Vice President, Food Safety and Public Health at Ecolab, Dr Ruth Petran shared tips on how to maintain food safety during the harsh summer conditions in the Middle East in the Arabic newspaper Emarat Al Youm. Click here to see the Arabic print version of the below translated feature.
Summer calls for a more vigilant outlook on food safety because the threat of food contamination - from production through to consumption - increases drastically as temperatures climb.
Food safety is an important issue at the core of public health and safety during summer and is high on the government’s agenda. Apart from the macro-responsibility of the UAE government, it is the duty and responsibility of F&B outlets and food handlers to follow stringent food safety rules, especially during the summer.
Unhygienic food can result in food-borne diseases that spread rapidly and have potentially dire consequences, including kidney failure, arthritis, or even brain and nerve damage. That’s why food handlers, whether at home or in the food service sector, have a great responsibility to maintain not only good hygiene in the workplace, but also their own personal hygiene.
The human factor is the most important element in avoiding contamination and the spread of food-borne disease. While the responsibility for food safety lies with everyone, food industry workers must be even more well-informed of food-borne illnesses, the spread of germs and how certain infectious diseases arise. Failure to do so can pose severe risks to businesses and even more so during summer due to the rising temperatures. Outlets serving contaminated food, or brands selling disease-carrying bacteria, can suffer irreparable damage to reputation and loss in revenues, not to mention hefty fines from municipalities.
There are some easy tips to remember when working with food this summer:
Keep It Clean: Hand hygiene is essential for anyone harvesting, handling or preparing food. Germs can easily be transferred by dirty hands. F&B operators across the entire food supply chain must understand how to properly wash their hands and do so frequently. They should also stay at home when ill with gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea and protect food from open cuts on their hands. Using gloves or utensils to avoid bare hand contact with food can help prevent the transfer of germs. Similarly, food such as vegetables and fruits must be thoroughly rinsed before cutting and serving. Proper staff training is critical.
Cross-Contamination: If preparation areas are not cleaned and sanitized properly, bacteria from humans or contaminated food can linger on surfaces and spread easily. Ensuring food preparation areas are accurately cleaned and sanitized before use helps protect food from bacteria which cause food-borne illnesses. Following the labeled directions ensures proper use. When using the same cutting surface for different foods, clean and sanitize between tasks. It is better practice to simply color-code cutting areas for different foods.
Get a Thermometer: Raw food and fresh produce can contain bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses. F&B operators cannot depend on sight, smell or taste alone to determine if food has reached the proper (cooked) temperature necessary to kill harmful bacteria. Temperature and time are crucial factors in any food handling operation. Contaminating micro-organisms are more likely to grow at temperatures between 4C-60C, so food temperatures should be controlled and maintained outside the ‘danger zone’. Use of a properly calibrated food thermometer is critical.
Common sense: While our eyes cannot see the invisible threat of harmful micro-organisms, we should be mindful of where and when contamination commonly take place.
Ecolab helps businesses and employees ensure effective food safety processes through effective cleaning and sanitizing products, programs and services that mitigate risks by reducing or eliminating food-borne illnesses. Ecolab solutions have ensured the quality and safety of more than a quarter (27%) of the world’s processed food at 5,000 international food and beverage plants. And with Ecolab clients serving 45 billion restaurant meals annually, our products and services support health and hygiene management by cleaning 31 billion hands per year.