Food operators urged to adhere to provisions of licence Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

The Public Health Department is urging operators of food establishments to adhere to the provisions of their licence, such as ensuring that staff members possess food handlers’ permits, maintaining clean facilities, and having running water and sanitary conveniences in place.    Chief Public Health Inspector for St Catherine, Winifred Meeks, says before the opening of any food establishment, operators are provided with licences once they meet the requirements, and patrons must look out for the permits, which should be displayed at the facilities.

“The first thing any consumer should look for upon entry into a food establishment is a Food Handler’s Establishment Licence, which should be conspicuously posted. Operators are required to do that, and the consumer reserves the right to ask whether or not the premises is licensed,” she tells JIS News in an interview.

Meeks says although a licence may exist, it does not mean that the particular establishment is adhering to the rules laid down by the Public Health Department, and the “consumer has a personal responsibility to make certain observations”.

“If toilet facilities are not clean, if the operator advises you that you cannot access the toilet, because they do not have water, then that is a major red flag. Any establishment that is operating without water, and this comes to the attention of the Public Health Department, it would be immediately closed,” she explains.

Part of the public’s responsibility, she says, is to assess the cleanliness of the establishment and the people handling the food.

“The person who is directly handling the food is required to be wearing head cover, and one should look for that. They should be attired in aprons or coats, and the fingernails should be free from nail polish. Take note if the individuals are speaking excessively while they are preparing or serving food, because that represents the risk of contamination,” she notes.

Persons supporting the food establishments should also look around the environment for unpleasant things, such as flies, cockroaches, if servers are handling money and food at the same time, and the frequency of handwashing.

“Those observations are very important,” Meeks points out, adding that persons should also be wary if there is an unusual odour.

She advises that when a consumer buys food at an establishment and it is spoilt, the matter should be reported to the Public Health Department for an investigation to be carried out, as this can result in serious illness and death.

Under the Public Health Act, adequate handwashing facilities must be in place, principal food preparation areas must be equipped with potable running water, including wash basin, liquid soap, hand-drying devices, and non-contact waste bins.

The Act states that members wash hands thoroughly before starting to prepare food, and after every interruption, especially if  “you have to scratch or have been to the toilet”.

Hands must be washed after preparing raw foods, such as fish, meat or poultry, and washed again before handling other foods. Nails must be short and trimmed, and there should be no smoking in the food areas.Raw foods must not be served except for fruits and vegetables. Many raw foods, most notably poultry, meats, eggs, and unpasteurised milk may be contaminated with disease-causing organisms.