Problems associated with food premises

Introduction

Food premises according to National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) (2008) means any premises from which food is sold, or handled with the intention that it be sold. NAFDAC also stressed that premises must meet up with certain standards before they can be certified fit to carry out their operations.

Njoku (2012) stated that a food premises is any establishment in which food is processed, served or dispensed to the public, and intended for immediate consumption.  This will include facilities such as restaurants, cafes, diners, as pubs, caterers as well as food carts and trucks among others.  He also states that all food service establishments must have a permit issued by a health officer after a thorough inspection by an officer of NAFDAC on the premises that is intended for carrying out food preparation, service or manufacturing to ensure that it is in an acceptable hygienic condition.

Definition of food premises

Adeyinka (2009) defined food premises as any permanent or temporary building, structure, kiosk, stall, mobile shop, vehicle, caravan, trailer, marquee or ship on or at which food is manufactured, prepared, packed, stored or sold.To give a clearer view, he went ahead to describe food as anything that is or may be used or represented as food or drinks for human consumption and includes any ingredient, nutrient or constituent whether prepared or in its natural state that is intended to be mixed with any food or drink.

In the opinion of Keith (2011), food premises means any premises including land, vehicles, parts of structures, tents, stalls and other temporary structures, boats, pontoons and any other place declared by the relevant authority to be premises under the Food Act kept or used for handling of food for sale, regardless of whether those premises are owned by the proprietor, including premises used principally as a private dwelling, but does not mean food vending machines or vehicles used only to transport food.

According to Keith (2011), examples of food premises include premises used:

  • For the retail sale of cakes, sandwiches, pizzas or bakers’ small goods.
  • As an eating-house i.e., cafe, restaurant, coffee bar.
  • For the retail sale of meat, fish or delicatessen items.
  • For the retail sale of fruit or vegetables.
  • As a supermarket, grocery or dairy.
  • For the sale of milk, ice cream or frozen confections.
  • For the operation of a food vending machines.
  • As an auction mart where food is handled for sale.
  • As a service station where food is sold.

Classification of food premises

Food Act of 1984 as amended in 2012 classified food into four different groups as shown below.

Class 1 food premises

Class 1 food premises are those that predominantly handle food that is served to vulnerable people in:

  • Hospitals
  • Child care centres providing long day care, and
  • Aged care facilities such as nursing homes.

Class 2 food premises

Class 2 food premises are those that handle unpackaged foods which need correct temperature control during the food handling process – including cooking and storage – to keep them safe. This includes:

  • Restaurants
  • Fast food outlets
  • Pubs
  • Caterers
  • Delicatessens
  • Supermarkets with delicatessens
  • cafes
  • Food vending machines handling high risk foods
  • Most manufacturers.

A business with multiple associated class 2 food premises can also use it for all their class 2 activities. For example:

  • A restaurant that also provides off site catering, or
  • A business that prepares food at a permanent site and sells it from a stall at markets.

Class 3 food premises

Class 3 food premises are those whose main activities involve the sale of foods not commonly associated with food poisoning. This includes the supply or handling of unpackaged low risk foods, or sale of pre-packaged potentially hazardous foods which simply need refrigeration to keep them safe.

Premises expected to fall into class 3 include

  • Fruit stalls selling cut fruit
  • Wholesalers distributing pre-packaged foods
  • Most milk bars, convenience stores and coffee bars
  • Food vending machines handling lower risk foods.

Class 4 food premises

Class 4 food premises are those whose food handling activities pose low risk to public health. They include the following:

  • Bottle shops
  • Premises which sell uncut fruit and vegetables such as farmers markets and greengrocers
  • Premises offering wine tastings
  • Shops and stalls selling packaged cakes (excluding cream cakes), bottled jams or honey
  • Stalls running simple sausage sizzles, where the sausages are cooked and served immediately. This means sausages, sauce, onions and bread. (This does not include hamburgers or other high risk foods).

Required Standard for Food Premises

Ubong (2012) in citing NAFDAC (2008) stated that the law requires that the layout, design, construction and size of food premises shall:

Permit adequate cleaning or disinfection

The layout and design of food premises should allow access for effective cleaning. Alternatively, equipment must be mobile to enable adequate cleaning and disinfection. Materials of construction must be suitable to allow the type of cleaning appropriate to that area, protect against accumulation of dirt, contact with toxic materials, shedding of particles into food and the formation of condensation or mould on surfaces.

The layout, design, construction and size of premises must avoid the accumulation of dirt in places inaccessible to cleaning. Coving at wall or floor junctions is recommended. The design and construction, especially of high level surfaces, should avoid finishes e.g. artex that may lead to shedding of particles such as flaking paint, plaster or fibres. Any growth of mould within the fabric of the building is undesirable. Special attention must be given to areas where steam and humidity are generated in order to avoid the build-up of condensation. This will be linked to the type of ventilation system installed.Permit good hygiene practices, including protection against cross-contamination between and during operations, by food, equipment, materials, water, air supply or personnel and external sources of contamination such as pests. If high-risk foods are to be stored or handled at the same time as foods which may contaminate them, then there must be enough space to allow high risk food to be stored and prepared on separate work surfaces and equipment. Provide, where necessary, suitable temperature conditions for the hygienic processing and storage of products. The design and construction of food preparation rooms should avoid the build-up of excessive temperatures and must be capable of keeping food at suitable temperatures.

Wash hand basins

An adequate number of wash hand basins must be available which are suitably located and designated for cleaning hands. The number of basins will depend on the size of the business and the size and layout of the premises. They must be located close to toilet facilities and at strategic places in the premises, so that workers have convenient access to them. Wash hand basins must be provided with hot and cold (or appropriately mixed) running water, materials for cleaning hands and for hygienic drying. Antibacterial soap and paper towels are recommended. Where necessary, the provisions for washing food must be separate from the hand washing facility.

Toilets

An adequate number of flush lavatories must be available and connected to an effective drainage system. The minimum requirement is 1 toilet or WC for up to 5 employees. For more than 5 employees, additional toilets must be provided on the basis of the Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992. All sanitary conveniences within food premises must be provided with adequate natural or mechanical ventilation. This is to prevent (as far as possible) aerosols and offensive odours from permeating food rooms. Lavatories must not lead directly into rooms in which food is handled. Toilets must be ventilated and must not communicate with a food room. This means there must be a lobby between the toilet and any food room. Ideally this lobby will be ventilated.

Ventilation

There must be suitable and sufficient means of natural or mechanical ventilation. Ventilation must be provided to ensure that heat and/or humidity do not build up to levels that could compromise the safety of food. A mechanical ventilation system may be necessary and should consist of a suitable canopy and extraction fan to draw air to remove heat, steam and grease laden fumes through an extract point. This may require the incorporation of grease filters which should be removed on a regular basis for cleaning. Mechanical air flow from a contaminated area to a clean area must be avoided. Ventilation systems must be so constructed as to enable filters and other parts requiring cleaning or replacement to be readily accessible. Before any system is installed you should seek advice from a ventilation engineer.

 Lighting

Food premises must have adequate natural and/or artificial lighting. Where fluorescent strip lighting is used over food preparation surfaces these should be protected with a tube shield or diffuser. Lighting must be good enough to allow safe food handling, effective cleaning and the monitoring of cleaning standards.

 Drainage

Drainage facilities must be adequate for the purpose intended; they must be designed and constructed to avoid the risk of contamination of foodstuffs. Drains must have sufficient fall to allow all solid and liquid waste to flow away. All appliances connected to the drainage system must be provided with an effective trap. Inspection points must be available, but they must be adequately sealed.

Changing facilities

Adequate changing facilities for personnel must be provided where necessary. Provision must be made to allow food handlers to change and to store theclothes they arrive at the food premises in and personal effects away from open foods. It is good practice to have separate changing rooms and to provide secure storage for personal effects. Specific requirements exist in rooms where foodstuffs are prepared, treated or processed (excluding dining areas, mobile vehicles, marquees, market stalls, premises used primarily as private dwelling houses and premises used occasionally for catering purposes and vending machines).

 Floors

Floors must be maintained in a sound condition and must be easy to clean and, where necessary, disinfect. This will require the use of impervious, non-absorbent, washable and non-toxic materials. Suitable materials are: floor tiles (quarry, vinyl or ceramic) with waterproof grouting, vinyl safety flooring, Terrazzo safety flooring or resin flooring. Consideration should be given to floor drainage, and the design of the floor should prevent water pooling during normal use. Internal drainage systems should be trapped and inspection covers should be sealed and screwed down to prevent offensive odours entering the food room.

Wall surfaces

Wall surfaces must be maintained in a sound condition and must be easy to clean and, where necessary, disinfect. This will require the use of impervious, non-absorbent, washable and non-toxic materials and require a smooth surface up to a height appropriate for the operations. Suitable materials are: washable painted plaster, ceramic tiles, stainless steel sheeting, PVC or GRP plastic sheeting, epoxy resin or similar smooth coating.

 Ceilings

Ceilings and other overhead fixtures must be designed, constructed and finished to prevent the accumulation of dirt and reduce condensation, the growth of moulds and the shedding of particles. Suitable materials are similar to those for wall surfaces, (painted plaster etc.). Polystyrene or fibre tiles are not suitable for high humidity locations.

Windows

Windows and other openings must be constructed to prevent the accumulation of dirt. Those which can be opened must, where necessary, be fitted with insect-proof screens which can be easily removed for cleaning. Where open windows would result in contamination of foodstuffs, windows must remain closed and fixed during production.

Doors

Doors must be easy to clean and, where necessary, disinfect. This will require the use of smooth and non-absorbent surfaces, particularly around hand contact areas.

 Surfaces

Surfaces including surfaces of equipment, that will come into contact with food, must be maintained in a sound condition and be easy to clean and, where necessary, disinfect. This will require the use of smooth, washable and non-toxic materials. Suitable materials will include stainless steel, ceramic or food grade plastic. Joins between works surfaces may allow dirt to become trapped, continuous surfaces are best, alternatively joins should be sealed with a suitable waterproof sealant, e.g. epoxy grouting or silicon sealant.

Storage of cleaning materials

Where necessary, adequate facilities must be provided for the cleaning and disinfecting of work tools and equipment, these facilities, e.g. sinks and/or dish washing machine with hot rinse cycle, must be constructed of materials resistant to corrosion and must be easy to clean and have an adequate supply of hot and cold water.

 Food washing

Where appropriate, adequate provision must be made for any necessary washing of food, every sink or other such facility provided for the washing of food must have an adequate supply of hot and/or cold potable water as required, and be kept clean.

 Food waste

Food waste and other refuse must not be allowed to accumulate in food rooms, except so far as is unavoidable during the business operation. It is good practice to remove all waste from the food room at the end of the day. Food waste and other refuse must be deposited in closable containers. These containers must be of an appropriate construction, fitted with close fitting lids, kept in sound condition, and where necessary be easy to clean and disinfect. None hand operated (e.g. foot operated) bins are preferred. Adequate provision must be made for the removal and storage of food waste and other refuse. Refuse stores must be designed and managed in such a way as to enable them to be kept clean, and to protect against access by pests, and against contamination of food, drinking water, equipment or premises. Refuse should be removed frequently and, depending on the size and type of business more than one collection/removal per week may be required. Storage facilities must be kept in a clean condition and the waste is protected from rodents or birds.

 Water supply

An adequate supply of potable water must be provided. Where water is drawn from a “private” supply (i.e. well or bore hole) this will have to be of potable quality and meet the standards of the Water Supply Regulations 1991.

Suitable and sufficient storage for food will be required

Refrigeration equipment for chilled, high-risk foods (storage or display) must be capable of maintaining suitable temperatures (e.g. below 8°C) and have sufficient capacity for the amount of food. Foods stores (dry goods, fruit and vegetables) should be ventilated to maintain cool dry conditions. Ventilation may be provided by either mechanical or natural means. All foods should be stored above floor level to facilitate easy cleaning and pest control.Frozen storage – this will depend on the type of business. Equipment must be capable of maintaining suitable temperatures and have sufficient storage capacity.

Problems associated with food premises

The following are some causes of the problems associated with food premises:

Self neglect of food premises operators

According to Jacob (2012), self neglect is a behavioural condition in which an individual (food premises operators) fail to attend to their basic needs such as personal hygiene, appropriate clothing or tending appropriately to any medical condition they have. Self neglect is also the inability to maintain a socially accepted standard of cleanliness or self care. Self neglect has the potential for causing serious consequences to the health of the food premises operators and the community or society. The characteristics and behaviour of living in self neglect include unkempt personal appearance, living and working in unclean environment and unwillingness to take medications when ill.

Lack of knowledge of food premises operators

According to Hornby (2010), knowledge is the information, understanding and skills that you gain through education or experience. It is also defined as the state of knowing about a particular fact or situation. Kim (2009) stated that lack of knowledge is when food premises operators do not have the information, understanding and skills about those basic and important hygiene practices that must be carried out to ensure that food meant for sale is free from contamination. Lack of knowledge of good personal hygiene practice by food handlers will lead to food contamination thereby resulting to food borne disease or food poisoning.

Lack of resources

This is one of the causes of poor hygiene practice in food premises. Lack of resources to acquire the knowledge on good hygiene practice and also those things needed for the maintenance of their health will result to food premises becoming unkempt which may lead to food contamination.

Poor habits of food handlers

Tonder (2007), explains that there are various means whereby food can become contaminated by food handlers without them knowing, the following are means by which food can be contaminated by food handlers;

  • Licking of fingers
  • Sneezing and coughing over unprotected food
  • Spitting in and around food premises
  • Touching of body such as mouth, nose or hair
  • Blowing or picking of nose etc.

Effects poor standard of food premises

Spread of diseases

Poor standards of food premises lead to the spread of several foods borne disease or food poisoning. Food borne disease refers to any illness resulting from the consumption of contaminated food, pathogenic bacteria, viruses or parasites that contaminate food. Food borne illness usually arises from improper handling, preparation, storage or poor personal hygiene of food handlers. Poor hygiene practice of food handlers will lead to food contamination which will result to food borne disease. According to Leon (2012), the following diseases are specifically linked to poor personal hygiene practice of food handlers and food premises:

  • Salmonellosis
  • Listeriosis
  • Shigellosis
  • Taeniasis
  • campylobacteriosis
  • Staphylococcal food poisoning
  • Escherichia coli food poisoning
  • Bacillus cereus food poisoning

Food contamination

Food contamination referred to food that are spoiled or tainted because they either contain microorganisms, such a bacteria or parasites, or toxic substances that make them unfit for consumption (Mega & Colvin, 2012).

Reduction in manpower

Poor hygiene practices of food premises lead to food borne disease or illness which will make the individuals who consume the food not to be able to perform their daily task which will bring about an increase in the economy hence causes reduction in manpower as well as the wages or salary of the individuals (Eddy, Hadro & Baite, 2008).

Solutions to problems associated with food premises

Education and training

According to World Health Organisation (WHO) (2008), education and training are vital element in preventing poor hygiene practice of food premises and handlers. In any organization, however small should ensure that all food premises operators/handlers must understand the basic principle of good hygiene practice and food safety.

Managers need to understand the various disease associated with poor personal hygiene practice and the means they can be minimized. They must also be aware that food handlers who have gastroenteritis or skin lesions must stay away from work while symptoms persist. Food handlers should receive instruction in food safety and personal hygiene and should be required to undergo a test on their knowledge and understanding of the subject.

Periodic medical inspection/examination

Periodic inspection of food premises and medical examination of food handlers must be carried to know hygiene practice of the food premises and the health status of the food handlers to determine if the premises and food handler meet up the required standard for the operation of public food. Any food premises that do not meet up the standard requirement should not be allowed to produce food for public consumption (Afao, 2010).

Conclusion

The standard of hygiene of food premises is a public health concern which must be taken seriously to ensure that food premises operators maintain the required standard of hygiene in the operation of food production to protect the public from the various consequences of poor standards of food premises which could lead to various food borne diseases and in some of them are life-threatening.

Recommendations

Based on the problems associated with poor standard of food premises, the researcher hereby recommends the following:

To the government

  • The government should ensure that before food premises are allowed to operate, they must meet up with the required standard of hygiene of their premises.
  • The government should ensure that adequate number health workers are employed to periodically inspect the premises of food handlers to ensure that the premises keep up with the required standard and also assess the health status of the food handlers to ensure that do not have any communicable diseases.

To the food handlers

  • Food handlers should ensures that adequate hygiene of their premises is upheld at any point in time to guide against rodent and fly infestation which could contaminate food meant for the public.
  • The owners of the food premises should ensure that there is periodic maintenance of their facilities to repair all damage facilities and equipment.
  • Employees working in the food premises should be made to know the importance of personal hygiene and their health status should be monitored periodically through medical examination to ensure that they do not have communicable diseases.
  • All employers who are found to have contracted communicable disease should be given adequate treatment and should be given sick leave to protect others from being infected or contaminating food meant for public consumption.

To the community

  • The community members should report all illegal food handlers to the appropriate authority.
  • The community members should avoid buying of food produced by manufacturers from unhygienic premises.

References

Adeyinka, N. (2009),Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. Lagos: College Books.

Afao, J. (2010),Food Safety Legislation in Nigeria”. Abuja: Consumer Rights Commission Agency of Nigeria.

Eddy, N. Hadro, M. &Baite, K. (2008),Guide to Food Labelling and Other Information Requirements”. Overview of Food Labelling Adelaide: Food Standards Australia.

Hornby, A. S. (2010), Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. (8th ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jacob, M. (2012). Safe Food Handling: A Training Guide for Managers of Food Establishment. New York: Facts on File.

Keith, C. (2011). Sensing and Instrumentation for Food Quality and Safety, New York: Springer Inc.

Kim, S. (2009), Food Safety: Introduction to Personal Hygiene, retrievedfrom http://cnx.org/content on 16th May 2015.

Mega, R. & Colvin, Y. (2003), Food and Diet (2nded), Pretoria: Mary Grey Publishing Company Inc.

National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC)(2008), National Standards for Food Premises and Associated Businesses. Abuja: NAFDAC.

Njoku, C. (2012),Food Industry Quality Control Systems. Enugu: Obitech Printing Press.

Tonder B. (2007) the Personal and General Practices of Food Handlers in Delicatessen Sections of Retail Outlet in South Africa.Journal ofEnvironment Health. 84 (3): 119-27.

Leon, A. (2012). Food Safety, London:  Blackwell Publishing.

Ubong, K. (2012). The Federal Food Safety System: A primer, Congressional Research Service. Journal of Food Hygiene and Safety 34 (2):67-73

WHO (2008), Prevention of food borne disease: Five keys to safer food”.  Geneva: World Health Organisation.

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