US: Restaurant cleanliness key to safe food
Posted: May 6th, 2009 - 10:48am
With today's trend away from home-cooked meals, it is obvious that millions of Americans are eating out or picking up food to consume at home, and the numbers are climbing. Because our very health is at stake, that means we're trusting others who prepare our food to be as clean in their kitchens as we are at home.
When dining outside the home, we expect our food to be safe. We assume that it is prepared in clean surroundings by workers who are well groomed. Even though many restaurants strive for these goals and public health laws are in place, there is much room for improvement.
Foodborne illness, any human disease carried or transmitted by food, can impact a business in many ways. It can cause customers to stop patronizing a business, which hurts the bottom line. It can result in negative publicity and loss of prestige and reputation for the restaurant, lawsuits, increased insurance premiums and employee morale problems.
National Restaurant Association figures show that a foodborne-illness outbreak can cost an establishment thousands of dollars. A worse case scenario is restaurant closure.
Good personal hygiene by food service workers is fundamental and cannot be overemphasized. Simply washing hands with soap and warm water can prevent many foodborne illnesses. Employees who sneeze or cough on or near food certainly catches your attention when you are dining out or picking up food.
The thought of employees touching or scratching sores, cuts or boils and then touching food is not only unappetizing to imagine, but unhealthy. When servers carry trays of food on their shoulders, there is an opportunity for uncovered food to come into contact with their hair, another avenue for contamination.
The hepatitis A virus outbreak that occurred several years ago can happen again and can happen anywhere.
Connie Aclin is Extension educator with the LSU AgCenter.