Whether you operate a large chain or a small independent restaurant, receiving product from suppliers is increasingly complicated. Ingredients can be sourced around the block or the world, and suppliers have different procedures for getting them to you safely. During National Food Safety Month, we’re looking at how to keep your food supply safe.

It’s important to ensure that ingredients you source and use at your operation get there safely and meet your establishment’s requirements. Here are four best practices for receiving food from suppliers:

Enhance your receiving skills

Be knowledgeable about product specifications. Obtain ingredient specifications from the supplier or manufacturer; they can provide information on what is acceptable. The specs can also help you identify food safety risks and quality parameters. It’s also important to know all of your restaurant’s receiving procedures. If a problem does occur, any corrective actions taken should be determined by the risk you’re willing to accept.

Stay on top of your equipment requirements

Ensure all of your equipment is calibrated and working properly. Your thermometer is one of the most important pieces of equipment you'll use during the receiving process. To ensure you receive product at appropriate temperatures, you'll need to be sure your equipment is calibrated. Over time, there could be a “drift” in the accuracy of the thermometer, which could result in an inaccurate reading and cause a potential food-safety issue.

Time and temperature controls

Verify that your products arrive and are stored at proper temperatures upon delivery. Store all temperature-sensitive foods immediately. To avoid spoilage, cold TCS foods should be stored at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Hot TCS foods should be stored at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

Maintain documentation and use a receiving checklist

It is essential to know what products or ingredients you order from suppliers. Use a receiving checklist to help guide employees through the receiving process. The checklist will help take the guesswork out of determining whether a product is safe, or if it is of proper quality. This is a proactive approach to practicing food safety because it could help detect problems and prevent losses before they happen. Finally, any employees noticing or determining potential food safety issues should share those concerns with their managers. That action could help prevent an illness outbreak.

Visit Food Safety Focus to learn more about National Food Safety Month.