Twelve establishments receive food handlers' permits

Kaieteur News
March 2, 2007

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Twelve eating establishments are now better equipped in the skills of reducing the probability of incidences of food-borne illnesses during the upcoming Cricket World Cup (CWC).

Yesterday the entities received food handlers' permits, as evidence of completion of training in this regard.

The training which began in January was facilitated for 16 hours through a collaborative venture of the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department, the Mayor and City Council and the regional environmental health departments.

Director of the Food and Drug Department Marilyn Collins explained that yesterday's recipients of the permits represent only the first batch of persons to be trained.

According to Collins, some 75 eating places have been targeted, involving more than 1500 food handlers throughout the country.

She posited that the training is being facilitated to food handlers of hotels, restaurants, snackettes as well as other eating houses in an effort to upgrade the quality and safety of the foods offered by these facilities. Training to most of these entities has been completed, according to Collins

The establishments which received permits are: Exotic Flavour Café & Catering Services, Royal Castle , Cara Lodge & Suites, Supreme Snacks, Salt & Pepper, Oval Kitchen, White Castle Fish Shop, KFC, Maggie's Catering, El Dorado Inn, Hotel Tower and Buddy's Restaurant.

Collins explained that over the period of training, food handlers were exposed to classroom lectures, demonstrations, workgroup sessions and written and practical assessments.

She added that the participants were also periodically monitored at their worksites during inspections.

Collins however posited that while the short term goal is food safety during the upcoming international event, the training will continue beyond. She stressed that such training is one of the activities on the work plan but was just intensified.

She made the point that in the past, emphasis was on medical examinations to ensure fitness of the food handlers.

“No we want to look at there practices, because it's not the health of the food handlers but rather their practices that will impact on food”

Commenting on the course, Collins said the microscope was on procedures of contamination which include thawing, preparation and storage, which she said is a major problem locally.

“We've seen cases where food is left ambient way beyond the expected two hours… so we've looked at procedures including design and layout of the establishment itself so that it cannot in any way contaminate food.”

She noted that with the expected influx of tourists to the country, many establishments are stocking up on perishable foods. As such the storage capacity was examined.

Meanwhile, Chief Meat and Food Inspector Andrew Garnett relayed that during the exercise attention was focused on the food storage and preparation areas to ensure that the food being offered for sale is fit for human consumption.

Some common unsafe practices which were discovered, for example rather than tongs, persons used their hands in handling food. Food protective clothing was also found to be in breach.

According to Garnett, the training and inspection practices also targets Chinese restaurants, in acknowledgment of the need to improve food handling practices at such entities.

He noted that in their case, special seminars have to be held since an interpreter has to be used.

Garnett lamented that unfortunately the department has not been able to do much work with the itinerant vendors because of their nomadic nature.

However, a number of them are registered in that they have their medical examination cards and undergo screening every six months.

While many of them are school vendors he noted that there are a few that operate at night in the city who the department would have liked to include in their training.

“They are so nomadic it's hard to keep tabs on them. However we are still hopeful that some amount of training can be done with them.”

Noting the possible risk involved in tourists patronising these vendors, Garnett emphasised that extensive public awareness activities are being conducted to sensitise persons to purchase only from approved eating houses.

Currently, the official noted, persuasive measures are being used to effect change, but if proprietors insist on being delinquent, sanctions will be imposed.

The permits were presented by City Mayor Hamilton Green at City Hall.