To Eat Out or NotThursday, September 23, 2021
Home-cooked meals are the best. This is a statement that many people make and are prepared to stand by. The perception is in the home, meals are healthier and safer; there is an inherent confidence in eating such meals because you know exactly what is in them and how they were prepared. The perception of healthier meals at home is supported by researchers such as Wolfson (2015) who have found that cooking frequently at home is associated with the consumption of a healthier diet. However, it was also stated that those who cook frequently should be guided to better food environment outside the home.
One of the important things about a better food environment is that of food safety. Any business that is offering food for sale, ready-to-eat or not, is subject to laws of the land; particularly the Public Health (Food Handling) Regulations. Therefore, some assurance is given that eating out is safe, as food businesses, such as restaurants, must be licensed to operate and are inspected by public health inspectors in order to continue to operate. These business operators must do their part to ensure safe food is being produced and sold. In maintaining a better food environment consideration must be given to training of workers, workers' hygiene, pest control, kitchen cleanliness, temperature control and food storage.
Consumers also have a part to play; not just the restaurants and government inspectors. When choosing to eat out, keep the following food safety tips, which were adapted from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in mind:
• Check restaurant's registration certificate — it is required to be prominently displayed, if it is expired it should be reported to a public health department.
• Check consumer rating profile — customers are using tools such as social media and various apps to share their experience at a restaurant.
• Look for safe food-handling practices — poor practices by food workers can lead to the spread of contaminants and persons becoming sick. One major turn-off is observing the cashier serving food without washing hands. Or workers using cellphones then serving food without washing hands.
• Be observant — physical senses will give a good indication of the cleanliness of the restaurant. How does it smell? How does it look?
• Ensure food is properly cooked — cooking is considered a “kill step” meaning harmful bacteria is destroyed. If your food is undercooked return it; do not consume.
• Avoid lukewarm food — cold foods (salads, etc) must be served cold and hot food served hot. Lukewarm foods are in the temperature danger zone that allows bacteria to grow.
• Consume only cooked eggs — ensure punches and salads do not contain raw eggs.
• Take care of leftovers — refrigerate within two hours and consume within two-three days. Remember, when in doubt throw it out!
Whether home-cooked meals or dining out, the choice is yours; what matters is having a meal that is safe and will nourish your body. When dining out, ensure you purchase from a registered food business and follow the tips listed above.