your kitchen staff prepare and handle your food, but another significant factor is the equipment you use. Is your cool room functioning properly to keep your refrigerated goods bacteria-free? Do you have the right shelving units to keep food free from cross-contamination?

If you’re worried about passing your audit, get in touch with us - we can provide a consultation on your kitchen, and you can also schedule a service for any of your equipment to keep it in prime condition - keeping both your customers and your investment safe!