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National Restaurant Association - Handle drink garnishes safely

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Handle drink garnishes safely

Polished food and beverage presentation contributes to positive guest experiences, which is why many bartenders top off drinks with aesthetically pleasing, edible garnishes. While the fruits, vegetables, herbs and other flavorful bites commonly accompanying cocktails and beers may be decorative, they are classified as ready-to-eat food and should be handled safely. To help protect your guests from foodborne illness, ServSafe Alcohol shares these four drink-garnish food-safety tips:

  • Prep: Many bar areas are not designed for food preparation. Produce handling should take place on approved food-contact surfaces that have been cleaned and sanitized. For example, citrus and celery should be sliced on a clean, sanitized cutting board, not the bar countertop. Garnishes that are TCS food, such as bacon or roasted vegetables, should be cooked to minimum internal temperature requirements.
  • Refrigeration: When garnish prep is complete, cover and store product you will not immediately use in the refrigerator at 41°F (5°C) or lower. TCS food should not sit at room temperature for more than four hours. Beyond that window, discard the items. If you prep a large quantity of garnishes at once, avoid placing them in one big vessel; spreading the supply across several smaller containers allows you to keep more product in the refrigerator for longer, which lessens the potential for waste.
  • Product access at the service area: To reduce contamination threats, cover garnish containers and place them within the interior area of the bar, out of customers’ reach. If you allow customers to top their own drinks at a designated self-service area, reference ServSafe’s self-service food-safety tips. Tongs or skewers must be utilized in either set-up to access the garnishes.
  • Bartender hand hygiene: Handwashing helps prevent the transfer of pathogens to food and surfaces. For this reason, don’t bounce between handling edible garnishes and handling money, cleaning surfaces or glassware, or completing other duties without washing your hands. Say you’re cleaning used glassware and a customer sits down and orders a drink. Before reaching for a clean glass and starting to make the drink, wash your hands to reduce contamination. 

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