In my last article on “scores on doors” about the initial results posted for the experimental scoring system of restaurants which is currently being tried in a nominal portion of urban and regional boroughs throughout the UK, it is quite clearly seen that certain restaurants run by specific ethnic groups are receiving far lower ratings than institutional and franchise type establishments.
The danger with results such as these is that it can very quickly be interpreted by certain people as an effort by local and national authorities to target restaurants and other food retail businesses owned by ethnic groups, primarily Asian.
It is my opinion that the authorties responsible for carrying out these environmental and food hygiene tests could well be hard pushed to prove their objectivity if ethnic groups were to register counter charges based upon claims of racial discrimination and targeting. Much thought and legal preparation would be wise in anticipation for such eventualities.
However, there are several issues that need to be put on the table before such claims are made. The first of these concerns staff. Are all staff working within ethnic restaurants asked to provide evidence that they are in good health and fit to work in a food preparation establishment? Secondly, have all staff received adequate training about food hygiene? Thirdly, is the restaurant adequately staffed to cover all the tasks that need to be done, especially cleaning tasks. Fourth, are the staff provided with suitable cleaning equipment and detergeants to do the job of cleaning? Fith, Can receipts be provided that all food stock was bought from a safe and legal source? Sixth, has the premises been checked by a public health official and been approved as suitable for running a food business? Seventh, are hygiene standards maintained? Is food stored in suitable and clean conditions? Eigth, the working day planned and executed in a way which all but eliminates the risk of cross contamination? Ninth, is food kept hot and served fully cooked at the appropriate temperatures?
If all of these conditions are maintained, no restaurant should have any trouble being scored highly on any food hygiene check. Race and ethnicity do not come into the equasion at all. All of these affore mentioned points are completely objective. A bacterial swab and culture doesn’t lie. As modern cultures we have an interest in diversity and choice. All we ask is that whilst sampling and enjoying the tastes and culinary traditions of other cultures, our health be safeguarded.
So what is the main difference between institutional kitchens, franchise businesses and ethnic restaurants? Why are the first group faring so much better than the ethnic groups? The obvious and initial answer wouls have to be good intent. Large corporations are consistantly concerned about the possibilities of law suits. Integrity then becomes an issue which translates directly into safeguarding reputation and profit margins. The second most pressing problem area is infrastructure. In order to prevent contamination of food certain logistical conditions must be in place such as, stainless steel work surfaces, well painted walls free of mildew, steam extractors, separated cleaning areas, safe waste disposal facilities, and professional food grade equipment for starters.
A large part of maintaining hygiene standards has to do with cleaning materials. Commercial degreasers such as caustic soda, chlorosept, phosphoric acid and bleach products destroy bacteria such as salmonella and E. Coli by effectively eating away at their lipopolysaccharide envelopes. Regular monitoring and treatment against insects and other pests further reduce desease risks.
In addition, in fast food restaurants there is very little handling of raw materials such as unpeeled vegetables. Therefore, the risk of cross contamination is greatly reduced.