It's a nightmare scenario: guests falling ill after a meal in your restaurant, panic, arguments about the causes and a reputation in shreds. Movers in the hospitality industry should never feel they've done enough to safeguard their guests and themselves against such an incident, as bacteria are fervent and invisible hitchhikers that will make their way to food as soon as someone, somewhere along the supply chain slips up and let them get a ride.
To keep a close watch on the procurement, transport, storage, handling and distribution of food is of even greater importance to guests than comfortable rooms and an impressive menu. These precautions should be stepped up and staff put on high alert when a guest experiences symptoms like nausea, diarrhoea or fever, as these might be due to bacteria on the food that he or she has been served.
Even though South African restaurants and hotels are regulated by food safety legislation, which is implemented by the local government, co-workers should be made aware of the fact that kitchens and restaurants are known hot spots for pest infestations and bacteria, and trained to observe and practice food hygiene on an even higher level than that required by law. This, the Food Safety Network advises, will be much better than to maintain a "wait and see" attitude towards a visit from an Environmental Health Practitioner and then to cope with the consequences.
Deena Govender, quality assurance manager of pest control company Rentokil, says the following steps should be part of every food practitioner's ABC: AVOID THE FOOD DANGER ZONE
The temperature range in which food borne bacteria can grow is known as the danger zone
. Bacterial growth in potentially unsafe foods can be reduced by limiting the time food is in the danger zone of between 4°C and 60°C. This is when pathogens - bacteria that cause disease - multiply the quickest. Stay out of the danger zone by keeping cold food cold and hot food hot.
The following is advised:
- Cook food above 70°C (160°F).
- Maintain the temperature of hot food at 60°C (140°F) or above.
- When reheating cooked food, reheat to 75°C (165°F).
- Contaminated water is the main source of contamination - water should be boiled for at least 5 minutes.
Food that has been prepared, but not covered, can become a health hazard, Govender warns, as rats, mice, cockroaches, ants and flies are attracted to areas where food is prepared and served. "Their presence will have a very negative impact on business as they may be carrying and spreading disease. Droppings, insect fragments or rodent hair can also lead to customer complaints, loss of goodwill and bad publicity," he warns.
Sound structures and impeccable housekeeping and stacking will go a long to prevent these pests from entering. Govender says advice about this can be gained from a reputable pest control company, who will inspect and treat the premises on a monthly or six weekly basis, using only approved chemicals, monitors and equipment.
Besides food and safety regulations, we need to develop a strong culture where food safety is considered a priority by all persons who are involved in the preparation and serving of food," Govender advises.
For more information about food safety and pest control for the hospitality industry, visit www.rentokil.co.za