MY STORY: Redefining ‘clean’ for hotels – Part 2 Cont.

by Egi Gaisie

My story: Food hygiene from farm to fork cont.

Guests expect safe food service and wholesome foods at food and beverage outlets and other hospitality facilities.

Many food service operators are not in control of how food commodities are handled until the food commodities arrive on their premises. It is disturbing, therefore, to see and hear about many facilities allowing personnel untrained in food safety to perform the receiving function of deliveries of the food items purchased by their own personnel or delivered by suppliers. It is  much more disturbing when trained cooks who should know better tend to be casual in handling meats, fish, dairy and other easily perishable products/goods!

Proper receiving facilities are essential to the maintenance of an establishment’s sanitation. Most of our facilities don’t buy in bulk and so do not see the need for a receiving dock. There is therefore the tendency for food commodities bought from whatever source to be taken right into kitchens and sometimes right into storage without proper cleaning. Consider the basic operating flow of activities in food and beverage operations; purchasing, receiving, storing, issuing, preparing, cooking, holding, serving and cleaning and maintenance; people are involved in each of these activities; thus the principle, FOOD SAFETY STARTS WITH YOU ! This should make it mandatory for all food production and food service personnel to observe personal hygiene rules. What do we see? Many people handling food fail to understand, accept or are just not sensitive to this basic truth!

Foods get contaminated when harmful microbes and foreign substances are found in them. Contaminants are spread through air, water, equipment, spoilage, handling procedures, packing materials and contact with humans. We are not always in control, I know. However, food handlers trained in food safety are expected to have a good understanding of this. They can therefore protect food from contamination; bringing to the fore the principle, PROFESSIONALS PREVENT CONTAMINATION!

I did observe once, a customer using an extra table napkin on his table at a restaurant to sneeze in. It may not have been intentional. Extra table accessories should be removed when a customer is seated at a laid table. The new norm adopted by establishments to avoid presetting tables during the covid-19 pandemic period should be maintained. There are many other unhygienic habits practiced by some customers. It is up to food service personnel to watch out and help prevent contamination even by customers.

STORE SMART is the next principle to consider if we must have safe foods. I don’t think we should have problems with this. Except for our large hotel facilities, most food and beverage outlets/establishments don’t hold large inventories. Some only go marketing/shopping only when reservations for functions or the number of expected guests in the hotel are confirmed. Nonetheless, however little the quantity of food in storage, there’s need to have them stored in the right condition, and items organized in a way to practice FIFO (first in first out) while also avoiding cross-contamination.

Everyone is at risk of foodborne illness. I felt this burden of responsibility when as part of my uniform as a counter food service assistant in a cafeteria and later as a cook in a fine dining restaurant, my uniforms came with a thermometer! I became sensitive to TEND TO TIME AND TEMPERATURE!

I observed that temperatures were expected to be taken at all steps in the food flow; receiving, storing, preparing, cooking, transporting, and serving. At the food production or kitchen environment, microbes are in general the most wanted enemy. Many people are not able to relate temperature to the growth of bacteria; the danger zone. Refer image above. Fortunately, most of the microbes grow slowly at refrigerator temperatures and they can be also eliminated or killed if brought up to higher temperatures.

I embraced the continuous monitoring and controlling of the temperature of foods. I appreciated serving hot foods on warm plates. It is considered “good cooking practice”, to ensure the food remains warm. I must confess I have rarely seen this in practice here, particularly now that meals are presented buffet style during breakfast and lunch. Do we have plate warmers in our system?                        

In relating cleanliness to food and food environments, the focus has been on food safety. All food handlers are responsible in ensuring wholesome food for the general public. They are to be guided by the following principles discussed so far:

  • Food safety starts with you
  • Professionals prevent contamination
  • Store smart
  • Tend to time and temperature

As a customer, you too can contribute to food safety. Follow me on the concluding part of cleanliness in food and beverage environments as I bring this article to a conclusion next week.

Solution to last week’s riddle

  1. You cut me up, you chop me up, you dice me up and you cry over me. What am I? ONION
  2. What kind of vegetable do people look forward to getting every month? CELERY(Salary)
  3. I am a bell yet you can’t ring me. I sound hot but am not. (BELL PEPPERS)

Riddle for the week:

Since we are still talking about foods try your hand on the following food riddles:

  1. The rabbit became rich when he found 24 of what?
  2. What can be opened but cannot be closed?
  3. The leaves are on the fruit, the fruit on the leaves. What is it?

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