What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is where the body’s immune system mistakenly thinks that the proteins in certain foods are a threat. As a defence mechanism, chemicals are released in an attempt to fight off this threat, and it is how the body reacts to the release of these chemicals that creates the symptoms associated with food allergies.

Continue reading “What is a food allergy?”

Is My Basic Food Hygiene Certificate Valid?

Is My Basic Food Hygiene Certificate Valid?

In 2006, in response to a change in European Law, the Basic Food Hygiene Certificate, which had previously only been a level one qualification, was updated and expanded.  The change in EU law made it mandatory for all UK premises where food was handled to have in place a ‘Food Safety Management System’.  This meant industry-wide changes to all existing food handling guidelines. Due to the scope of the changes it was feared that the Basic Food Hygiene Certificate was simply too basic to cope with the new more complex food safety law.

To ensure that all staff continued to operate safely, in addition to being a safeguard against court cases related to food poisoning as a result of a lack of due diligence, the course was expanded to include three levels of accreditation.  The course has been split into three sectors, according to the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for Food Safety, ensuring that all staff receive training relevant to their work sector, that being either manufacturing, catering or retail. Continue reading “Is My Basic Food Hygiene Certificate Valid?”

Do we really know our high risk foods? (Part 3)

We have previously looked at some of the foods that people consider high risk when it comes to safety and preparation. However, there are other high risk foods that haven’t quite earned the same reputation in the public mind-set even though they share that ‘high risk’ status with the likes of eggs, chicken and shellfish.

Take rice, couscous and pasta, for instance. These starchy foods have a high content of moisture. So do lots of ready meals and cooked meats. It’s not widely known that reheating all of these foods necessarily involves certain risks – the same level of risk we so readily attach to chicken, eggs and shellfish.

It’s recently been suggested that some of the more high profile food poisoning outbreaks of recent times were caused by the likes of beansprouts, celery, watercress and curry leaves – not the sorts of foods we think of as being dangerous.

The truth is that they aren’t dangerous in and of themselves. It’s all a question of preparing them properly. This takes the danger out of it completely – provided we can all be sure that standards are upheld when it comes to storage, logistics and the rest. Fortunately, food safety standards are something we can always educate people about.

Do we really know our high risk foods? (Part 2)

The last article introduced the idea that there are some foods we trust and some we take care with because of social, scientific and historical factors. It’s relatively easy to think of a couple of examples of foods we don’t trust. Take chicken, for instance, or eggs (which comes first is still a matter for debate.)

These two very popular ingredients are joined on the list of high risk foods by shellfish. Members of the public are really wary about these foods and some choose never to eat them just in case. Others only eat them at home where they can be absolutely certain that they have been prepared properly. What they’re frightened of is salmonella.

Food poisoning caused by salmonella or any other bacteria is very unpleasant and can be extremely dangerous. What people don’t necessarily realise is that all foods are potential poisoners if they are not stored, prepared and cooked in the right way.

Cases of salmonella associated with eggs have dropped significantly since the British Lion standard came into effect and stringent criteria in food safety regulations make sure underperforming restaurants, takeaways and cafes are prevented from serving customers.

Now, the high risk list has many more foods on it than eggs, shellfish and chicken and some of them might surprise us. This is the subject of Part 3 in this series of articles.

Do we really know our high risk foods? (Part 1)

Food safety is something that ought to come under the category of essential knowledge. We all need to know what foods are good for us and what foods are bad for us in order to live healthy lives. However, it’s also about knowing exactly how to prepare certain foods to stay safe and avoid illness. This kind of knowledge isn’t innate. It’s something we have to learn from the people around us.

It’s interesting that we think of some foods as being especially dodgy and others as relatively safe, even though the science may suggest that there’s not much difference between the two.

Attitudes to food safety are often determined by social context – old wives’ tales, representation in the media, hearsay, apocryphal ‘facts’ and scientific studies. The latter are made more or less trustworthy depending on how they are funded, so naturally there’s some confusion as to how we ought to treat this or that ingredient.

This topic is relevant to everyone because we’re responsible for our own health and wellbeing and that of our dependants. However, it’s possibly even more relevant for businesses that provide food because of the sheer number of people they serve. Poor food safety is enough to shut businesses down permanently.

In the following articles, we’ll look at some of the foods we trust and some of those we don’t in more detail.

The Gloves Are On? Should Chefs Wear Disposable Gloves?

This January (2014) saw a new law come into effect in the state of California requiring all chefs to wear single-use disposable gloves when preparing ready-to-eat meals.  Please note this article is now 3 years old.  Newer information can be found at the bottom of this post.

Restaurants and food companies will have six months to implement the change.

And it doesn’t simply affect chefs – bartenders, too, have to wear gloves to prepare drinks, as they cannot touch ice, fruit garnishes, or anything else that goes in the glass.

Should all chefs have to wear gloves when preparing food?

How would we feel if these changes were implemented in the UK?

In the UK current regulations stipulate that it’s not a requirement to wear gloves when preparing food. However, gloves may be worn provided they are kept clean and are changed regularly after handling raw foods.

It’s a requirement that all food handlers maintain excellent standards of personal hygiene, which means they’re expected to wash their hands frequently. They should always wear gloves if they have a cut or sore on their hands.

Advantages of Wearing Gloves

One pro is that gloves act as a barrier for germs so they prevent the spread of food poisoning pathogens, and various strains of cold and flu viruses, making them essential in preventing food poisoning outbreaks. They also protect food from being contaminated by dirty fingernails, or from rings dropping off, for instance.

Fish preparationAn area where gloves are especially useful is the preparation of raw fish items, such as sushi. If a chef has been preparing shellfish sushi, then takes an order for a customer who’s allergic to shellfish, they can change gloves and feel confident that their customer is safe from harm.

Chefs wearing gloves also contributes to a positive customer perception regarding the cleanliness of an establishment or business.

Disadvantages of Wearing Gloves

Hand washingGloves can cause a false sense of cleanliness. The outside of a glove is just as likely to be contaminated as a bare hand, so they must be disposed of whenever a food handler would normally wash their hands. However, it’s more likely a food handler would notice juices on their bare hands than on the surface of a glove, which means they might not notice when they need to change them.

Gloves must be changed on a regular basis, as the warm, moist conditions can promote the multiplication of bacteria and act as a breeding ground for germs.

Gloves cause an additional hazard, as they can be punctured or torn, causing small pieces of glove to fall unseen into food.

Finally, a food handler who’s using gloves properly will use lots of disposable gloves, which is a waste of valuable resources and can slow down food preparation.

The Customer Viewpoint

It’s believed that customers are likely to feel more confident if their food is prepared by somebody wearing gloves. However, customer reaction to the new law has been generally negative, with customers commenting:

“This is Nanny-Stateism at its worst!” and, “This is large scale, blind regulation based on pandering to fear, not fact.”

In addition, many commented on the irony of LA banning the use of plastic bags for environmental reasons, only to introduce single-use disposable gloves for food preparation.

Whether or not a food handler wears gloves when preparing food, it’s of paramount importance that they follow proper food safety regulations, and either wash their hands regularly or change gloves frequently, ensuring they wash their hands properly with each change.

How do you feel about these changes?
Chef’s, bartenders, restaurateurs, diners – we would like to know your thoughts.

For those looking to bring their food safety skills up to date check out some of TutorCare’s Food Safety Training courses that are now available online.  Alternatively if you work in the Restaurant sector have a look at our latest blog post relating to Food Safety In Restaurants.  Updated for 2017.