Adulterated Food and Foreign Objects in Food: Protecting Restaurant Operations

When people think of food safety, they often think of food-borne illness, and rightly so considering the breadth and seriousness of food-borne pathogens. That being said, there are other food safety concerns that need attention as well. This article will focus on food adulteration, contamination, and foreign objects, which is the contamination of food with substances that are not fit or intended for consumption, or foreign objects or materials in food. This category has garnered significant attention lately as stories of cleaning chemicals ending up in food products have been in the news several times in just the last few months. Those reported recent cases centered on unintentional contamination, but there are reports on occasion of intentional contamination as well. That’s the point that I’d like to lead with.

Restaurant Operators: Do not Tolerate Intentional Tampering With Food!

Now it’s not that there are many operators out there that are OK with workers tampering with the customer’s food, it’s that many restaurant operators take it for granted that this is absolutely forbidden in any form or degree. In several cases of food tampering where I have followed up, a pattern emerged: The operator assumes that everyone that works for them know that this is wrong, but it is not highlighted or underscored in a meaningful way. This needs to be taken a step further to the level of specific policy that is clearly communicated and reinforced. Several of the points that may be included could include:

  • It is absolutely forbidden to add anything to food that does not belong in it, in any quantity or fashion
  • In any form it takes, deliberate contamination of food is subject to immediate termination
  • Anyone tampering with food intentionally may be subject to criminal prosecution
  • Anyone witnessing tampering with food must report it immediately
  • Knowingly serving food that has been tampered will be treated the same as tampering with it yourself
  • Joking about or threatening to tamper or adulterate food is prohibited

What else do you think should be included?

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