Restaurants are no strangers to cleanliness

July 2, 2020

For many, all this discussion of gloves, plastic shields, sanitizing liquids, etc., is a brand-new thing. “Uncharted territory,” they scream. Well, not so fast. Among the people who have been made to suffer financially and emotionally because of this virus scare are those who know the most about keeping things clean. And yes, I’m talking about properly run restaurants. And the great majority of our eateries in the Cape Region fall into that category.

Few things annoy me more than social media drivel that questions the safety of restaurant food - especially takeout food - during this time. The concept of washing hands, sanitizing surfaces, and being aware of what you touch is and always has been an everyday concern for well-run eateries. In fact, sanitation is a front-burner concern for any restaurant that wants to stay in business.

Volumes of regulations exist that grew out of real-life encounters with foodborne pathogens. From the moment a seed is planted or an animal is born (or hatched), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points are monitored to minimize the risk of contamination. Educational programs such as ServSafe (mandatory for kitchen management personnel) address specific situations where food safety could be threatened by temperature, cross-contamination (e.g., between raw meats and “ready to eat” items like lettuce) and exposure to anything that could harbor germs. As an interesting aside, the Centers for Disease Control continues to insist that there is currently no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 through eating food.

As with anything scientific that affects our daily well-being, ignorance can be rampant. For example, I hear people complain that the person preparing their food wasn’t wearing gloves. Seems like a major offense, but most state health inspectors maintain that gloves can give workers a false sense of security when handling non-food items such as money, doorknobs, cans, boxes, etc.

The next time you order from a carryout, a truck or a stand, watch the preparer’s hands. Does he or she handle your money and make change wearing the same gloves that touched your burger? If they’re not changed after touching something other than food, gloves actually increase the possibility of pathogen transmission. Frequent hand washing has proven infinitely more effective than the charade of wearing gloves.

Happily, all this attention to science is working, and chances are very good that all your restaurant experiences - takeout and otherwise - will be non-toxic.

Furthermore, technical advances and input from the food industry have given rise to updated protocols designed to detect, identify and prevent food-safety problems.

It’s no secret that customers’ sense of well-being is vital to success in the hospitality business. To that end, guests don’t hear much about food safety. But for the eateries that want to survive, it’s their No. 1 priority.

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