ating together with family or friends at canteen, cafeteria, restaurant or hawker stall can be a joyful experience. However food poisoning can ruin all this good moment by making you sick. In severe cases, food poisoning can bring life-threatening consequences and even death. Hence ensuring food safety when eating out is important, particularly to pregnant women, toddler and young children, elderly, and those who are sick and/or having poor immunity. The first measure to ensure food safety is to choose a right place to dine in. The checklist below will help you in decision making:-
Food premise must be clean and well-maintained
- Shall be located away from the road and sources of contamination including aeration ponds, septic tanks, and waste disposal sites
- Has no stray animals, flies, dust, cockroaches and rats
- Has proper ventilation
- Has clean and safe water supply, electricity, proper drainage and waste disposal facilities
- Provides proper and clean eating utensils, dining tables and chairs
- Has proper storage facilities for raw ingredients or uncooked food
Food handler must be clean and responsible
- With clean and proper attire- wearing apron and head cover
- Has clean, short and well-trimmed hair and nails
- Uses tongs, spoons or forks while serving foods. Alternatively gloves can be used and should be changed frequently especially if the gloves get ripped, torn or contaminated.
- Practices proper hand-washing after going to toilet, before food preparation, and after handling raw ingredients or uncooked food
- Uses separated clothes to wipe hands, eating utensils and tables
- Does not smoke, chew betel leaves, eat or drink while handling food
- Does not cough, sneeze, split in the direction of food
- Does not stack plates or saucers while serving food
Food must be prepared and served appropriately
- Cooked food must be cooked thoroughly especially meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood. Juices of cooked meat and poultry must be clear instead of pink.
- Cooked, ready-to-eat food is properly covered at all time
- Cooked food must not be left at room temperature for more than 2 hours
- Hot food must be served piping hot (60°C and above)
- Food that is consumed cold must be refrigerated below 5°C and should be cold when you eat it
- Cooked food must be separated from raw, unprepared foods especially meat, poultry, and seafood. Same goes to hot and cold foods as well as utensils and equipment for handling these foods.
- For takeaway food: It should be served in appropriate container and at appropriate temperature. It should be consumed within a few hours or kept in the refrigerator immediately and consumed within a couple of days. Reheat the food until steaming hot (60°C and above) prior to consumption.
- Handling leftover or doggy bags: if the food has been stayed at room temperature more than 2 hours, it should be tossed because it may have high chances of causing food poisoning. Otherwise you can refer to the ways of handling takeaway food mentioned above.
By Ng Kar Foo, Corporate Dietitian at EGOnutritions Sdn. Bhd.
- Ministry of Health Malaysia. ‘Garis Panduan Kebersihan Untuk Kedai Makan dan Restoran’ 2001.
- Food Hygiene Regulations 2009
- World Health Organisation. Five Keys to Safer Food Manual 2006.