It’s safe to say we all love our food, for the most part! We’d also like to believe that – for the most part- the foods we choose to buy and consume have been prepared and handled with the utmost care and safety. When we’re about to indulge, thought that our food was “prepared with love” puts us at ease. But, the reality of the matter is that’s unless the food you are about to eat was prepared by your own hands, one can only hope the food handler’s decisions and actions, including how the food is displayed or stored before purchase, will in no way affect your health and well being. Therefore educating and motivating food handlers to take care of all aspects of food safety is the key ensuring food is safe to eat.
Some of our readers have shared their stories of what they consider to be food safety issues experienced not only dining out in the last few weeks, but while performing tasks as “mundane” as grocery shopping, or simply purchasing tea. Here’s a short list compiled to share in this article.
Readers List: Food Handling Matters
- Bare thumbs hitting the broth in a warm bowl of soup as it’s brought to you.
- Cashiers at popular coffee chains take your money to cash you out, then proceed to prepare your tea – unwrapping the tea bag then using those same fingers that just handled money to place the tea bag in the cup.
- Witnessing a shopper pick up an unwrapped muffin in the “self-serve” baked goods section of a grocery store – drop it on the floor – pick it up and put it right back where she took it from – then proceed to pick out another muffin. A manager on staff was alerted.
- The tiny little fingers of cute babies grabbing the tips of baguettes as the strollers go by.
- It’s open season on unwrapped straws and utensils – the agony of trying to figure out which one is safe to grab.
- A baby cockroach underneath the food tray at an upscale mall.
- Slices of fruit being sampled at a farmers market with no tooth pics available – each person just going in with their bare hands.
- Tongs handled by the public sitting on top of food in their warming stations and on top of baked goods. Keep in mind that the handles of utensils used to serve out food should NEVER come in contact with the food. Serving utensils should be stored separate from food to prevent contamination.
- A wife watched the horror on her husband’s face as he pulled a long strand of hair out of his mouth.
- A restaurant with one person on staff handling cash, serving food, and running back to the kitchen if needed. “Are you kidding me?”
Any establishment with a “self-serve” policy, or that’s serving food on display not covered, run the risk of cross contamination. That muffin that fell on the floor is now contaminated. When it was picked up off the floor and put back, all other baked goods on that tray became contaminated. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that each year 1 in 8 Canadians become ill from the foods they eat.
The matter of food handling is not to be taken lightly. Great care should be taken with how food is prepared and stored/displayed for the public’s consumption and all food handlers should be certified according their Department of Public Health standards. Frequent hand washing is a key action for anyone handling food! Speaking from experience, when food inspectors visit a food vendor’s booth, it’s almost guaranteed that the number one thing they’ll look for is a hand wash station. This is just the tip of the iceberg. To handle food for public consumption within the province of Ontario you must have learned about these things: proper hygiene; causes of food borne illnesses; proper food storage; proper receiving and delivery of food; pest control; public health legislation; time-temperature control; food safety management system; cleaning and sanitizing; displaying, serving, discarding, and cross-contamination prevention. This is just the beginning of the journey to obtain food handler certification.
Thanks to our readers for sharing their stories to contribute to this article. Consumers can help protect themselves and their families by following safe food handling practices at home and in public. It starts with you!
I’m Eartha Lowe for Cooking Green Goodness Magazine. Let’s keep in touch! You can also find us on:
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