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A menu for stopping food-borne diseases

From the moment foodstuffs arrive at an aged-care facility to the time they are consumed, these essentials of life can be vectors for a variety of nasties – viruses, bacteria, protozoa and helminths, among others. Every year, the World Health Organization estimates 600 million people fall ill due to food-borne diseases, with 420,000 dying as a result.

Andrew Thomson is the director of Think ST Solutions, a food safety publications, consultancy and training organisation based in Adelaide. We asked Thomson to outline some real-life tips providers can enact to provide safe, clean, disease-free food.

Deliveries

When food is delivered, make a few checks after looking at its texture and appearance. Does it look fresh? Is it supposed to be frozen but has started to thaw? Do you see evidence of mice, insects or other pests? Is the food properly packaged or is the packaging damaged? Has the food reached the ‘best before’ date? Is it at the temperature it is supposed to be? If you have any concerns about the quality, safety or suitability of the food, it is better not to accept it.

Preparation

Food handlers and clinical staff should always wash their hands well under running water using soap, and dry thoroughly, before handling food.

Reheating

Food needs to be reheated to a minimum of 75 degrees for two minutes to destroy any bacteria or viruses that might be present. Frozen food needs to be completely thawed before reheating. Extra care must be taken when reheating food in a microwave to ensure that it is heated evenly, as bacteria can survive in portions of poorly heated food.

Preventing cross-contamination

Bacteria love it when tongs, knives, chopping boards, meat slicers and preparation benches aren’t cleaned properly. Clean equipment after each process. When storing food in the cool room or refrigerator, make sure raw meat can’t drip onto cooked food below. Do not pour dirty water from washing the floor down the cleaner’s sink, so that floor washing water is not emptied down the sink where you wash vegetables or dishes.

Cooling

Food will cool faster in smaller, shallow containers. It needs to drop from 60 degrees to 21 degrees in two hours, and then from 21 degrees to 5 degrees in a further four hours.

Staff training

A well-trained and knowledgeable staff member is not only the best insurance for a healthy operation, but should also have information and skills that allow them to play a greater role. This type of training raises the status of the job, minimises serious incidents, and tends to reduce staff turnover because workers feel they are part of something important and are recognised for their contribution.

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