Protect travellers’ health through hygiene – Health Officer
…food handlers receive more trainingThe Port Health Unit of the Public Health Ministry, in its drive to safeguard the health of travellers utilising the Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA), has again called for good culinary hygiene to be practised during meal preparation.It has been seven years since this unit launched its campaign to ensure that meals at the airport are of international standard, and the unit is hoping to continue in this vein, since food safety concerns have been downsized over the years.Speaking during a recent Food Handlers Workshop at the CJIA, Port Health Officer (PHO) Bonita Mc Donald noted that the strongest line of defence against food-borne diseases is the health officers, who are stationed at the various ports of entry (PoE).“We perform a vitally important service to the consuming public, but the results of safety lie with the food handlers and suppliers,” she said.According to Mc Donald, food safety consciousness is aligned to personal hygiene, hence it is vital to practise tidiness at all times.The workshop participants were reminded that the human body and clothing can be major carriers of micro-organisms, thus food handlers must, at all times, maintain good hygiene and wear freshly-laundered outfits. Additionally, they must be free from all contagious diseases.“If we don’t do basic things, like brushing our teeth, showering, and being tidy, we will contaminate the food, then the customer will have a contaminated product. We want you to be selling a safe product to the customers, in this case to our departing and arriving travellers”, she said.She also said that wearing jewellery while handling food “is strictly prohibited” under the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations and those of the International Health Regulations (IHR).According to the FDA, food handlers must remove all unsecured jewellery and other objects that might fall into foods. They must also remove hand jewellery that cannot be adequately sanitised during periods in which food is being manipulated by hand.“Jewellery is a carrier of germs. That is why the law forbids food handlers from wearing any form, especially wedding bands”, the PHO explained.Under international rules, food safety guidelines also require handlers to avoid handling money while handling food. Chewing gum; smoking; eating and spitting in restricted areas; coughing or sneezing over food, are also forbidden while operating in a food establishment.During the workshop, the food handlers were admonished to wash their hands after using the washroom; touching parts of their bodies; sneezing, coughing, or using a tissue; smoking, chewing tobacco or gum. They are also required to wash their hands thoroughly after taking out the garbage, handling dirty dishes, and after handling raw foods.Globally, 80 per cent of deaths are blamed on unsafe food and food-borne diseases. While these remain significant public health problems, they also impede socio-economic growth and development by putting a severe strain on national economies, tourism and health-care systems.According to PAHO/WHO statistics, diarrhoea is the most common disease linked to food in the Americas, but Noro-virus, Campylobacter, E coli and non-typhoid salmonella are the most important food-safety concerns in the area.Guyana has, so far, evaded any outbreak of disease through the annual compulsory training and certification of food handlers vending at the CJIA.