If you are an ‘insider’, I mean a hotel
professional, the signage on the left or its alternative, ‘OUT OF BOUNDS’ or even more intimidating, ‘DUTY KITCHEN STAFF ONLY’ at the door of a hotel kitchen is not new to you.
It reminds employees and visitors of the hotel’s policy and prevents ordinary people like you and I, from casually strolling into the kitchen; the heart and soul of food-service operations. In fact, you may be among the many that respect and observe the notice. However, there are some who ignore the signage and face the wrath of kitchen personnel.
Kitchen staffs fail to realize a bit too late that they contribute to the presence of a third group I wish to refer to here as ‘intruders’. I am making reference to the cockroaches, mice and rats, flies and their likes which go by the family name, PESTS! There are also micro-organisms to contend with.
In Ghana, most hotels do not have purchasing agents. The Hotel Manager, the Chef, an assistant or other kitchen personnel serves as the buyer of the products used in the kitchen. Most of the foodstuffs are bought from open markets which are in unsanitary conditions. Some of these pests and micro-organisms are therefore ‘imported’ into the kitchens.
It is expected that a hotel kitchen has a receiving dock to formally receive the products irrespective of who does its purchasing. I am afraid most hotels, being small in their operations, bring the purchased items right into the kitchen. We ‘shoot ourselves in the foot’ by allowing anyone to handle the freshly purchased products with no regards to applying hygienic practices from receiving through the storage process.
First, in the absence of receiving docks, products are received /delivered with no consciousness of how close this activity is to the trash bin. Often, there are no tables or stands to place items on, so the habit of placing foodstuffs on floors continues unabated. There are also no sinks to clean the products. The intruders therefore enter the kitchen with glee.
In respect to storage practices, personnel seem to be restrained by inadequate and/or inappropriate storage equipment and are unable to follow best practice. Placement of fish, chicken and various meats together in the freezer are rampant. They also wrongfully assume that a freezer heavily built up with frost is functioning very well.
Rodents contaminate along access routes with urine, droppings and filth picked up from the environment; cockroaches defecate along their pathways and frequently expel saliva on surfaces to ‘taste’ their environment. Flies feed on fecal matter, garbage, rotting materials as well as stored and processed foods that will be present around kitchens and they regularly move between the contaminated food sources and clean areas, carrying contaminated filth on their bodies as well as microorganisms internally. You do not want ANY of THESE in your kitchens!
When it comes to micro-organisms (bacteria, parasitic worms, fungi and viruses), did you know that sponges, dishcloths and scrubbing brushes are breeding grounds for bacteria, the most common? Bacteria feed on the foods that are washed down the drain and what is left on dishes.
Sometimes staffs hide food with the intention of eating it later. They forget the food and it serves as a feast for these ‘intruders’.
The control of rodents involves eliminating their hideouts in and around the facility and preventing access to food, water and shelter. I am not certain if this ‘platform’ is adequate to educate kitchen personnel to clean foods before they are brought into the kitchen. There may be many other points of entry to the kitchen such as cracks, vents, pipes, cabling, drains, doorways and windows, screens, where measures can be taken to prevent access.
Good sanitation practices to control cockroaches also involve cleaning practices which eliminate food residues quickly and deny them food supply. Waste should not be kept at food production areas, drains must be maintained to prevent accumulation of food debris and means of access and shelter should be observed and eliminated and garbage containers should be kept away from the food storage and processing areas, emptied and cleaned frequently.The application of standard hygiene practices are particularly important for controlling flies to reduce the attractive odors, feeding material and breeding sites for them.
Even if our ‘intruders’ were able to read the restraining notices of entry, they will not care two hoots! Kitchen staff must therefore become more conscientious and follow best practice even in the smallest operations.
This article is a wake-up call to urge my colleague professionals in the kitchen to tackle these ‘intruders’ as they would the human counterparts who have no business coming to their kitchens.