Food Safety in Concessions: Are You Prepared?

concession food safety

Carnivals, amusement parks, and other businesses in the amusement and entertainment industry have adopted or expanded food concessions to attract more guests.  It’s a good move, everyone gets hungry, but it does introduce a new element of risk that should not be taken lightly.

Whether an amusement park chooses the flexible option of a mobile concession stand, incorporates a stationary food concession, or chooses a hybrid strategy of both, they need to factor in the massive risk of the possibility of foodborne illness. Every year stories of food contamination pop up in the news.

A single outbreak of foodborne illness at a fast-food restaurant can cost the operator between $7,000 and $2.1 million in damages, depending on the severity. These costs encompass fines, defense costs, legal fees, and the adjudication of claims. It’s critical for amusement and entertainment operators with food concessions to understand and stay in compliance with state and federal food safety laws, have a plan, train employees, and understand the risks of claims.

Staying in compliance with food safety regulations

The first part of mitigating your risks associated with food concessions is knowing the rules and staying in compliance with the local, state, and federal levels. You’ll need all of the proper certifications for food handling, adequate facility with wash stations, and pay all of the associated fees for accreditation on the local level.

Each state has different Food Safety requirements, so it’s essential to get familiar with the codes established in your state and even county. There are a lot of similarities between states. Food Safety codes will outline the rules associated with at least the following categories and possibly more: 

  • Management and personnel — Employee health, handwashing, hygienic practices, etc.
  • General food safety requirements — Food storage, temperatures, processing, etc.
  • Cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and utensils
  • Water, plumbing, and waste practices
  • Physical facilities
  • Mobile food facilities
  • Plan review and Permits
  • Permit suspension and revocation
  • HACCP exemptions

FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

The new Food Safety Modernization Actwas created to shift the focus from responding to foodborne illnesses to preventing them. The FDA finalized seven major rules to implement the FSMA. The act recognizes that ensuring food safety is a shared responsibility among all of the different points along the supply chain. The rules are designed to clarify what actions must be taken at each point along the supply chain to prevent contamination.

Create a food safety plan

After operators go through compliance and are legally ready to operate, they should have a plan in place to help them stay in compliance. It gets busy at amusement parks, so having posted checklists in food areas helps remind staff about the best food safety practices and complying procedures. A good plan will allocate time to reevaluate menu items and determine if employees can easily manage the items’ food safety or if they should substitute another option.

Food safety training 

A plan is only as good as a staff’s ability to carry it out. A comprehensive training course should be designed for all food handling staff. Food handling practices can be broken down into four basic categories:

  • Cross-contamination — when bacteria is spread between food, surfaces, or equipment. It’s one of the most common causes of food poisoning or allergic reactions in restaurants.
  • Cleaning — effective cleaning gets rid of bacteria on hands, equipment, and surfaces and helps stop harmful bacteria from spreading to food.
  • Chilling — properly chilling food helps stop harmful bacteria from growing. Some food needs to be kept chilled to keep it safe.
  • Cooking — thorough cooking kills harmful bacteria in food. It’s crucial to ensure the food is cooked to proper temperatures. 

Food offerings at mobile concession stands are almost limitless, but safety should always come first. It can feel like a lot to manage and can be overwhelming, but if you can break it down into checklists, you can keep your guests and staff safe.

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