Working within hospitality and catering is a rewarding and lucrative career; allowing you to get creative with your own delicious dishes and share them with the world. But, like with any business, catering is built upon a few important principles. One of the most important of these is food hygiene.
Food hygiene is a growing priority within the hospitality and catering industries, having been gaining more and more attention from the media and governing bodies. Just last month, it was made compulsory for all food outlets in Wales to display their food hygiene ratings in their premises. The decision to display them was made in order to allow the consumer to make a more informed decision about where they chose to eat out.
The ratings are assigned by the Food Standards Agency, based on random inspections. They consider how food is prepared, stored and cooked, as well as the overall condition of the premises. Whilst the new rule is only currently in force in Wales, as concerns over hygiene and public safety grow, there is always the chance it could spread to the wider UK, and it’s something that all restaurants should be one step ahead of.
Across the world, millions of people fall ill as a result of food-borne illnesses every year, and these illnesses are only increasing. But there are a few simple steps which those responsible for preparing food can take to improve the situation. Perhaps the most basic of these is hand washing. We all know to wash our hands when preparing food, but it seems some people are still not realising how crucial it is.
It is estimated that around 40% of all food-borne outbreaks are the result of poor hand washing and cross-contamination – things that could easily be prevented.
A wide range of harmful and potentially fatal illnesses can be spread through food, and it’s important that all of those working in the catering industry have an understanding of them. RGS Hygiene and Healthcare show you the most common food-borne diseases to be aware of.
- Salmonella – The most well-known of all food-borne illnesses, the word salmonella is often used synonymously with food poisoning. It is commonly found in raw eggs and poultry, and is more dangerous for vulnerable groups, such as the very young and the elderly. Its symptoms include cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. The biggest causes of salmonella are poorly cooked meat and eggs, as well as food handlers not washing their hands properly after visiting the toilet (see our previous statistic). If you have had salmonella, the bacteria can remain in your faeces and urine for over a year after, so proper hand washing is vital.
- MRSA – MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a ‘super strain’ of Staphylococcus aureus (SA). Around 25% of the population carry the type of bacteria that causes SA on their skin without even being aware with it. Touching their skin and then continuing to prepare food can cause that bacteria to spread.
The problem is that MRSA, the super strain which can develop from it, is resistant to antibiotics. It can be extremely harmful, leading to lung infections, heart problems and blood poisoning. It has been known to be fatal.
- E-Coli – E-Coli is short for Escherichia Coli, and refers to a group of bacteria, some of which can cause cramping, diarrhoea, sickness, nausea and fever. It can be extremely unpleasant, and is easily spread through food. It can often affect the outside of beef, which isn’t usually a problem when the meat is cooked whole. However, when the meat is ground into mincemeat, this can cause the entire meat to become contaminated, so this little bacterium is why ground and minced meat should always be cooked well.
- Campylobacteriosis – A common food-borne illness, campylobacteriosis causes similar symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. In more vulnerable people, it can spread to the blood stream and become life threatening. It can be found in the gut of turkeys and chickens, but can be spread through a number of channels, including from common pets and dogs in the home.
These are just a few of the many problems which can result from poor hygiene; If you work with food, whether it’s in a grand hotel or a small catering business, it is crucial to take food hygiene and safety seriously to ensure your business’s success and your customers’ wellbeing.