Food safety laws are in the SA news
Recently, food safety laws received some attention again. KFC fast food outlet in South Africa has been plagued by scandals regarding its food hygiene.
In one incident, KFC employees were filmed while washing chicken pieces with a hosepipe on the tarmac outside the store. It transpired that the chicken was meant to be discarded but was accidentally breaded.
The pieces were rinsed before being disposed of so that the employees did not get into trouble for wasting the chicken coating and breading old stock.
Thankfully, this chicken was not meant for consumption. In another incident, a cook was filmed while sharpening his knife on the pavement outside the store. The cook took the knife back inside, bacteria and germs in tow, presumably to use for food preparation.
Does South Africa have food safety rules in place?
The Regulations Governing the General Hygiene Requirements for Food Premises, Food Safety, and the Transport of Food (promulgated under the National Health Act) sets out basic standards for how food handlers should be treating food.
Here is an example of the standards through some definitions from the Regulations:
Definitions help set the Food Safety standards
“clean”- means free of any dirt, impurity, objectionable matter or contamination to the extent that state of hygiene is attained, and “keep clean” has a similar meaning.
“contaminate”- means the effect exerted by an external agent on food so that it-
(a) does not meet a standard or requirement determined by any law;
(b) does not meet acceptable food hygiene standards or consumer norms or;
(c) is unfit for human consumption;
and “contamination” has a corresponding meaning.
“food handler”- means a person who in the course of his or her normal routine work on food premises comes into contact with food not intended for his or her personal use.
“food premises”- means a building, structure, stall or other similar structure, and includes a caravan, vehicle, stand or place used for or in connection with the handling of food.
“health hazard”- includes any condition, act or omission that may contaminate or spoil food so that the consumption of such food is likely to be dangerous or detrimental to health.
“person in charge”- with regard to any food premises, means a natural person who is responsible for the food premises and/or the owner of such food premises, as the case may be.
It is already clear from these definitions that these KFC stores were not in compliance with this Regulation.
How do I know if a food premises is hygienic?
Every food premises must have a Certificate of Acceptability. This tells us that the municipality has checked that the food premises meets the requirements for suitability and food safety. Your first warning sign should be if you do not see this certificate- it is supposed to be displayed in a place where all can see it as per Regulation 3(7).
Food should also be able to be handled hygienically on the premises and with the equipment used (Regulation 5(2)). Sharpening of knives on a pavement is therefore definitely a no-no!
The person in charge
It is the duty of a person in charge of the food premises to endure that people working in the food premises are trained in food hygiene. This means that theoretically, you should be able to see proof of this training if you ask for it. The person in charge must also ensure that no condition or act or omission that may contaminate food arises or is performed or permitted on the food premises (Regulation 10).
The food handler
It is the duty of the food handler not to perform any act which could contaminate or spoil food. They must also ensure that food is being disposed of correctly. Hosing off chickens by the dumpster is not permitted by these Regulations.
Who must take responsibility?
The Regulations tell us that the person in charge must ensure that the Regulations are being adhered to. Therefore, the franchisee or owner of the store must take the blame for poor food safety. In my opinion, KFC should also be monitoring their brand and ensure that it is not being brought into disrepute. KFC cannot be held responsible because it is an entity and the person in charge must be a natural person who has control over that particular food premises.
We all know what effect improper food handling can have on our health- food poisoning, bacterial infections, parasitic infestations and possibly even death as result of these.
The reality is that not adhering to these Regulations and other legislative requirements governing food hygiene and food safety, is an offense. Customers should be blowing the whistle on non-complying food premises and just making a vow to “never go there again!”.