Why should you analyze flow?
The flow of food through a central preparation/commissary facility and a mobile food Unit can greatly affect food safety. Contamination of ready-to-eat (RTE) foods can occur with poor food flow, such as when raw meat and seafood are prepared on the same table that is used to assemble sandwiches. Soil and bacteria from a dirty dish or seafood processing area can also be moved to other areas when employees must routinely enter these areas. Your plan reviewer needs to understand how the menu will be prepared in both the central preparation/commissary facility and the mobile food unit proposed. Flow may be in a straight "assembly" line format or be organized to move food through departments that perform different functions. A well laid-out flow provides safer and more efficient food preparation. Mapping out your proposed flow may help you better identify problems with your layout.
What do I need to do? You are being asked to be ready to discuss the flow of food from delivery through service.
Depending upon the complexity of your menu, your plan reviewer may schedule a consultation to discuss
food flow with you. Use your floor plan layout to think through your food production processes.
- Determine the flow from the receiving door, through storage, preparation, cooking, assembly and hot holding, ending with the customer. Also think through how solid waste and soiled dishes and utensils will move through the facility. Be ready to discuss such items as:
- Which sinks and preparation tables will be used for washing and prepping vegetables, meat and ready-to-eat foods?
- What items will be stored in working refrigeration units?
- Is there adequate separation between raw and ready-to-eat foods in storage and during preparation?
- How will cooks and preparation staff avoid contaminating ready-to-eat foods with juices and bacteria from raw meats?
- How will contamination between tasks such as handling money and food assembly be handled?
- Do flow patterns change during different times of day?
How will this information be used in the review process?
A plan reviewer not only reviews whether the physical facilities comply with the food code, but also visualizes the number and types of food being prepared, along with how food and people will move through the facility. The reviewer can help you determine food code violations that will or may be created by the proposed layout.
In analyzing food flow, the plan reviewer will:
- Try to gain an understanding of how food, dishes and solid waste will move through the facility.
- Look for points where cross-contamination of bacteria from raw to ready-to-eat foods may occur.
- Determine where soiled dishes, solid waste, outside dirt or mop water may contaminate ice, food or preparation areas.
When areas of concern are found, one of the following may occur:
- A change will be required.
- A change will be recommended.
- A standard operating procedure (SOP) will be required to address how contamination will be avoided using the existing plan.
- You may be given an option of either making a plan change or developing a SOP.