Food Hygiene is a topic we only hear of when there is a problem with a branded product, or a food poisoning outbreak or a food supply problem. The recent report in the Oxford Mail – Oxford Mail – Food Scores highlighted the degree to which the food industry can be split on the issue of the hygiene inspection and scoring regime.
The role of the Environmental Health team is important and for consumers and an essential part of going out to eat, shopping and relaxing. For some businesses, the retailers, restaurants, chefs, kitchen managers, etc. the process seems to be a challenge.
As a small business, the overheads of maintaining a working and visible hygiene system is straight-forward. organisations must invest time and money, which can be an issue when it is a really busy period. Having said that the process is simple and recording details required is easy.
I designed my process (HACCP – Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points ) which defines the process by which I work. This starts with the ordering and delivery of ingredients, the preparation and cooking of ingredients, the packing and delivery to the customer or an event. I have created similar processes for several clients and the results are good.
Supporting the food hygiene process is a set of documents that represent the key elements of a food business. From ingredients being delivered to storage of food, to cooking and packing of food there is a form for every aspect. Then across the time frame is the other daily/weekly tasks such as cleaning, temperature recording and so on.
These forms represent how the business operates in a managed and controlled way. The data also shows that the business is aware of the issues on food safety and hygiene.
These areas are no different to doing the proper tasks for the accountant and taxman to assess the business. They are easy to do and with the right management in place, they can be done quickly and simply.
I cannot understand how a food business is unable to meet a score of 5 for food hygiene under the Environmental Health Scheme – Scores on the Doors. It is a matter of training and awareness within the people working in the organisation. The Food Safety and Hygiene Level 2 course is the base level everyone should be trained to.
As a food business I work with the local Environmental Health team during the visit and between the visits, they make to my kitchen for the regular inspection.
The recording of data in the period between visits is straightforward. The records are kept as far back as 2009 when I first registered with the local council. I have asked for advice as needed and maintained a positive relationship with the Environmental Health team, who actually exhibited at one of the festivals!
When I started the Wallingford Food Festival the challenge of ensuring a consistent view across all the food and drink producers were initially daunting. However, as I started the process of getting producers signed up to show most had a good understanding of the food hygiene regulations i.e. the Level Two Hygiene qualification, so the need for good hygiene practice at the festival was understood and Environmental Health team was extremely supportive of the festival. They wanted the producers to be supplying food produced in the right environment.
With events such a food festivals it is important to make sure that the visitors can be assured of safely processed and cooked food. I can only thank the Environmental Health team from South Oxfordshire District Council for their support of the Wallingford Food Festival.
An area that is related and relatively new to the hygiene factors is the issue of allergies. This is an area that has become contentious for some. This is where common sense should reign but it does not always seem that it does. The food retailer, restaurant etc. must communicate the allergy risks with anything on the menu and I agree that this is essential for the consumer. I also believe that the consumer must take responsibility to check the ingredients in any dish on a menu and to be sure that they are not going to eat anything that could cause them harm or even death.
Please, will both sides of the food equation make sure that this level of communication takes place! Train your serving teams, bar staff and kitchen brigades to know and understand the ingredients that are problems for consumers. Also, make it easy for consumers to ask for guidance about the food being served.
Consumers please make sure you know what allergies you have and to check every time you go out to eat or stop at a cafe and have that bit of cake with a coffee. It is your life we may be saving.
I spend much of my time planning and preparing menus, as well as cooking for my clients. The time taken to do this is as essential as the time taken to manage and carry out the food hygiene processes. Plus the score of 5 at my last three hygiene inspections makes me proud that I am doing the right thing for my clients and my clients know they are getting safe food served to them.
Food Hygiene is essential for all involved in the business of offering food and those consuming. I hope that all businesses will look at the process and implementation of food hygiene with a more positive outlook, ensuring staff are trained and delivering healthy well-cooked food to their customers. After all, it is why they are in business!