Having access to adequate amounts of safe and nutritious food is crucial for maintaining life and promoting good health. Unsanitary facilities and equipment can spread harmful microorganisms and attract disease-spreading pests placing food safety at risk.
Food inspectors are responsible for ensuring that food establishments comply with regulations to prevent foodborne and other related illnesses.
According to Tamsin Mzozoyana, the founder of Krystal Consulting, food safety in a food establishment pertains to the set of practices and procedures implemented to guarantee that the food served to customers is safe for consumption and free of potential risks or contaminants.
She explains that food safety involves maintaining proper hygiene, handling, storage, and preparation of food to prevent foodborne illnesses and ensure the overall well-being of consumers.
Learning the ins and outs of food safety in eateries
Mzozoyana says maintaining cleanliness and hygiene is crucial in food establishments.
“Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before handling food, after using the bathroom, after touching pets, and after handling raw meat or poultry.”
It is important to wash utensils before using them and to sanitise all food preparation surfaces in order to ensure that food preparation is a safe process and to prevent the occurrence of foodborne illnesses.
If you are experiencing illnesses such as diarrhoea, vomiting, or respiratory infections, it is advisable that you refrain from preparing food. These illnesses may be contagious and can result in food contamination.
She emphasises the importance for staff members to adhere to proper hygiene practices in order to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
What is HACCP?
Mzozoyana explains that Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) rely on seven guiding principles to identify and evaluate potential hazards in your operation. These principles also offer effective measures and management tools to prevent these hazards from exceeding their limits.
Poor hygiene practices can result in non-compliance with food safety regulations and standards set by local health authorities. Food establishments may face penalties, warnings, or even closure if they fail to meet the required hygiene standards, adds Mzozoyana.
Foodborne illness symptoms
Kgadi Moabelo, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA), explains that all foods have the potential to cause food poisoning, as contamination can occur at any stage of food production or processing.
She notes that raw foods are more likely than other foods to cause food poisoning. Examples include unpasteurised milk, uncooked poultry, beef, and seafood, as well as fresh or minimally cooked eggs.
She says you can sometimes identify food that is unfit for consumption based on these symptoms;
- When food does not smell good.
- When cans and cartons containing food substances are bulging out or leak.
- When the expiry date has passed.
- A damaged or removed plastic seal.
Safety measures in domestic settings
Moabelo says we need to ensure that our homes are safe to avoid foodborne illness by following these steps:
- Ensure that the area where you are cooking is thoroughly cleaned.
- Separate raw from cooked foods.
- Separate utensils used for meat from the ones used for vegetables.
- Refrigerate perishables.
- Wash vegetables under running water.
According to Moabelo, it is important for establishments to take certain measures to ensure the safe storage of food, which is necessary for safe consumption. She says that these simple measures are vital:
- Frozen foods should be stored between -18 and -22ºC.
- Refrigerated foods are to be stored between 2ºC to 7ºC, and up to 10ºC for eggs and egg products.
- Leftover foods can stay up to three days at 4ºC.
- Milk and milk products can stay up to five days at 7ºC.
- Cold meats and sausages up to three days at 4 ºC
- Food must be tightly sealed before storage and refrigerator and freezer doors must only be opened when necessary.
- Dry groceries must be stored in a clean area, with enough ventilation.
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