The rules and regulations governing food hygiene often appear daunting. That isn’t too surprising because the guidelines can be crafted in words of administrative legalese and stiff sentences. Food hygiene is too important to have situations in which food workers are intimidated or ignorant of what is needed to be done. Fortunately, there are some guides or “rules of the road” that point a food worker in the direction of better food safety.

“Basic Food Safety for Health Workers” is an online publication that emphasizes the basics of food hygiene. A basic, yet very important, rule is simply having clean hands. Washing hands on a routine basis isn’t the only consideration. A smart suggestion is keeping finger nails short (preventing contaminated residue from collecting under the nails) and removing jewelry before handling food since dirt can become lodged in the engravings. The article also recommends that food handlers avoid coughing into their hands or touching hair, nose or mouth while handling food. Personal hygiene cannot be overly stressed and practical considerations such as wearing a hairnet, covering wounds with clean, waterproof dressing and not wearing fingernail polish are means of reducing the risk of food contamination.

Sanitation in the workplace includes common sense practices such as storing ingredients in sealed containers, putting waste only in bins that are not used for anything else, and not using dirty or broken equipment. Food processing areas are a place for humans only and not only should a food worker report any sign of rodents or insects, but prevent animals like cats or dogs, both carrying fleas and ticks, from coming into the work space. The work area’s hygiene is enhanced by wiping the food preparation surfaces with antibacterial sprays, and a quick way to sterilize kitchen cloths or sponges is to put either in a microwave on high power for 2 minutes. Food processing itself is made more hygienic by cooking foods at the proper temperature and time. This is critically important with such high risk foods such as meat products (e.g. pork) and dairy products, and the right temperatures and time can minimize the chance of food poisoning.

Food Storage follows ten fundamental guides. Routine defrosting of refrigerators, keeping pantries clean, checking for signs of vermin, storing perishable food in refrigerators, keeping cleaning chemicals out of storage spaces, having food storage spaces stand only against interior walls, not running water pipes through the food storage areas, rotating food supplies, keeping animal food and utensils away from human food, and keeping raw and unclean vegetables in separate storage places. Again, these are all actions of common sense; simple to follow and highly effective in keeping the food safe.

The World Health Organization (WHO) maintains that food poisoning is preventable and that by adhering to fairly simple rules the incidents of foodborne disease can be drastically reduced. The rules of the road for food hygiene are not complicated, but they do require that a food worker be aware of his or her personal cleanliness and of the environment in which they work. If the observance of the rules of the road become a routine part of daily activity a food worker will contribute significantly to the overall safety and hygiene of the food prepared, processed or delivered. The rules of food hygiene are based on principles of common sense: something that needs to be more commonly used.

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