The Food and Drug Department has found that only 18% of Food Service Establishments in Regions Four and Six are putting measures in place to effectively protect food from contamination while only 25% of the facilities practiced adequate food storage.
In a statement Tuesday, the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) said it randomly selected 55 food establishments located in the two regions to determine compliance of the food service industry with existing sanitary regulatory requirements.
The survey was done from September 2018 to March 2019.
It was found that there were uncovered bins inside processing areas, leading to insect infestation (flies and cockroaches) in many food service establishments.
There was also garbage disposal in close proximity to the processing area(s) resulting in cross contamination.
The inspection checklist assessed six areas: food storage, cold storage, food preparation, sanitation, garbage disposal and employee hygiene.
The department after analysing its data found the following:
- 4% of the establishment’s workers were observed applying the correct principles of cleaning and sanitizing (dishwashing).
- Cold storage was satisfactory in 34% of the facilities
- Only 22% had a functional temperature monitoring device (thermometer).
- In regard to food preparation, a mere 11% practiced meat thawing safely
- Food handlers in only 13% of establishments used gloves.
- Adequate external garbage disposal was present in the majority (73%) of establishments, but only 56% had adequate temporary internal garbage disposal.
- Employee hygiene- only 20% practiced handwashing correctly and in 42% of the establishment’s workers, used no hair nets.
Additionally, microbiological samples were taken of the food; from workers’ hands (swabs), from food contact surfaces, from food serving containers and air quality. Micro-organisms of interest were E.coli, Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus.
Of the 99 food samples submitted, the department found that 37% was unsatisfactory and of the 102 hands of workers that were swabbed after washing, 47% were unsatisfactory.
With regard to food contact surfaces (cutting boards and utensils), 30% of the 125 surfaces swabbed after cleaning and/or sanitizing were unsatisfactory.
Additionally, 46% of the 48 food serve containers (food boxes) sampled were unsatisfactory.
However, the air quality in the majority of establishments was generally satisfactory since 95% of the 64 air quality samples taken were satisfactory.
The inspections were done in collaboration with Food Inspectors of the GA-FDD, Public Health Officers’ from the City and Municipalities, Environmental Health Officers (EHO’s) of the Region and Port Health Officers.
The high percentage of unsatisfactory foods, which were generally served hot and should, therefore, be free of microorganisms, may be as a result of cross-contamination, the department said.
“Cross-contamination can stem from unsatisfactory food storage conditions, unsatisfactory thawing practices, inadequate cleaning / sanitizing of food contact surfaces and workers hands. The observed limited glove use may also be a contributing factor,” the GA-FDD said.
It added that food handlers were generally unaware of the difference between the process of cleaning to remove dirt and sanitizing to kill bacteria.
The findings of the survey were shared with members of the National Food Safety and Control Committee Meeting hosted on Tuesday 7th May 2019.
Members, the food and drug department said, are expected to take the detailed results and findings to food service establishments that fall under their purview, where they are to either work collaboratively with proprietors to ensure compliance with sanitary regulations or to take appropriate action in the very best interest of consumer protection and safety.
The exercise will also be expanded to other regions and municipalities.
In 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates suggest that 1 in 10 or approximately 600 million persons fall ill each year after consuming contaminated food, with approximately 420,000 deaths.
Children age 5 and under accounts for approximately 30% or 125000 of those deaths. The WHO estimates suggest that more than half or 550 million illnesses are as a result of diarrhoeal disease.
In the region of the Americas, the Caribbean included, estimates on the burden of food borne illnesses suggest that 77 million persons fall ill annually as a result of food borne illness with approximately 9000 deaths and of that 31 % or approximately 2000 are children five (5) years and under.
In Guyana, a 2009 Burden of Illness study, estimated the occurrence of approximately 131,012 cases of acute gastroenteritis (AGE) or diarrhoea illness annually and each person in Guyana experiences at least one episode of diarrhoea each year.