A kitchen audit checklist is derived from the standards required by the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Establishment Operations Checklist. While not all kitchens will face a regular audit, owners and employees must keep a kitchen up to federal standards in order for the kitchen to keep any food licenses it has, and to ensure food safety for the public. These general guidelines cover food preparation, hygiene and cleaning for all commercial kitchens in the United States.
Food Source and Preparation
All foods in the kitchen must be obtained with standards and sources that comply with the law, including USDA-approved sources. Potentially hazardous food, especially proteins, dairy, eggs and shellfish, must be maintained at 140 F. Poultry must be cooked to 165 F. All foods must be thawed and cooled properly. Any food that is cooked, cooled and then reheated, must be reheated to 165 F.
Personnel Hygiene and Health
Anyone who directly handles or prepares food must regularly wash their hands. Hand-washing facilities must be located in all areas where there are people handling or preparing food. There must also be a hand cleaner, towels and waste receptacle. Any employee with a communicable disease that could be transmitted through food cannot participate in food preparation or handling activities. Nor can employees participate if they have open wounds, sores or cuts. All food workers must have clean garments and hair restraints. Food workers are not permitted to eat, drink or smoke in food preparation areas, nor are food workers permitted to touch ready-to-eat foods with their bare hands. One employee must be designated to make sure that all employees are following these regulations and are in compliance with the health codes.
Storage and Handling
All dry food, utensils and equipment must be stored at least six inches above the ground. Cold food must be stored in a commercial refrigerator that is insulated and hard sided with enough ice to maintain 41 F. Hot food storage units must be able to maintain at least 140 F. Thermometers must be on hand and available to check temperatures. Wet storage is only allowed if the water contains at least 10 ppm or available chlorine, and the water is changed frequently. Food on display must be protected from customer handling or contamination. All food preparation areas must be off limits to customers.
All kitchens should have a commercial dishwasher that can wash, rinse and sanitize all equipment that comes into contact with food. All utensils and equipment that comes into contact with food must be washed and sanitized every four hours. Sanitizers must be used at their appropriate strengths.
Every kitchen must have enough water on site for cooking, drinking, cleaning and sanitizing. The water supply system or hose must prevent the backflow of contaminants from entering the water supply. An approved wastewater disposal system must dispose wastewater.
Shelves and containers that hold food must be easily cleanable and smoothly finished. Floor should be concrete, asphalt, tight wood or a non-absorbent matting. Walls and ceilings must be well made and offer protection from outdoor elements in addition to preventing dust and debris from entering the kitchen. The kitchen must have adequate lighting and bulbs should be shatter resistant if in food-preparation areas. There should be a sufficient number of garbage containers and toilet facilities with hand-washing facilities. All toxic materials must be labeled.
Jessica Jewell is a writer, photographer and communications consultant who began writing professionally in 2005. Her chapbook, "Slap Leather," is forthcoming from dancing girl press. Her recent work has appeared in "Nimrod," "Harpur Palate," "Copper Nickel," "Rhino," "wicked alice," "Poetry Midwest" and "Barn Owl Review." Jewell was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She earned her Master of Fine Arts from Kent State University.