For the average Jane, or Joe, food safety became top of the awareness list with the outbreak of the listeria ST6 strain in December last year. Although South Africa’s Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, announced on the third of September that there have been no new cases since June, it’s likely that many South Africans will steer clear of earmarked products for some time.
The South African listeria outbreak isn’t the A-Z of food safety non-compliance, but it is definitely a case in point that poor food safety practices can be fatal. In a 6 month period Listeria contributed towards the death of 203 people. For more information on listeria why not have a look at Initial’s Insights page.
Let’s take a step back... What exactly is food safety? According to the Australian Institute of Food Safety, “Food Safety refers to the handling, preparing and the storing of food in a way to best reduce the risk of individuals becoming sick from foodborne illnesses.”
How sick is sick? Foodborne illnesses are caused by a variety of pathogens including bacteria, parasites and viruses. By ingesting contaminated food or water you are at risk from a range of illnesses, from diarrhoea to listeriosis and meningitis.
Food safety is serious business but many feel that it is something that is not taken very seriously. The good news is that consumers are educating themselves, demanding higher quality and safety standards, and in turn stakeholders of the food value chain are working towards more robust standards and best practice through initiatives like the GFSI. Rentokil Initial is a proud sponsor and supporter of the GFSI and contributed a white paper titled Assuring the future of global food safety: The role of emerging technology in the mitigation of risks and the advancement of global food safety
The foundation of any strong food safety programme is HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point). One critical risk area that good hygiene practices can help mitigate is cross contamination. There are two main focus areas;
Did you know that contaminated hands can transfer pathogens up to five more surfaces? The CDC estimates that up to 40% of foodborne illness is related to poor hand hygiene. Here’s a hypothetical example to illustrate the point: a chef doesn’t wash his hands after using the toilet. He then touches the bathroom door, possibly a wall, the kitchen workstation, a knife and the chopping board. Each of these items has now become a vector for cross contamination. Anyone else who touches these objects or surfaces themselves becomes a vector for further cross contamination, and the food that is prepared using these instruments is also potentially contaminated. You can see how this scenario could lead to numerous patrons falling ill.
Ensure that a robust hand hygiene regime becomes a habit. For food safety, a SANS 1853 soap is recommended. To complement this product an automatic soap dispenser is preferable; our recommendation is Initial’s Signature No Touch unit with silver ion antibacterial technology. You should wash your hands for at least 30 seconds, taking all key areas into account. Download your hand hygiene poster.
Just as important as hand washing is hand drying. Your hands need to be dried properly as wet hands can spread pathogens that start multiplying almost instantaneously. Now the debate about which is better - paper towel or hand dryers - is as heated as Apple vs Samsung, so I’m going to let you decide. Your routine should be complemented by a suitable hand sanitiser.
Other important measures you can implement in your kitchen are a glove policy, training, effective monitoring solutions to ensure hand hygiene compliance, and sufficient hand hygiene facilities in the right locations to minimise cross contamination.
Kitchens, especially food preparation areas, need to maintain the highest hygiene standards to ensure food safety by minimising cross contamination.
- Ensure that all surfaces are washed and disinfected at regular intervals.
- Train staff to use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat, seafood, poultry and produce. These items also need to be cleaned properly after use.
- Food disposal areas need to be cleaned regularly to limit cross contamination and prevent pest infestations.
- Ensure staff are healthy as presenteeism increases the risk of food contamination.
- Deep clean your kitchen equipment at regular intervals as baked grease attracts pests that will contaminate your kitchen.
By taking hygiene seriously in a food environment you can significantly reduce cross contamination and the spread of foodborne pathogens that cause illness. If you would like to know more about how Initial can help you promote food safety through hygiene in your business, get in touch with us.