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Food Safety

Safe Quality Food (SQF) Changes in Store for 2018

By | Food Safety, Restaurant Tips, Uncategorized | No Comments

Changes Are A Comin'

Food safety magazine reported that 2018 will be the year of food safety advances. The food safety system certification 22000 will go to version 4.1 and the third party, safe quality food (SQF) will advance to edition 8.0. The 8th edition will go into effect January 2, 2018, what that means is that all recertifications and unannounced recertification audits will use the edition 8 code as a guideline. There have been many changes but we will go through the major changes to the code and list out appropriate modules here. The modules and new codes can be found at www.sqfi.com under document downloads.

  • The “levels” of the code have been replaced with Food Safety Fundamentals, Food Safety Code, and Quality code.
    • Food Safety Fundamentals, which was formerly level 1 in SQF edition 7, is the entry-level food safety code for small or developing food and pet food manufacturers. HACCP reporting is not required at this level and the applicable modules are 7,11,12 and 13.
  • Food Safety Code, which was formerly level 2 in SQF edition 7, is applicable to primary production, manufacturing, storage and distribution, manufacturers of packaging materials and retail. Primary production is held to food safety codes 1,3,5,6 and modules 5,6,7,7h, and 8. Manufacturing is held to food safety codes 4,7-22,25, 31-34 and modules 3,4,9,10,11. Storage and distribution are held to food safety code 26 and module 12. Manufacturers of packaging materials are held to food safety code 27 and module 13. Lastly, retail is held to food safety code 24 and module 15 which is a new module in edition 8.
  • The Quality Code, which was formerly level 3 in SQF edition 7, is applicable to system elements to specify quality. Can be conducted with or without the food safety audit and the results will not affect the score of the food safety audit. This is not available for food retail.

There are also some new additions to edition 8 that edition 7 did not have before. There is an SQF food safety code for manufacturing, one for storage distribution, and one each for packaging and primary agriculture which there was not before. There is also a new food safety code for retail locations. Some notable changes were made to SQF 8.0 regarding food packaging lines and food labeling, quality code, food sector changes and implementation of a communications program by senior management.

This new code will be more stringent on those who will have to abide but was much needed since the Food Safety MOdernization Act (FSMA) that was signed into law in 2011 by President Obama and the most recently used code, SQF 7.0, which was published in 2012.

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Food Safety Month! Check Out These Tips and Hacks!

By | Food Safety, Restaurant Tips | No Comments

September is food safety month and with the recent hurricanes, what better time to educate people on the importance of food safety and how it not only affects the food serving industry but every single household in America. The USDA is giving food safety tips on its website on how to protect your food and water during Hurricanes and other storms.

Prepare for unpredictable weather emergencies. Have these supplies on hand:

  • Thermometers in the freezer and refrigerator.
  • Containers of ice to keep food cold or to melt if water supply is contaminated or unavailable.
  • Coolers, frozen gel packs, and dry ice to keep refrigerated food at or below 40 F and frozen food at or below zero F if power is out for more than 4 hours.
  • Bottled water.
  • Nonperishable food high on shelves, in case of flood.
  • Manual can opener.
  • Bleach for disinfecting.

Keep food at recommended temperatures. Keep in mind that perishable food such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs not kept at recommended temperatures can make you sick—even if thoroughly cooked.

Do not eat or drink anything that has touched flood water, including food packed in non-metal containers.

How to sanitize cans of food:

  1. Remove labels from cans, which can harbor dirt and germs, wash the cans, and dip them in a solution of 1 cup (8 oz/250 mL) of unscented household (5.25% concentration) bleach in 5 gallons of water.
  2. Allow the cans to air dry.
  3. Re-label the cans with a marker. Include the expiration date.

How to sanitize containers, countertops, pots, pans, dishware and utensils:

  1. Thoroughly wash, rinse, and sanitize anything that may come in contact with food — for example, pans, dishes, utensils, and countertops. Throw away wooden cutting boards or bowls — these cannot be safely sanitized.
  2. Mix 1 tablespoon unscented household (5.25% concentration) liquid bleach with 1 gallon of water.
  3. Soak item in the solution for 15 minutes.
  4. Allow to air dry.

How to make tap water safe to drink:

After a natural disaster, water may not be safe to drink. Area Health Departments will determine whether the tap water can be used for drinking. If the water is not potable or is questionable, then follow these directions:

  1. Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters if it is available.
  2. If you don’t have bottled water, you should boil water to make it safe. Boiling water will kill most types of disease-causing organisms that may be present. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for boiling. Boil the water for one minute, let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers.
  3. If you can’t boil water, you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach will kill some, but not all, types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1/8 teaspoon (or 8 drops) of unscented household (5.25% concentration) liquid bleach for each gallon of water, stir it well and let it stand for 30 minutes before you use it. Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.
  4. If you have a well that has been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected after flood waters recede. If you suspect that your well may be contaminated, contact your local or state health department or agriculture extension agent for specific advice.
  • If water supply is still unsafe, boil water or use bottled water.
  • Once power is restored, check the temperature inside your refrigerator and freezer. You can safely eat or refreeze food in the freezer if it is below 40 F.
  • If your freezer does not include a thermometer, then check the temperature of each food item. If the item still contains ice crystals or is at or below 40 F, you can safely refreeze it.
  • Discard any perishable food—for example, meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk—that has been in a refrigerator or freezer at or above 40 F 2 hours or more.

When in doubt, throw it out.

The last statement is truly one that I always abide by. I always think….,”How much was this chicken? Is saving 6 bucks and taking the chance of making my family sick worth it?” …every time no. We recently spoke with a client who was affected by Harvey and they had to throw away thousands and thousands worth of food that was spoiled due to power loss during the Hurricane. They were lucky enough to have only had to throw out the food, however, this just goes to show you the importance of food safety is never worth compromising your family or your brand.

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10 Issues In Your Restaurant You May Be Overlooking

By | Food Safety, Restaurant Tips, Service, Uncategorized | No Comments

The Nitty Gritty

Running a restaurant is taxing and dont get me started on restaurant maintenance. There are so many things that you have to take care of but some of the largest, most costly problems are in your every day and you don’t even realize it. With 7 years of working in the restaurant industry, we have seen a thing or two when it comes to maintaining a restaurant’s critical systems. Some of these problems you may be aware of some…you may not. So keep reading and brace yourself for the creative things humans do.  

1. Walk-in’s and Coolers not reaching temperature

   This is something our technicians see way too often in the food industry. How do you know if your cooler is reaching its set point? Is it cooling? Typically you wouldn’t think anything was wrong with the unit until you walked it and noticed it wasn’t as cool as it normally is. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the cooler is functioning properly. The only way to tell is to have a regularly calibrated sensor inside the unit that reports temperatures back on a consistent basis. This also works for the reverse scenario, the cooler is too cold. This can cause food to become too cold and lead to freezer burn, bringing down the quality of your food dramatically.

       

2. A/C unit not cooling

   Summer months are a rude awakening for some restaurant owners/operators, but even then you may have so many units that you don’t realize when other units are functioning properly or at all. In some cases, we have run into the scenario when we are installing our system into a new client’s location and find that their units aren’t functioning correctly from the word go. Upon inspecting, most of the units suffered from clogged filters. The filters are so clogged it doesn’t allow air to pass through making the space feel hotter. So what does one do when they feel hotter? Turn the A/C down, which can cause a whole slew of new problems and severely decrease the life of your equipment….and all of that could’ve been prevented by a step that takes less than 3 minutes to fix.

Other common things we find upon looking into a location related to this issue are pinched duct-work, clogged A/C coils, compressor fans out, one stage compressor of two stage unit out, and low refrigerant.

3. HVAC compressor running 24/7

   This can happen for a number of different reasons. One of the most common is the clogged filters (as stated from above) or equipment failure. Often once we enter locations the employees are aware that the units may not be cooling correctly but rather than having a technician come out to repair the problem, the setpoint of the A/C is just turned down which can cause more, extensive problems in the end. Lowering the setpoint of the A/C doesn’t fix the problem, it just causes the A/C to run ALL of the time. This creates extended run times which lower the life of the equipment dramatically, freezing of the coils which can cause the unit to stop functioning altogether, and overall just decreasing the life of the equipment. In order to maximize efficiency and create a comfortable space, the unit needs to be serviced immediately…prolonging this will only create costly repairs later that could’ve been avoided.

4. A/C duct work not properly connected

   You would think that one would notice when ductwork is not connected to their A/C unit….because it would be hot right? Not always, we have seen instances where ductwork is not connected to an HVAC unit that should be pushing air into a designated space but employees are completely unaware. Many restaurants have more than one A/C unit so they typically wouldn’t notice this, the other units, however, are slowly decreasing their overall life expectancy. How? They are compensating for the one unit that isn’t working and working harder and more often than they should be to cool the area. With commercial grade A/C units ranging anywhere between $5,000 and $13,000, you don’t want to be paying for multiple units at one time if they decided to go out simultaneously due to extended run times.

5. Cooler doors being propped open

   This is a HUGE no-no, and sadly we see this all too often. What we see often in the field is the doors are propped open for deliveries but often they are forgotten about and left open to expose the food to higher temperatures as well as the cooler to run for extended times trying to cool the freezer/cooler and the kitchen.

6. Lights being left on during the day

   Not only does this point burn a TON of energy we find that it is more frustrating when the owners/managers show up and it’s daytime and the lights are on outside. Deterring the schedule that the lights are on is ok so long as you remember to turn them back off, most of the time we find that is not the case.

7. Ice buildup in coolers and freezers

   In walk-in coolers and freezers, the evaporator is responsible for defrosting the unit to melt frost and ice that builds up on the evaporator coils. Water from the defrost is drained from the freezer. We see evaporators in poor maintenance and the ice doesn’t properly melt or water isn’t properly draining which leads to the ice taking over the evaporator. This leads to ZERO defrosts and the ice continues to build. The compressor then works harder and longer to compensate until it cannot anymore and stops cooling.

8. IT Problems

   Often we go into locations and they don’t realize they even have an IT structuring issue until someone comes in from the outside to access their system. We find It racks not labeled or disorganized which leads to longer diagnosis time when a location suffers from internet connectivity problems. IT equipment hanging from cables is another sight we seen often which is just begging for internet connectivity problems.

9. Bad door seals and latches on Walk-in’s

   Poor seals or latches on doors are what seem like obvious problems but with everything else you have to deal with in a restaurant the last thing you do when you go into the walk-in is inspect the door seals. Old or bad door seals do not allow for proper suction and could be leaking cold air out into the kitchen space. This causes the unit to work harder to reach its setpoint. Same goes for the bad or old door latches.

10. Human Factors

   We have left the best for last!!! Touching on every one of the above issues, we have found that the human factor plays a large role in how and if the above scenarios happen in your restaurants. We often hear a variety of reasons why equipment is known to be broken but not fixed. “If it’s not broke don’t fix it” we hear this a lot. Often times this can cause more damage than $$$ savings. Employees are under the impression that a piece of equipment must be completely broken to warrant a technician to come look at it when calling a technician before the problem worsens can save thousands in repairs. “Not from my PL bonus”, yeppers! This happens all of the time. A lot of standard repair and maintenance is reduced to pad the area managers profit and loss statement (don’t fix it until it’s dead) which feeds into the above problem. It’s a vicious cycle that often continues and costs more than it saves.

    

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USDA Gives Food Safety Tips

By | Food Safety | No Comments

June 20th the USDA  and Food Safety Inspection Service, offers food safety advice to those who might be affected by tropical cyclone three. The national hurricane center expects the potential cyclone will affect areas of central Texas to the panhandle in Florida late Wednesday. The USDA offers advice to restaurant owners, hospitality, retail, basically anyone who has to adhere to food safety conditions because these storms pose the issues of potential power outages and flooding which can cause stored food to become compromised in quality.

Straight from their website here are some tips to follow:

Steps to follow in advance of losing power:

  • Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
  • Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes so don’t overfill the containers.
  • Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Know where you can get dry ice or block ice.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.
  • Group foods together in the freezer—this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

Steps to follow if the power goes out:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  • Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.
  • Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.

Steps to follow after a weather emergency:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.
  • Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below.
  • Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

The precautions and steps listed above are crucial to maintain the quality of your food during an emergency such as this.

chameleon™ provides this kind of visibility into your restaurant/convenience store all remotely. Notifications for walk-in freezer/coolers above or below a set temperature will go straight to you and your team so that you know exactly when your walk-in’s loose power.* Not only does it provide the visibility of connection, but chameleon also reports real time temperatures and stores all historic data for later use.  Let Small Box Energy help ease your mind when it comes to food safety, call or email us today for a demo of the chameleon platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easy-to-use interface gives users control of energy-using equipment

*additional backup power feature required

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Remote Diagnostics Solves Real Issues

By | Early Equipment Diagnostics, Efficiency, Energy Management, Food Safety, IoT, Visibility Stories | No Comments

Ice Buildup on the Coil Explained and Solved Using IoT

Recently, our tech support received a phone call from a customer.  Their walk-in cooler seemed to be running ok, but he was concerned about all the ice on the coils. Our tech support pulled up the data from the refrigeration module.

A quick analysis of the graph instantly showed the problem. See the actual graph below. It reads right to left, and is for a period of 7 days. The blue line is the coil temperature and the green line is the room temperature.  The room temperature of the cooler was ranging from 40-50˚ consistently. This means the door was being left open from employees.  The employees were instantly trained to correct their behavior and stop leaving the door open.

Results:

If you look at the left side of the graph from 0-1, you see 3 spikes to 40 degrees in the blue coil temperature; this means the unit was in the proper defrost mode. You will also see the coil temperature is well below the room temperature and consistently staying between 33-35 degrees.

This corrective action saves money because the cooler isn’t working as hard to lower the temperature of surrounding spaces or freezing up resulting in visits by technicians. We would also expect a longer life of the cooler and compressor because it is not running all the time. Additionally, we might expect the food quality to improve and reduce the chance for a loss of produce, as the cooler is now maintaining a consistent temperature.

Why Does Ice Form?

Ice can form on the evaporative coil due to added humidity from surrounding environments. The developing moisture on the coil causes the ice buildup. In this case the door was being left open, so the ice was forming as the evaporative coil was trying to maintain temperature.

Remote diagnostics solves real issues

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Automation Eases Employee Workload

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, Food Safety, IoT | No Comments

We understand the industry is experiencing an upward trend in turnover rates, which makes employers’ jobs harder. Continual training for consistency and ensuring processes are followed correctly can be much more challenging if there is high turn-over rate among your crews.

That’s why Small Box focuses on providing automation and efficiency solutions to help make your employees’ jobs easier, while offering risk mitigation and consistency across your entire portfolio:

Real-time Alarms via Text or Email:

  • Refrigeration equipment above/below specific range
  • Operational inefficiency warnings and alarms when set-points are not being reached for equipment (early equipment diagnostics)
  • Critical food probe alerts if food temperatures have not been taken when they were supposed to be, if you choose to set a schedule

Automatic Documentation & Data Integrity:

  • Data automatically stored in the cloud
  • Historical analysis and temperatures available for short/long-term viewing

Data Analysis:

  • Our Client Success Managers dig deep into equipment operations by monitoring run times, checking alarms, reviewing set-point data and HVAC overrides to ensure efficiency and longevity.

Small Box is here to help your operations run more efficiently and reduce costs. Contact us today.

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Why Should Restaurants and Convenience Stores be Interested in IoT?

By | Early Equipment Diagnostics, Energy Management, Food Safety, IoT, Uncategorized | No Comments

IoT cloud_3IoT touches every person, every day and we barely even think about it – cell phones, laptops, security devices, HVAC controls, and lights. They are all connected:

Today*: 6.4B “things” connected via IoT technologies
Tomorrow: 5.5 million things will be connected
2020: 20.8 Billion things connected

Eventually, virtually everything electrical will be connected – appliances, blinds, locks, garage doors, water heaters, landscaping lights, even irrigation systems.

But the important question is why?  Why has technology permeated so many aspects of our lives?  Well, there are lots of reasons.  First, we might say it’s cool.  Who doesn’t feel just a little bit of power when you can turn your lights on and off from across the country?  Right?   However, the more practical applications of these “things” provide us convenience, save us money or provide some added safety for us.  They make our lives easier, they help us get more for less all while improving the world we live in. The same is true for businesses and especially restaurants.

It is very common to be using IoT for your POS, social media and even operations like inventory or ordering. Nearly every asset in the business has been impacted by the internet and/or IoT to save money or increase efficiency. For Front of the House, IoT applications typically focus on increasing revenue and loyalty; where as the Back of the House applications typically focus on increasing productivity through schedules, inventory, and bookkeeping.

Small Box Energy leverages IoT to provide a solution focused on providing operational efficiency to improve profitability for both restaurants and convenience stores:

  • Improves Food Safety by automatically documenting temperatures for refrigeration equipment and food probes on the cloud, giving users historical and real-time access.
  • Reduces Food Loss by providing real-time alarms to employees when refrigeration equipment is out of the defined temperature range, notifying employees to take immediate action.
  • Reduces Maintenance Costs by providing data to distinguish between equipment failure and operational inefficiencies; as well as data to determine truly urgent repairs over routine maintenance needs. Facility managers are becoming empowered through remote access and diagnostics.
  • Extends Equipment Life and Improves Inefficiencies by providing the data necessary to determine doors being left open, repetitive and unnecessary HVAC overrides, or general excess operation of compressors.
  • Reduces Energy Consumption through automation, scheduling and decreasing unnecessary defrost cycles in equipment to help control what is often perceived as uncontrollable costs.

So why is IoT important for restaurateurs? It will touch every aspect of your operation and it will help you save time, mitigate risk and increase profitability. Learn more about how Small Box Energy can help your operations by emailing sales@smallboxenergy.com.

 

*Source: Gartner.com

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A Focus on Food Safety

By | Food Safety | No Comments

We know restaurants take several precautions to ensure their food is safe from bacteria growth. They have very rigorous training programs, hourly procedures and checkpoints in place to ensure food is safely handled, cooked and stored. But let’s face it, a restaurant kitchen is a like a playground for bacteria; it’s all over, in the air, water and soil and food is their fuel to grow. I was shocked to read bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella Enteritidis, Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Campylobacter can grow to dangerous levels, sometimes doubling in less than 20 minutes. These are the types of bacteria that cause serious illness.

Food safety is one the key reasons why restaurateurs and convenience stores are turning to Small Box Energy. Our chameleon™ platform monitors walk-ins, freezers and reach-in units 24/7/365. Alarms are sent via text and email to key personnel and managers when a cooler is above set-point, or in the ‘danger zone.’ for more than 1 hour. This alerts employees can take immediate action, reducing the ability for this bacteria to grow. Managers and users always have the real-time and historical data available via chameleon-cloud.com or the mobile application, so they can verify consistent holding temperatures for their coolers.

We also understand another key issue for restaurants is food handling before, during and after cooking. That is why Small Box Energy now offers the Critical Food Probe. This wireless probe is used specifically for probing foods and recording the temperatures on the cloud. This device is currently in beta, but expected to be available by the end of this year.

To learn more about how Small Box Energy can help your restaurant, email us at sales@smallboxenergy.com or fill in the form at http://www.smallboxenergy.com/contact-us/.

For more information on how temperatures affect foods and bacteria growth, visit http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/food-safety-education/get-answers/food-safety-fact-sheets/safe-food-handling/how-temperatures-affect-food/ct_index

Additionally, for more information on all the work the US Government is doing to ensure food is safe straight from the farm, visit: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/default.htm

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