Scores on Doors

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At the bottom of this article you will find a full video presentation in six parts on the subject of food hygiene.

Most of us spend a great deal of attention to cases of food poisoning outside the home. Stories of food poisoning incidents hit the news and cause a great deal of anxiety and public interest. Someone once told me that food scares in the media are a bit like stories of air crashes. Although tragic and dramatic they do not amount to many deaths compared to road accidents. The same is true for incidences of food poisoning. Most instances of food poisoning do occur in the home environment.

However it is only natural to have this  concern about food hygiene from without the home because the food we buy and bring into the home environment comes from without. It is for precisely this reason that we are naturally tuned into collecting as much information as possible about where the best sources of food are and which places to avoid.

Even if we do manage to locate excellent food sources there will always be some bacteria present on it. We can never get completely away from this fact. Bacteria are everywhere. What we are looking for is sources that have not been exposed to unnecessary sources of contamination. Taking this fact into to account, the reason for promptly storing our food becomes clear. We need to keep it as fresh as possible.

Restaurants are involved solely in the preparation of food and if they work along strict hygienic guidelines the risk of food contamination is minimal. On the other hand, the home kitchen serves many functions. If only I had a dollar for the number of times I saw muddy football boots in the kitchen sink. The multi functionality of the home kitchen allows for many different possibilities for the cross contamination of food.

The kitchen is the place where any number of family mishaps are solved and family members come to the kitchen to clean themselves when really they should be using the bathroom. Kids may have been playing with their pet rabbits or the dog and the man of the house may have been unblocking a drain. In both of these instances the family members in question may go to take a drink from the fridge without properly washing and changing clothes. We all know this happens. Any kind of contaminant could spill onto food,

Another reason for food poisoning in the home is the direct and indirect interaction between the kitchen area and animal.s By animals I mean cats, dogs, mice, rats, birds, cockroaches, ants, flies, spiders, moths and in some countries maybe lizards and geckos. All animal species carry a huge variety of bacteria on their skin and in the feces and urine. Animals should not be allowed to jump onto kitchen work surfaces or eat from human utensils. If you are working with food avoid touching animals. Food should be kept in air tight food containers to stop insects and rodents from getting at it and work surfaces must be kept spotlessly clean at all times and sterilized with an anti bacterial spray such as Lysol spray.

Not everybody cleans their fruit and vegetables before storing them but I do like to wash it with a fruit and vegetable detergent. The soil upon your produce may come from many different areas of the world and it is better to clean it off than to have exotic strains of bacteria infecting your whole fridge. The special detergents for fruit and vegetables should also remove any insecticide residue from your fruit.

A major source of food poisoning in the home is failure to clean the fridge regularly and to check the freshness of the produce within it. Your fridge is a humid environment in which air circulates. This means that bacteria and molds can spread throughout your fridge in aerosol and contaminate many different items in a very short space of time. Always check your stock for food spoilage.

Preparing barbecue food is another common source of food poisoning in the home. People often leave food in containers in hot conditions while they are cooking. This gives bacteria an opportunity to grow. Grilling raw chicken takes a very long time until it is cooked through to the bone and bacteria have ample time to proliferate throughout the food. It is always best to precook chicken drumsticks, wings and chunks and to grill them just for the added taste of the grill. Thick hot dogs and burgers are also problematic for grilling on the barbecue. It takes a very long time for the heat to penetrate throughout and more often than not people eat only partially cooked food.

Thawing meat and fish. It is absolutely amazing when one learns just how few people understand how to thaw food. In the age when we constantly want things to be ready in a flash it seems time wasting to wait a few hours for meat to thaw. The solution is generally the microwave or to thaw in hot water. Both of this areas create hot spots on the surface of the meat where bacteria can develop. Meat should be defrosted in cold water but my personal advice is to plan three days ahead and defrost meat in your fridge at four degrees Celsius and in a closed container.

Ground meat and eggs are particularly sensitive items in the home kitchen. Ground meat is animal muscle whose surface area has been greatly increased. This increase of surface area is excellent for bacterial development. if other contaminants such as unclean spices or herbs are added to it as well as raw eggs, bacteria will be provided with the ideal environment. Raw egg is another perfect culture medium for bacteria. Ground meat should not be left out for long periods. It should be mixed with the other ingredients as quickly as possible and either cooked or re refrigerated until cooking. Personally I try not to exceed twenty minutes outside of refrigerated conditions.

Failure to follow manufacturers instructions is also an area in which much food poisoning in the home. Many pre made products are not suitable for baking, especially meat products which have been breaded but not pre fried.  Always read manufacturers instructions if you are using a product for the first time. Adhere to warnings stated on packaging.

The last area of concern that I want to talk about is the cleaning of eating and cooking utensils and equipment. Wash everything in very hot water and washing up liquid. Clean all grease from ovens and ranges promptly. Store equipment in clean cupboards and replace dish cloths and dish towels after each task. Use all kitchen equipment only for the function that it was intended. Personal hygiene is the function of the bathroom not the kitchen. Train your family on how to use the kitchen correctly and the risks of food poisoning in the home will be greatly reduced.

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You will find the transcript of a recent article below in which US officials blatantly play down the dangers of  food poisoning by stating that overall although food poisoning is very unpleasant it does not cause many deaths.

I would like to stongly protest against this type of polotician’s manipulation of facts and misreprisentation of the function and the environmental importance of the food hygiene authorities. Yes, I agree that overall there are not so many deaths caused by food poisoning compared to some other forms of death. But is not heart attack brought on by the ingestion of too much salt in the diet a type of food safety issue? And is not every death of a person poisoned by food one too many? What kind of talk is this? Not to mention the suffering of hundreds of sick people. This is a pointless statement the purpose of which is merely to shift attention from the issue at hand to other areas of concern.

It is true that food hygiene inspectors are hard pressed to cover all their territory but their work is crucial because it keeps the awareness of the need for food hygiene in the mind’s eye of suppliers. If only consumers knew how many times they walked on a food hygiene knife edge during the course of their lives!

The potential for catastrophy in areas of food contamination is extreme. Bacteria such as Yerisinia, Anthrax,vibrio, tuberculosis, clostridium, listeria salmonella, e-coli, mycotoxins from molds, amoeba, virus’ and deadly parasites are but a hairs breath away from being put on out tables, literally. It doe’s not take much laxing of reglation enforcent in the area of food hygiene to reach a level where these bacteria will be commonly ingested. Unscrupulous people who are always on the look out for the chance to make a quick buck will exploit any and every opportunity which comes their way. If they get the chance.

Emplyees who do not receive sick days from their employer will do everythig they can to mask the fact that they are in no condition to work with food. People who are not educated in hygienic ways from their home environment will do everything to avoid washing hands, cleaning under nails, showering and brushing teeth simply because they hate being told what to do by others especially if their superiors are not part of their own cultural groups.

In addition I would not advise people, especially the elderly, to eat too much peanut butter!

I consider the comments made in this article to be highly irresponsible. See if you agree with me.

The Article

“ALBANY — After an outbreak that sickened hundreds and brought the peanut industry under the spotlight, officials addressed public concerns on food safety.
As a finale to the health department’s “Lunch and Learn” series, officials presented a presentation on prevention of food borne illnesses Thursday.

“Part of leading a healthy life, is handling food in a correct manner,” Dougherty County Environmental Health Director Jim Pericaud said.

Based on Thursday’s presentation, officials estimate that one is 130 times more likely to die from a heart attack than a food borne illness. Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 200 diseases are transmitted through food, with 76 million such cases occurring each year. Of those, 325,000 are hospitalized and 5,000 die.

“Food poisoning does not have a high morality rate, but it’s not a pleasant occurrence,” Pericaud said.

In essence, the best advice is to practice basic food safety at home and to examine restaurant procedures. At restaurants, the advice given by Pericaud was to pay attention to food temperature, employee conduct (i.e. hand washing, hair restraints) and to inspect the dining room environment.

“If customer areas are not being kept clean, the kitchen is probably just as bad or worse,” Pericaud said.

Part of practicing food safety can also pertain to grocery shopping. The best method is to shop for the frozen food items last, to ensure they do not spoil, and to check the code dates on items as well as the general housekeeping of the store.

“You want (frozen food items) in the freezer until the last possible minute,” Pericaud said. “Don’t let that food spoil.”

At home, officials recommend people to practice proper thawing and cooking practices, serve food immediately after cooking, put leftovers away and to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces with a capful to a gallon of water worth of bleach.

In regards to the food that may be left behind, or even before the food is cooked in the first place, what makes a difference in how much bacteria is on the food comes down to temperature.

“Over time, anything you put in the refrigerator will grow bacteria,” he said. “If you put food in the freezer, that stops bacteria growth dead.”

For thawing in particular the microwave, the refrigerator, a cold stream of water or even putting food on the stove frozen all work as good methods. Although, before any of that is done, it is always best to conduct a practice common for preventing bacterial transmission — hand washing.

“The hands transmit a lot of bacteria,” Pericaud said. “Even if you wash your hands with regular soap you are going good.”

At the end of his presentation, Pericaud pulled out a peanut butter sandwich and began to eat it — which answered a question that has been on a number of minds after a salmonella scare sickened hundreds nationwide.

“Peanut butter is a very safe and nutritious type of food,” he said. “I would not stop eating peanut butter.”

Pericaud’s presentation wrapped up a four-day series which has been held in observance of National Public Health Week, and attracted more than 150 people. Given the attention it pulled, officials are confident that the series successfully carried out the health department’s mission.

“This goes back to our main areas of our work, which is prevention. Every year we have so many illnesses because of how food is handled,” Dougherty County Health Department Adult Health Director Vamella Lovett said. “(The series) was very successful. It’s outstanding people took the time to come out.”

Pericaud’s presentation was one of two held Thursday. The other offering was “Be Active: Walk, Run, Roll,” by David Cooper, health promotion coordinator for the Southwest Health District”.

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In a previous article named “sores on doors” I outlined a new scheme aimed at providing a score system for restaurants and other eating houses which is being implimented on a trial basis throughout the UK . Certain regional and municipal councils are participating in the scheme, the aim of which is to provide an indication to the public of where to eat and where it is not reccomended  to eat.

The scheme is being run by public service departments such as the environmental health authority, the department of public health and other departments within the public sector. The scheme aims at providing equivalents to GMP and HACCP certifications in as much as businesses working in the restaurant and take away trade will now have to be aware that the grade they receive may well determine the volume of the trade they do.

The level of hygiene a business  maintains will now be integrally related to whether a food business will ultimately survive or not. Calderdale regional council posted it’s findings in a local paper for all the public to see. The gradeing is on a zero to five star system. A two star rating  indicates a level at which a business is complying with the minimum requirements of the law. The findings are interesting because they show that the vast majority of  food businesses in this northern region are in complience with the law.  The findings are listed below. It is interesting to note the range if businesses checked by the scheme and also to note the only type of business which received a “zero star” rating.  

Latest star ratings
Five stars:
Aramark, Commercial Street, Halifax
Burnley Road Junior and Infant School, Burnley Road, Mytholmroyd
Calder Cafe, Calder Workshops, Gibbet Street, Halifax
Calder Valley Club, Burnley Road, Mytholmroyd
Clover House Nursing Home, Clover House, Savile Road, Halifax
Domino’s Pizza, Commercial Street, Brighouse
Elland Junior and Infant School, Westgate, Elland
Farthing Wood Private Day Nursery, New Lane, Skircoat Green, Halifax
Savile House Residential Home, Savile Road, Halifax

Four stars:
Angaldale Guest House, Hangingroyd Lane, Hebden Bridge
Beckly House, Cooper Lane, Shelf
Dan Benn, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Gibraltar Fisheries, Hopwood Lane, Halifax
Hairy Lemon, Lord Street, Halifax
James Street Fisheries, James Street, Holywell Green
Luigi’s, Rochdale Road, Greetland
Masons Arms, Navigation Place, Todmorden
Peaches, Market Street, Hebden Bridge
Pellon Baptist Church, Spring Hall Lane, Halifax
Plummet Line Hotel, Bull Close Lane, Halifax
Rastrick Hall and Grange, Close Lea Avenue, Brighouse
R G and J M Kemp, Gibbet Street, Halifax
S and J Dorsey, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Sandwich Post, Bolton Brow, Sowerby Bridge
Seventy Two, Burnley Road, Todmorden
Siddalls Butchers, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Stone Chair Inn, Moor End Road, Mount Tabor, Halifax
Thornhill Briggs Working Men’s Club, Old Lane, Brighouse
Todmorden Children’s Centre, Burnley Road, Todmorden

Three stars:
Albert Hotel, Albert Street, Hebden Bridge
Anchor Trust, Trinity Fold, Blackwall, Halifax
Bank Edge Fisheries, Bank Edge Road, Halifax
Bridges Bar, Station Road, Sowerby Bridge
Cafe Macchiato, Huddersfield Road, Elland
Copley Cricket and Athletic Club, Copley
First Class Child Care at Lorraines, Blackwall, Halifax
Ghanis Takeaway, King Cross Road, Halifax
Ginger Vegetarian Cafe, Northgate, Halifax
Hartleys Confectioners, Briggate, Brighouse
Hillcroft Kindergarten, Hillcroft, Kirk Lane, Hipperholme
Hungary Monkeys, Carr House Road, Shelf
Hungry Hippo, Denholme Gate Road, Hipperholme
Laurel Bank Nursing Home, Holdsworth Road, Holmfield, Halifax
Millers Quality Sandwiches, Huddersfield Road, Elland
Old Ship Inn, Bethel Street, Brighouse
Ovenden ARLFC, Cousin Lane, Ovenden, Halifax
P and W Stansfield, Todmorden Market Hall, Burnley Road, Todmorden
P Wilkinson Bakers Ltd, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Rawson Primary School, Rawson Street North, Boothtown, Halifax
Robinson’s Farm Shop, Wall Close Farm, Score Hill, Northowram
Sagra Restaurant, Carlton Place, Halifax
Salvation Army Halifax Citadel, St James Road, Halifax
Sandwich Hut, Clifton Common, Clifton
Shears Inn, Boys Lane, Halifax
Sportsman Inn and Leisure, Bradford Old Road, Claremount, Halifax
Stephen Maskill Butchers Ltd, Well Head Farm, Well Head Lane, Sowerby
The Bear Cafe, Rochdale Road, Todmorden
The White Lion, Burnley Road, Mytholmroyd
Toppers Deli and Sandwich Bar, Commercial Street, Halifax
The Mushroom Sandwich Shop, The Kiosk, Gooder Street, Brighouse

Two stars:
Franco’s Pizzeria, Lineholme Mill, Burnley Road, Todmorden
Green Door Catering Company, Halifax Road, Ripponden
Grosvenors, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Gusto, Water Street, Todmorden
Hebden Royd Primary School, Church Lane, Hebden Bridge
King Balti and Big Pizzeria, Bath Place, Halifax
Pockets Leisure Centre, Hollins Mill, Rochdale Road, Todmorden
Royal Oak Inn, Lower Edge Road, Rastrick
T Richardson and Son, Borough Market, Market Street, Halifax
Top Wok, Queen’s Road, King Cross
Towngate Groceries, Towngate, Sowerby
Travellers Rest, Stainland Road, West Vale

One star:
Ali Halal Meat, Hanson Lane, Halifax
Broadwood, Duke Street, Elland
Costermonger, Burnley Road, Todmorden
Crown Tandoori, Crown Street, Halifax
Dodgeholme Fisheries, Dodge Holme Drive, Mixenden, Halifax
Fortune Cookie Takeaway, Ovenden Road, Halifax
Marybeth Cafe, Burnley Road, Todmorden
Ovenden Kitchen, Ovenden Road, Halifax
Rastrick Spice Takeaway, New Hey Road, Rastrick
Saffron Restaurant and Takeaway, Oldham Road, Sowerby Bridge
Saghirs, Barum Top, Halifax
Zaika, Burnley Road, Todmorden
Zizzis, Waterhouse Street, Halifax

Zero stars:
Ronaldo/Khyber Kebab Centre, Wharf Street, Sowerby Bridge
Sultan Mahal, Westgate, Halifax

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Below you will find a list of things to check when you go into a restaurant.  Restaurants vary in standard and we all have a tendency to make allowances and overlook ceratain bad points in the places we like to eat because there is something about particular establishments that keeps us coming back for more.

Many of these reasons are emotional and they tend to cloud the true picture of where and what we are eating. We may have family working at a certain restaurant or we may remember a romantic date we had there or it may have been highly recommended by a close friend. Whatever the reason we should try to keep a certain level of objectivity about where we eat. Go through the list below and see if you really look at the place you eat with a truly objective perspective.

Try to memorize as many of the points as you can and look for these points when you next go to your favorite eating house. See how high it scores. If the score is low you might want to consider finding somewhere new to eat out because you might well be risking your health.

1. Was the parking lot clean?
Please select one: YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
1       Unsatisfactory
2       Satisfactory
3       Excellent 
2. Has the parking lot been maintained?
Please select one: YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
4       Unsatisfactory
5       Satisfactory
6       Excellent 
3. Was parking easily available?
Please select one: YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
7       Unsatisfactory
8       Satisfactory
9       Excellent 
4. How far did you have to walk from your car to the entrance?
Please select one of the ratings below:
1       Too Far
2       An acceptable distance
3       Not far
5. Is the parking lot and enterance lighted properly?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
1       No Lighting
2       Satisfactory
3       Well Lit

6) Were there any unpleasant smells outside or around the establishment?
Please pick an answer:
1) slightly unpleasant
2) moderately unpleasant
3) very disagreeable
Inside Appearance and impressions.
1. What was your first general impression as you looked around the inside of the establishment?
Please select one of the ratings below:
10 Unsatisfactory
11 Satisfactory
12 Excellent
2. Were the tables cleaned and bussed properly?
Please select one of the ratings below:
13 Unsatisfactory
14 Satisfactory
15 Excellent
3. Were the floors clean?
Please select one of the ratings below:
16 Unsatisfactory
17 Satisfactory
18 Excellent
4. Were the windows clean?
Please select one: YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
19 Unsatisfactory
20 Satisfactory
21 Excellent
5. Were the counters clean?
Please select one. YES / NO
1-10, 10 being the best
q1     1
2       2
3       3
4       4
5       5
6       6
7       7
8       8
9       9
10 10
6. Were the napkins and straws stocked and orderly?
Please select one of the ratings below:
22 Unsatisfactory
23 Satisfactory
24 Excellent
7. Were the condiments stocked and in order?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
25 Unsatisfactory
26 Satisfactory
27 Excellent

8) Were there any unpleasant smells in the establishment?
Please pick an answer:
1) hardly noticable
2) unpleasant
3) disagreeable
Customer Service
1. Were you greeted when you entered the establishment?
Please select one. YES / NO
2. Were the employees helpful and courteous?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please write any additional comments:
3. Were the employees friendly?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
1       Not Very Satisfactory
2       Very Satisfactory
4. Were the employees clean and dressed appropriately?
Please select one. YES / NO
1) Immaculate
2) acceptable
3) questionable
4) poor
5. Did the employees have nametags?
Please circle one. YES / NO 
Quality of Food
1. How was the quality of the food?
Please select one of the ratings below:
28 Unsatisfactory
29 Satisfactory
30 Excellent 
2. Was the hot food hot?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
1       Warm
2       Room temperature
3       Cold 
3. Was the cold food cold?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
4       Warm
5       Room temperature
6       Cold 
4. How was the presentation of the food?
Please select one of the ratings below:
31 Unsatisfactory
32 Satisfactory
33 Excellent

5. Were there any unpleasant smells coming from the food?
Please answer: yes/no 
1. Were the restrooms clean?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
34 Unsatisfactory
35 Satisfactory
36 Excellent

2. Were the paper products stocked in the restroom?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
37 Unsatisfactory
38 Satisfactory
39 Excellent
3. Was the soap/lotion dispenser stocked in the restroom?
Please select one YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
40 Unsatisfactory
41 Satisfactory
42 Excellent
4. Did the restrooms smell clean?
Please select one. YES / NO
Please select one of the ratings below:
43 Unsatisfactory
44 Satisfactory
45 Excellent

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A new scheme is being implemented in the UK that will give consumers the opportunity to evaluate food hygiene standards in restaurants that they might be thinking of visiting.

Until now, information about food outlet businesses has not been privy to the general public. Authorities preferred to keep this information classified and under strict lock and key. This turn about in policy is now considered to be vital information for public “food” health & safety. The name “scores on doors” has been chosen for the scheme as scores will be given to food business and which will, hopefully, be an accurate indication to health and safety standards within any specific establishment.

 The scheme organizers also hope that this “points scored” scheme will give restaurants and other food service outlets an incentive to maintain better levels of food hygiene.

 The authority running the scheme is the FSA or the UK Food Standards Agency. Some local authorities, however, will be running their own variation of the scheme.

 The initial pilot scheme will include some 60 out of 400 local authorities within  the United Kingdom. Each of the various authorities will adopt  a different approach to the subject. It is hoped that by evaluating the different approaches adopted by the various authorities, the FSA will be able to judge which approach was most successful. It may, however, become clear that a variety of approaches may need to be adopted to best address the different areas of the suject of  food hygiene.

 At the end of the pilot trial it is hoped that the scheme will be adopted by all 400 local authorities within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the anual number of food poisoning cases will fall dramatically.

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