Cleanliness and hygiene in South Africa’s food sector continues to be in the spotlight, given the deadly listeriosis outbreak which claimed nearly 200 lives since 2017 and recent reports of mild outbreaks. New research from the University of Pretoria shows that some foods being sold in informal shops still carry the listeria pathogen. The industry and authorities would have more cause for concern after the World Health Organisation reported earlier this year that South Africa has just one environmental health practitioner per 30 000 people‚ three times fewer than the ratio recommended by the WHO.
The World Health Organisation recommends a ratio of one environmental health practitioner for every 10 000 citizens. The South African Institute of Environmental Health say the country was currently closer to one for every 30 000 South Africans.
Emma Corder, country manager of Nilfisk South Africa, says the challenges should be a call for the industry and everyone involved in the food value chain.
“With December here, restaurants will see an increase in foot traffic and with the heat they need to be vermin proof. The food industry is built on trust between consumer and supplier and this holds true now more than ever given the challenges we have faced recently,” says Corder.
“The problem is that the food chain is integrated in ways that make contagion a very real possibility. And that threat is not only of a bacterial, but also economic if allied sectors are considered a health risk,” she says. The Minister of Health has published regulations setting out the general hygiene requirements for a food premises and for the transportation of food.
The Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa (Fedhasa) points out that the regulations provide specific hygiene requirements for matters concerning food premises, food facilities, food containers, appliances and equipment, food display, food storage and temperature, employee protective clothing, the duties of those in charge, the duties of a food handler, the handling of meat, the transportation of food and certain exemptions.
Restaurants, at the end of the food ecosystem, therefore cannot afford any slip-ups in cleanliness and hygiene – whether that be front of house or behind the scenes in the kitchen and premises.