Unwanted guests could prove hazardous to your health
Imagine, you just finished eating a hot or cold delicious sandwich at a local restaurant, when you suddenly became nauseous. You get up from your table and rush to the restroom. You have a high fever, chills, stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea. When you return to your table, you pay your check and leave the restaurant without telling the manager about your sickness. You might have been a victim of the Unwelcome Meal Guest or food poisoning, a bacterial infection.
Food poisoning accounts for more than 90 percent of all food borne sickness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 5,000 deaths, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 76 million illnesses caused by food poisoning every year. The most common food-borne infections are Staphylococcus, Salmonella, Botulism, and Trichinosis.
People are the most common carriers of Staphylococcus (Staph). We carry this microorganism around in our nasal passages, throat, hands and skin surfaces.
Salmonella, (Salmo) on the other hand, is associated with poultry, cracked eggs, meats, and diary products.
Botulism (Botch) can be associated with leaking and swollen food containers and is considered more deadly than cyanide.
The last food borne bacteria is called Trichinosis (Trich), which is most commonly associated with pork.
The food server is one of the critical links for making your dining pleasurable as well as safe. Yet, how many times have you seen a food server run a finger or hand through his/her hair? Unsanitary food service is more common than you think. We expect our food handlers to follow guidelines such as wearing the proper clothing or no excessive jewelry while preparing or serving food. Many foreign particles and germs can hide, and hatch eggs in, those rings, watches, bracelets, etc. Those fancy fingernails are also a no-no. Chips from the polish may fall into your food, as might hair if a hairnet is not worn.
Food servers must practice good sanitation when handling food. The hands must be washed thoroughly with hot soapy water after using the restroom, smoking, or after various cooking assignments. The food preparation area should be kept clean and safe. Sponges are notorious breeding grounds for germs; therefore, never use them around food for clean ups.
There are some government and private agencies that are responsible for our food wholesomeness. As consumers, we should not rely too much on those agencies to protect us from the Unwelcome Meal Guest. Despite the best technology and inspection programs, food-borne infection continues to be a major concern. It is an underrated issue because of a widely known concept called the "Iceberg Theory. "This theory states that only 10-percent of all food borne infection is reported. The ninety-percent not reported is directly linked to the consumer. Usually, after we become sick after eating, we shrug it off as a flu bug.
In the end, it is left up to you to fight the Unwelcome Meal Guest. Make sure your foodstuffs are eaten hot or cold according to the instructions. Make sure your servers are wearing a clean uniform. Keep an eye on those long fingernails with polish and excessive jewelry. Become your own inspector. Wash your hands prior to eating. Inspect your food for wholesomeness and acceptability. And finally, if it looks and smells bad, it probably is bad. So don't eat it. Report it to management.
(Chief Warrant Officer Jones is the 300th Area Support Group Food Service Technician, Fort Lee, Va.)
COPYRIGHT 2001 U.S. Army Reserve
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group