Food safety and hygiene is of utmost importance for businesses, as it helps to protect the health of consumers from foodborne illnesses and food poisoning. Food poisoning occurs when food becomes contaminated by bacteria, viruses and other germs, making those who consume the contaminated food very ill. Typically, food poisoning can be treated at home within a week, but sometimes food poisoning can be serious and require urgent medical attention. Therefore, knowing how to protect consumers from food poisoning is essential.
The Food Hygiene Regulations 2006 legally requires food businesses to carry out food tasks safely and hygienically. It is an offence under the Food Hygiene Regulations 2006 to supply food to consumers which is harmful to health. Food businesses have a duty of care when supplying food to consumers, and therefore food safety and food hygiene must be a priority.
Food Safety and Hygiene Practices
A safe and hygienic workplace helps to create a productive workforce, therefore creating a food safety and hygiene policy will ensure all employees know how to contribute to appropriate work practices. Your workplace food safety and hygiene policy should include the following important principles:
Ensure the area which you are working in is clean and hygienic. This involves thoroughly cleaning and sanitising the workspace, utensils and equipment prior to cooking, in-between cooking tasks and after cooking.
Cooking utensils and equipment, such as chopping boards, knives and mixers, must be thoroughly cleaned between dealing with foods. For example, either a separate chopping board must be used or it must be thoroughly cleaned between chopping raw chicken and vegetables. If this is not done, the bacteria from the raw chicken will transfer onto the vegetables and cross contamination of foods will occur.
Ensure there are no ways that pests or insects could enter the workplace, through keeping the area clean, using pest control sprays, and covering food appropriately.
Personal Hygiene of Food Handlers
Ensure the individuals handling food have a high standard of personal hygiene. This includes:
- Tying hair back to ensure no hairs fall into the food.
- Thoroughly wash hands with soap and hot water, before, during and after handling food, to ensure no germs from your hands are transferred to the food.
- Wear clean clothes to work, to ensure no germs from your clothes transfer to the food.
- Wear gloves if you are handling food with bare hands.
Storage of Foods
Store food properly. Identify which foods must be kept at room temperature, which must be refrigerated, and which must be frozen.
If food needs to be refrigerated, it must be kept between the temperature of 0°C and 5°C. Therefore, refrigerators should be set at 3°C or 4°C.
Domestic freezers must be set at -18°C, which will stop chemical reactions occurring within foods. This will stop bacteria growing and producing toxins.
Correct Preparation and Cooking of Foods
Ensure you know which food requires washing before it is cooked. For example, fruits and vegetables require washing under cold water before they are prepared. However, there are certain foods which certainly must not be washed, such as raw chicken, as this could spread the bacteria from the chicken across the workspace.
Ensure you cook food to the right temperature. Food must reach a core temperature of 75°C, as this ensures that all bacteria will be killed off safely.
Food safety and hygiene is taken seriously internationally. In November 2019, the Ministry of Health and the Singapore Food Agency investigated reports of 30 illnesses which occurred after individuals consumed food from Taj Catering, owned by Singapore Fast Food Pte Ltd. The catering company have had their license suspended until further notice, whilst the investigation is taking place. The employees responsible for food hygiene at Taj catering will be required to pass a food hygiene officer course if the organisation is going to be allowed to continue.
Therefore, it is essential that those involved in the food industry understand how important food safety and food hygiene really is.