Food spoilage

by Mark Davidson

Today’s brewpub faces a litany of potential exposures to its survival. We are going to look at few that are often overlooked by small breweries and brewpubs, yet still represent a real exposure to the success of the business.

Food-borne illness is an often under reported threat that can be prevented with proper care and handling of food. There are 76 million reported food-borne illness cases in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The multi million dollar settlements of Escherichia coli (E. Coli) cases like Jack In The Box and Odwalla remind us of the dangers and hazards of a mass food poisoning claim. Yet there is a prevailing thought today, that many brewpub owners feel the exposure is not a worry for them.

Just last year a small Mexican restaurant in Redwood City, California paid a $650,000 settlement and $55,000 in fines stemming from a food poisoning outbreak that killed one woman and over 250 others got sick. The cause of the bacterial outbreak may have passed from employees unsanitized hands into improperly stored chicken or beans, or was present in vegetables used to make salsa.


The first step in preventing food poisoning is to assume that all foods may cause food-borne illness. The following are steps to prevent or minimize outbreaks:

1. Implement a strict policy of washing. Wash hands, food preperation surfaces and utensils thoroughly before and after handling raw foods to prevent recontamination of cooked foods.

2. Know the law – In California, Assembly Bill 1978 amends the Health and Safety code to require that most retail food establishments that handle unpacked foods must employ at least one person whom is certified in food safety. Contact the USDA and the FDA for new laws in your state.

3. Most bacteria flourish in the temperature range of 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F. Refrigerated foods warmed to above 45 degrees for more than 2 or 3 hours may not be safe. Frozen foods, kept closed in a fully stocked freezer will stay frozen for 2 days. But, a freezer that is less than half full will not stay frozen for more than a day. These guidelines should be remembered whenever there is a power outage.

4. When in doubt, throw it out.

5. Make sure your Business insurance program has some provisions for food spoilage and food contamination.

Observing simple rules of good food handling and having good risk management procedures in place can prevent Food Poisoning.

Mark Davidson is co-founder of the Golden Brew Insurance Program, a program for Microbreweries and Brewpubs. 415-680-2125