With the climax of the 2015 Crop Over Festival approaching this weekend, the Environmental Health Department in the Ministry of Health is advising food handlers and vendors that food safety must be their number one priority as they do business with the public.

In preparation for the weekend festivities, the Environmental Health Department at the Branford Taitt Polyclinic held a food safety health expo from July 20 to 24, specifically targeting new and established vendors who will be offering their wares for sale at the various events.

The expo comprised lectures, discussions and demonstrations on food safety.??Acting Chief Environmental Health Officer, Desmond King, explained that these sessions were designed primarily to build or increase capacity in the food handling industry.

He revealed that since 2006, the Environmental Health Department had trained more than 9,000 food handlers in its certified food safety courses and was vigilant in supervising and monitoring national events such as the Crop Over Festival, where food was offered for sale.

It was mandatory, he said, for all food vendors at the Crop Over activities to have a temporary restaurant permit and for all food handlers to obtain a valid medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner.??

Mr. King said that the Environmental Health Department took its responsibility very seriously since there were more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoeal illnesses to various forms of cancer, which were associated with food consumption.

???All of us eat to survive. However, food can serve as a vehicle, if not handled and prepared satisfactorily, for harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals, which when consumed in potent quantities, may result in illness.?????

He advised food handlers to keep themselves and their surroundings clean, and to make sure that they separate raw and cooked food to prevent cross-contamination. He noted that raw food, especially poultry and seafood, could contain dangerous micro-organisms which might be transferred to other foods during storage or preparation.

The Acting Chief Environmental Health Officer also stressed the need to cook food thoroughly since this killed almost all dangerous bacteria. And it was also important to keep food at safe temperatures as micro-organisms multiplied very quickly if food was kept at room temperature, he explained.

???By holding foods at temperatures below five degrees Centigrade or above 60 degrees Centigrade, the growth of organisms is slowed down or stopped.???

Mr. King also had advice for consumers who will be attending the last lap Crop Over events.?????Buy food items from reputable vendors and observe best by use dates. Remember to wash hands thoroughly before eating and keep hot things hot and cold things cold,??? he said.??

The Acting Chief Environmental Health Officer called on everyone to do their part and work together towards a healthier nation.


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