Tuesday January 22, 2019

Food Handlers and Hygiene: How much do we know


By Dr. J.K. Bhutani

To FEED must be a SACRED act, as what we eat eventually mingles with the GODLY soul in us all.

There were times when the kitchens were temples and cooking food was a form of offering to God. The guest was a welcome angel (Atithi Devo bhava) and not a client as of now.

Practicing and looking for FOOD HYGIENE is becoming very important as more and more of us are shifting from essentially ‘home-cooked-family-meals’ to ‘street food-kitty-restaurant-tiffin meals’.


We need to look at the condition of kitchen, the hygiene of the food-maker (most are self-trained cooks) and the choice and cleanliness of ingredients used.

According to the Public Health Association, only 53% of Indians wash their hands with soap after defecating and only 30% before preparing food. Nobody has any figure of the boil/skin-infection, cough-sneezing-tuberculosis-jaundice-history and smoking and alcohol habits or vaccination status of the cooks preparing food on the street, in banquet halls, marriage palaces, restaurants, or even the five-star kitchens.

Coliform bacteria, entamoeba, salmonella, shigella, staphylococcus, hepatitis A-E and many of the poorly handled viral and protozoal infections can EASILY enter from the food if prepared with SULLIED hands of infected cook. Some studies have documented Enterobacteriaceae (Salmonella, Shigela etc) and Staphlococci to be in as much as 44 and 80 percent of food handlers respectively.

A cross-sectional study on food handlers in Central India reported that the frequency of pathogenic organisms on the hands was 56.87%. The different degrees of hand contamination between studies could be explained by the degree of adherence of food handlers to food safety measures and hand washing in different geographic regions and the class of the recruits.

The FOOD-HANDLERS, increasingly, are being recruited from poor, deprived backward sections of society on paltry salaries. Their family backgrounds, education, health and hygiene standards are abysmally low and the GUEST for them is just a client and not GOD as envisioned by Gandhi and our Indian ethos.

Most of the domestic help and cooks in the modern households are no better and there is hardly an effort to improve their hygiene and cleanliness standards.
Mary Mallon, now known as Typhoid Mary, was a healthy woman when she was discovered and quarantined to be the cause of a typhoid epidemic in 1907. The public health concerns are not as robust now. The street-food vendors and the food handlers in banquet halls, marriage palaces and 3-5 star hotels need regulatory health practices.

The municipal bodies or state health bodies can have modular courses and mandatory certifications. Informally, the food handlers and the cooks can be supervised at home and at ‘managed hotels’ for hand-hygiene,  infective illness, skin integrity and possibly be convinced of presumptive treatment with anti-helminthic (deworming Albendazole )and anti-protozoal medicines (Metronidazole) periodically along with vaccination for the water –borne diseases like typhoid and hepatitis A.

Till we have MORE hygiene education and prophylactic-preventive care of food-handlers, some tips may be handy.

  1. Check for a rapid-turnover place. Observe hand-hygiene of self and the cook.
  2. Try eating Tandoori Roti/foods directly from Tandoor. A hot fried food (coming from a deep fryer) is also less likely to be infective.
  3. Avoid raw foods, salads, curd, raw cheese and frozen foods when you eat in open ambiance parties. Also, avoid ‘milk-creamy-cheesy’ curries and opt for ‘onion-coriander-condiments’ curries instead.
  4. Have natural beverages like coconut water or steaming hot tea-coffee etc.
  5. And do pay attention and possibly talk about in the places you frequent and eat. A
  6. And have more of get-togethers and parties where the POOLED-HOME COOKED food is a trend and a fashion statement!


Dr J.K. Bhutani, MD is a protagonist of preventive and promotive health care based on austere biology and facilitating self-healing powers of human organism. Twitter: @drjkbhutani

Next Story

Fast Food Habits of Americans

food, delivery
There is no use preparing for an influx of food delivery orders if you don’t let people know that you are offering food delivery. Pixabay

It’s no secret that Americans have a taste for fast food. In fact, almost one in four Americans eats it daily, according to a report from CBS News. However, the amount of fast food consumed varies depending on the region, according to a new report from Texas-based Datafiniti, which broke down some of the data about Americans fast food habit.

For example, the central and southern states boast the highest concentrations of fast food restaurants per capita, with Alabama as the state with the most. The northeastern states have the fewest and are led by Vermont, New Jersey and New York.

“The Central region, at 4.5 fast food restaurants per 10K residents, has the highest number of fast food restaurants per capita,” the company wrote in a news release. “The South is close behind with 4.4. The Eastern region has the fewest with just 2.5 fast food restaurants per 10K residents.”

Alabama has 6.3 restaurants per 10,000 residents, the most of any state. Of the top 10 states, nine were in the South. Nebraska and Indiana were the only non-southern states in the top 10 with 5.4 and 5 restaurants per 10,000 residents respectively.

Vermont, for example, has only 1.9 fast-food restaurants per 10,000 residents. Orlando, Cincinnati and Las Vegas boast the highest number of fast food restaurants per capita, with New York having the fewest. California has four cities among the top 10, with the fewest restaurants.

McDonald’s, which is the second largest chain of fast food restaurants, can be found in every American city, and Orlando and Las Vegas have the most per capita with 20.9 and 13.9 McDonald’s per 100,000 residents.

What is the largest fast-food chain? Subway, which has 18.5 percent of all fast food restaurants. McDonald’s has 11.3 percent. Behind them, in third, is Burger King, which has 5.7 percent.

Also Read: STUDY – Americans Online Almost Everytime

“Southern and Central states are the place to go if you love fast food; head to the East or out West if you don’t,” Datafiniti wrote. “Southern cities have abundant options for fast food, particularly in Florida; head to California if you don’t want to eat on the go.

“As for McDonald’s, it appears that this major restaurant chain has spread to every corner of America. Head to California if you don’t like the golden arches, and head basically anywhere else if you do.”  VOA