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This months Spotlight shines on the brand new RTS unit from Burlodge, which was first introduced to the marketplace in August 2004.

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Food Outsourcing
A current trend in Canada’s Health Care Market is Outsourcing. In Europe this trend has become the norm over the last 15 years and Receiving Distribution Units (RDU’s) have been built to specifically distill outsourced food products into portion sizes and even into fully trayed meals or bulk pans for both long term care and acute facilities.

In talking to industry representatives about outsourcing, one quickly realizes the cloud of doubt and lack of knowledge associated with outsourcing and its implications. This is surprising as outsourcing has been a part of their business for years. For example, milk, ice cream, and soup bases are but a few products institutions have purchased from an outside manufacturer or source for decades. Furthermore, since the late seventies institutions have started to close down bake shops and purchase prepared breads, cakes, desserts and one step muffin mixes to battle the decrease in available skilled labour associated with baking and pastry work.

In short, while the past outsourcing existed to ensure government health standards for dairy products and helped to alleviate the requirement of highly skilled baking staff – today outsourcing is a viable method to battle ever increasing labour costs and other operational challenges.

Food outsourcing today means replacing some labour costs in the dietary department with prepared foods from reputable federally inspected suppliers. Staff reductions can be just enough to cover the cost of the outsourced food or, in some cases, can be more so as to show a savings overall to the department. However it is not as easy as it appears, because new retherm equipment for reheating the outsourced foods is required. In some cases kitchens have to be redesigned and fridges and freezers capacity increased. Staff training and menu development specific to the institutions cultural and ethnic make-up has to occur.

The shift to using commercially prepared outsourced foods is less expensive to operate than either a traditional ‘scratch’ kitchen or a cook chill kitchen, yet it allows for consistently high quality foods as well as ongoing varieties of new foods. In addition, using outsourced foods eliminates the need for expansion and a major upgrading of a current kitchen. A cook chill kitchen for example, requires expensive skilled staff while an outsourced kitchen demands less formally trained staff. Outsourcing has a calming effect on the foodservice staff as it removes the peaks and valleys of a busy production day and allows more time for patient/resident focused care.

The definition of food outsourcing is as follows:
Foods are produced by professional, federally inspected manufacturers and delivered to the long term care or acute care facility frozen or chilled and held as inventory until required.

The rationale for outsourcing can be explained by considering the following points:
1. the food manufacturing sector guarantees the foods that they produce to be nutritionally correct, safe, consistent in quality, and a product of high standard
2. there are labour efficiencies and savings to be found within the production staff compliment by utilizing outsourced products
3. there are ever increasing kinds of products currently being produced adding to the possibilities of variety on a menu
4. there is portion control at the point of purchase thereby decreasing waste
5. there is increased price flexibility with food purchases due to the removal of a commissary model and its monopolization of Health Care Specific food products
6. there is increased nutritional information about menu offerings due to the expertise of manufacturing plants and their representative company’s product information sheets
7. clinical and special diets are more readily available allowing the on-site Dietitian to spend more time with residents
8. space in a kitchen can be made readily available for functions other than dietary
9. must manage issues from a production ‘peaks and valleys’ model are removed, allowing a shift from a production orientation to a Service Excellence / Resident Focused Care Model to occur
10. lower maintenance costs and utilities usage in the long run
11. reduced future capital requirements for production equipment
12. critical control points that pertain to HACCP exist for storage, thawing, and retherm only – as federally inspected food manufacturing plants employ HACCP procedures

Recommended Reading:
>> Industry Trends
>> Consumerism
>> Food Safety
>> Independant vs. Shared Food Services