Date PostedNovember 7, 2012

Food handling Update: Condiment Safety

Source : Peter Sigrist

Restaurateurs and those in the food preparation industry often work hard to ensure food safety and good hygiene however something that’s easy to overlook is condiments. Exactly how long is it safe to keep condiments such as tomato sauce, mayo and pickles before it becomes a hazard to customer’s health.

Most restaurants prefer the cost effectiveness and convenience offered by single service packets but even these have an expiration date. These are a good idea because they do not require refrigeration if unopened and the packaging is designed to protect the food from contamination.

Also it is important for restaurants to order condiments as and when they need it rather than just ordering a big bulk load which is going to expire before they are able to use them up.

It is important that condiments are checked for freshness and to ensure they are within their expiration dates. Restaurant workers should also ensure that the self-service condiment stands or the condiment bottles are wiped clean several times a day. Some condiments such as ketchup, mustard and relish can be kept out of the fridge during the day but need to be refrigerated during the hours when the business is closed.

Some restaurants serve condiments in open containers. These can become contaminated and certain rules need to be followed to keep them safe.  Some of these condiments such as salad dressings, mayonnaise, mustard and butter should be thrown away at the end of each day but those that can be served again are those that are self-contained, unopened, pre-packaged condiments.

Many restaurants prefer to have bottles of condiments like ketchup and mustard on the table. For safety reasons it is best these bottles not be refilled because of risking cross contamination of the old product with the new one. Bacteria can be spread by mixing old and new condiments. The condiment bottle should be cleaned with a dry cloth or paper towel because using a wet cloth or towel can promote the formation of mould.

By paying attention to these rules, restaurant operators can prevent foodborne illnesses being spread through their food.

Some condiments show signs of spoilage quite easily but for others it’s harder to tell. Smells, discolouration, mould are all signs of spoilage and these condiments should be discarded immediately.

In general certain condiments have certain shelf lives. Here are a few of the most common:

  • Ketchup, also called tomato sauce has a 1 year shelf life if unopened and 1 month once opened. It may last longer if refrigerated.
  • Mayonnaise can last for up to 2-3 months on the shelf if unopened. Once opened it needs to be refrigerated and can last for about 2 months. If left out of the fridge or more than 2 hours it may be contaminated.
  • Mustard, once opened can last 6-8 months and even longer if unopened. Mustard is one of the heartier condiments on the shelf mustard can last up to 2 years.
  • Vegetable Oil in a restaurant is best stored in the fridge for up to 6 months. Once it has been opened it should be kept in the fridge and will last between 1-3 months.
  • Olives are another restaurant condiment that is popular in some restaurants. Olives can last unopened or a year but once opened it should be refrigerated where it can last 1-2 months and no longer.
  • Chili Sauce can be kept safely for up to a year if unopened. Opened it can last a month or two but you can prolong its lifespan if you refrigerate it.
  • Jams or jelly can last for a year or more unopened but need to be refrigerated once opened. Even before opening it’s a good idea to keep it in the fridge to extend its shelf life.

Don’t leave any room for foodborne illnesses in your establishment. By following these guidelines you can protect your customers, the lifeblood of your business and avoid any costly fines for bad food handling.


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