Many years ago food handlers just donned a pinafore, rolled up their sleeves and prepared foods in the ways taught at Grandma’s knee.
Because the people consuming the foods were in the main from the same family or local village surrounded by identical bacteria and hazards, these consumers were seldom struck down by food poisoning or viruses because their tolerance to such local dangers had grown over the years as a form of natural defence.
But then over time, an era of comparative mass production became the order of the day with staff canteens, affordable high street snack bars and diners. The range of foods and production methods changed significantly and food borne bacteria were allowed to flourish creating a need for greater consideration towards food handling techniques and controls that by necessity were then forced into place.
It is from this period that the need to wash hands before handling food came to the fore. Refrigeration of certain high risk products became the norm and the old fashion belief that all air tight packaged foods were safe became dispelled with the identification of anaerobic bacteria in products such as corned beef and tinned salmon.
The more our foods and eating habits changed, the greater became the need for a rethink of how our very foods should be grown, harvested, cooked and served.
But never in the course of food history has produce been as internationally available as it is today. Cereals, vegetables, fish, meats, cheese, butter, fruits and all manner of fancies can now be found the world over with production sources originating in every corner of the globe.
High street supermarkets shelves are often stacked with goods from places that have never even heard of modern food hygiene techniques, let alone best packaging and labelling practices and it is for this reason that diverse food consuming nations such as the United Kingdom, Europe and US have found the need to create robust food handling structures and hygiene regulations to protect its people against bacteria and hazards that years of comparatively spotless hygiene have made them highly vulnerable to.
For example, bodies such as the Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom create a practical methodology of food production and service which is then filtered down with the able assistance of the local council based Environmental Health Officer structure. Training courses have been devised for food handlers such as the Food Hygiene Level 2 Certificate or sometimes called Level 2 Awards in Food Safety.
These have been constructed with the everyday food handler in mind, a qualification that ensures that the fundamentals of safe food handling are understood and the penalties for non compliance clearly spelt out.
Food is one of the most delightful of products known to man, but who knows what would happen if bacteria were allowed free range and national food poisoning became an epidemic.
Think of this the next time you question the benefits of what appears intrusive management of our modern day foods.
Hobson Tarrant, with over thirty years experience in high level catering and a Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene award with honours has helped develop the Sureserve2012 Food Hygiene Certificate package which is the first job specific online training course by Torchlight Training2012.
The course is targeted at UK and EC food handlers at all levels and will shortly be followed by additional job specific courses in the Sureserve and Suresell range.