‘Ready-to-eat’ foods must be safe for consumption

─ City Public Health Dept. to ensure safe food being provided to consumers

─ survey records hazardous food preparation practices

─ intensified food handler training among recommendations

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Georgetown Municipality’s Public Health Department has seen it fit to work closely with ‘ready-to-eat’ food establishments to ensure they embrace food safety practices.

More than 50 of these restaurants around the city were surveyed to ascertain their level of compliance to required standards and were found to be in breach.

The Food Services Establishment survey captured data from restaurants within the boundaries of D’Urban Street, Water Street, Rupert Craig Highway and Sheriff Street. Samples were also taken upon request from some facilities in Region 6 and Food establishments at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA).

The exercise was done by the City and Municipalities’ Public Health Officers and Regional Environmental Health Officers with support from the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD).

Based on findings of the survey, a list of recommendations was made, and it includes an increased number of inspections to food service establishments; the enforcement of stricter adherence to food safety practices in non-compliant restaurants.

Also, proposed standardised training for food handlers with focus on time and period set for training, documentation, evaluation and most importantly, content. This will result in an expanded scope of the food handler’s training, having them evaluated based on competence.

Suzette Reynolds, Medical Officer of Health of the City Public Health Department, said this is no easy task since the results of the survey show that there is much work to be done. However, the process can begin by engaging food handlers.

“What we can work on which is the first easier part is making the educative talks, the lectures or the seminars different, make it practical sessions. We already have ongoing lectures every day at the end of every food handler session so we could start by working in that arena which is not costly, we just need to put a bit more thought into what we deliver and how we deliver it,” the Medical Officer said.

The survey was set out to determine the quality of separation of functions (if foods whether raw or cooked are separated in the preparatory phase), food storage, cleaning and sanitation, personal hygiene and safety, air quality and overall safety of food served.

Principal Analytical Scientific Officer of the GA-FDD, Tandeka Barton noted that approximately six hundred million people in the world succumb to illnesses after consuming unsafe foods, hence the reason why such a survey is important. It informs of where the deficiency in food safety compliance lies and allows for oversight which leads to improvement of an entity’s practice.

“Of the samples taken from the 51 restaurants, only 15 per cent of those restaurants instituted adequate means of protecting ready to eat foods from cross contamination…. The use of gloves when handling food was also found to be inadequate in 12 per cent of the 20 per cent of restaurants that employed the use of gloves,” Barton noted.

Further, laboratory hand hygiene results supported the observation of improper and inadequate hand washing practices with a 49 per cent unsatisfactory result. Additionally, although there was the requisite infrastructure for cleaning and sanitising purposes, it was poorly utilised.

“Sanitation of utensils was observed to be haphazardly done, or if practiced, the sanitizer [bleach] was not mixed to the correct concentration… Disposal in the processing area was inadequate; flies and cockroaches were seen infesting bins at some food service establishments.”

These were just some of the summaries presented by the analytical officer. She explained that with these alarming results there is a great amount of work to be done.

It was noted that a survey of this nature should be done annually and follow-up conducted so that restaurants which were once surveyed will be evaluated for improvement.

The GA-FDD, in a recent release, had noted that the findings of this survey were presented to members of the National Food Safety and Control Committee.

“Members are expected to take the detailed results and findings to food service establishments that fall under their purview, where they are to either work collaboratively with proprietors to ensure compliance with sanitary regulations or take appropriate action in the very best interest of consumer protection and safety. Analytical Scientific Officers will continue to expand this exercise to other regions and municipalities,” the release noted.

By: Delicia Haynes.

Images: Jules Gibson.