If you’ve never experienced food poisoning personally…well, consider yourself lucky! According to the Food Standards Agency, approximately 500,000 cases are reported every year, though it is estimated that tens of thousands more go unreported. Anyone who’s ever suffered food poisoning will know that to do so is to develop an immediate and lifelong respect for the importance of its prevention.
Suffice to say, it is simply horrific.
What’s also troubling is the way in which so many cases of food poisoning tend to be attributed back to the workplace. When it comes to workplace kitchens, canteens and dining areas in general, people are often far too quick to allow their usual high food hygiene standards to slip. Presumably under the assumption that it is someone else’s responsibility to take care of such things.
So with this in mind, what follows is a brief rundown of the most important guidelines from the NHS, when it comes to the prevention of food poisoning in the workplace:
Wash your hands
Unless you get well and truly carried away, there’s generally no such thing as washing your hands too often. In any case, it is essential to wash and dry hands thoroughly, both before handling food and after handling anything raw. And as always, hands should be washed after using the bathroom, touching bins, sneezing, blowing your nose etc.
While most people instinctively wash worktops after using them, the NHS also strongly recommends wiping them down thoroughly before using them. The reason being that in shared food preparation environments in particular, you have no idea whether the person before you bothered to do so.
Dishcloths and tea towels can be quite revolting, when it comes to their ability to harbour exactly the kinds of germs and bacteria that can cause food poisoning. As such, they should be washed thoroughly and allowed to fully dry on a regular basis – never given the opportunity to sit around damp.
Use separate chopping boards
As is the case in all professional food service environments, it is a good idea to get into the habit of using separate chopping boards for things that are cooked and others that are raw.
Keep raw meat separate
For obvious reasons, raw meat should be kept a safe distance from anything that isn’t going to be thoroughly cooked before eating. The reason being that should any dangerous bacteria find its way from the raw meat onto the other items, it will not then go through the same cooking process, which would usually neutralise the risk.
Keep your fridge below 5C
The temperature of all refrigerators around the workplace should be checked on a daily basis, in order to ensure that they are kept below 5° C. Any higher than this and the bugs responsible for food poisoning may begin to grow and develop.
Use leftovers quickly
Last but not least, it’s important to enforce a policy whereby leftover food cannot be kept in communal refrigerators and storage spaces for too long. Should it begin to develop any kind of dangerous bacteria due to its expiration, it could pose a direct threat to all other items and ingredients around it.