Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKNIS) — The Food Safety Unit of the Environmental Health Department was positioned as lead agency for this year’s World Health Day activities when this year’s theme was declared as “Food Safety.”
Senior Environmental Health Officer Glenville Leader, with responsibility for food safety, said that the activities for the week were well executed and included media-related events such as the global airing of a World Health Organisation food safety video, as well as the airing of the Five Keys to Food Safety, which are the most important things to be considered to ensure food is safe for consumption.
Mr. Leader explained that the first key to food safety was a simple yet critical one.
“Keep clean,” he emphasized noting the importance of personal hygiene as well. “We talking about how it is important for you to keep the establishment clean, keep your hands clean when you go to the bathroom. If you handled raw food before you go to processed and cooked food – you should wash your hands, if you handled money – you should wash your hands. So ensure the general cleanliness of the establishment including oneself. It is very important because there are a number of diseases that can spread from the person to the food.”
The Senior Environmental Officer said that the other keys were: separate raw and cooked food, cook food to the correct internal temperature, after cooking – keep food at a safe temperature and use safe, clean, potable water.
The food handler’s clinic is a continuous task carried out by his unit to ensure that vendors, and food establishments such as restaurants and hotels have safe food practices.
“We give them [people attending the clinics] information pertaining to food, how they should prepare food, how they should store food. They also get an exam in which they have to write so that we can access their knowledge in terms of food safety. So we put them in groups, so that they can discuss, giving them about 15 questionnaires and they discuss it as a group and then we discuss it collectively. So it is important for that to happen and we go through all of the things that are necessary to keep food safe.”
Identifying food that is contaminated is another skill that persons attending the training sessions have to acquire. As such, they are given food samples and told to identify what is wrong.
Once the training requirements are met, the successful applicant then has to go to the doctor in order to receive a medical certificate.
This is presented to the environmental health department along with two photos, one of which is placed on the food handlers’ permit.
Mr. Leader noted that another activity traditionally carried out by his unit are spot checks. He explained that these are surprise visits that are paid to street vendors, hotels and restaurants. Steps taken by the Environmental Health Department have ranged from warnings given to owners or managers and advice given on how to remove infectious agents and make the establishment’s food safe to the temporary closing of the place of business.