I spent many years managing restaurants so cleanliness and sanitation were always primary concerns of mine. I was aware of how much a single incident of food borne illness can cost a company, maybe even run it out of business.
In 1994 Jack In The Box had an outbreak of E-coli that cost them a billion dollars and the closing of half their stores in the west. Two children became sick and died from eating undercooked hamburgers. Since then they have put a system called HACCP in place. HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point.
The theory behind HACCP is that no food stays in the danger zone as far as temperature is concerned for more than four hours. That’s how long it takes for bacteria to start to grow. And that’s total time not just the time the food stays in the store. It includes time at the processing plant, in the truck, and at the warehouse.
The HACCP system also includes such things as basic sanitation and the wearing of gloves when handling food. The thing to bear in mind about gloves is: just because a food handler is wearing them doesn’t mean that they are safe. In order for gloves to work they have to be changed frequently. Gloves become dirty just like hands and can give people a false sense of security. Having dirty hands and gloves is the number one way to transmit germs and make people sick.
Everyone who has ever worked at a restaurant has their own horror stories about food handling. I’ve found dirty bandages in the shake machine, caught an employee smashing down the lettuce in a bucket with their feet, and caught another employee blowing his nose on a sandwich bun because the customer was smart to him. And that’s just a few items on my long list.
According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “Food-borne illnesses cost the country $152 billion a year, according to a report being unveiled today.
The report, commissioned by the Produce Safety Project at Georgetown University, is the first to assess the total health-related costs of food-borne illnesses by factoring in a broad range of food-borne pathogens. It broke down costs by state, revealing that Missouri loses about $2.9 billion and Illinois roughly $6.5 billion to food-related illnesses every year. In Missouri, the cost per case of food-borne illness is $1,812, ranking it 33rd among states, and in Illinois, the cost per case is $1,836, ranking it 25th.”
These numbers are significantly more than previous estimates. Sometimes the contamination doesn’t take place in the restaurant. In the case of Jack In The Box the contaminated meat came from the supplier. Jack sued him for 450 million but it still costs Jack In The Box a billion dollars and half their restaurants.