Most large schools have an on-site canteen where food is prepared for pupil and staff lunches. This typically entails a food preparation area with food storage facilities, a food serving counter, and a seating area. As with any kitchen environment, hygiene is very important and staff should be trained to adhere to personal and workplace hygiene guidelines. If hygiene principles are not followed, there is a danger that pupils and staff will succumb to illness through bacterial contamination, which is bad news for them and very bad news for the school.
Regular Hygiene Inspections
Local authorities carry out routine hygiene inspections on a regular basis. Food Standards Agency star ratings are awarded on a scale of 0-5:
- 5 stars – Very good
- 4 stars - Good
- 3 stars – Generally satisfactory
- 2 stars – Improvement necessary
- 1 star – Major improvement necessary
- 0 stars – Urgent improvement necessary
The vast majority of school canteens are awarded 5 Stars, but of course there are always a few that are found to be a 3, or lower. In this instance, steps must be taken to improve levels of hygiene or pupil health will suffer.
Personal Hygiene in a Canteen Environment
Staff working in a school canteen must adopt high levels of personal hygiene or standards will suffer. Hair should always be tied back or covered up. Hands must be washed before handling food and after visiting the toilet, using a tissue, handling raw food, etc. Protective clothing should be worn and jewellery should be limited.
Illness and Injury Considerations
Staff with minor injuries should always cover the wounds with a plaster, and if the wound is on the hand, a latex glove should be worn. Dressings and gloves should be changed regularly. Sick staff should not be working in a kitchen and should only be allowed to return to work when they have completely recovered.
Food Preparation Hygiene
Cross-contamination between raw and cooked food is very serious, so raw food should be kept separate from cooked food at all times. Perishable food should always be kept at the appropriate temperature and dried foods should be stored in a secure place. Fresh fruit and vegetables should be washed before use. Food must always be thoroughly cooked before it is served and thawed food should not be refrozen.
Kitchen and canteen environments need to be kept scrupulously clean, which is why commercial grade Proclad is a smart choice. Floors, work surfaces, and walls should be washed and disinfected regularly to avoid a build up of grease and grime. The entire area should be free from vermin.
What Happens when Hygiene Slips?
Studies have shown that people who suffer a bout of severe poisoning are far more likely to develop health problems in later life. A Canadian study on a group of people who became ill after drinking contaminated water discovered that those who suffered from the severest symptoms were twice as likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than those who were only mildly affected. So the best way to protect children from the complications that sometimes occur as a result of food poisoning is to protect them from the infection in the first place.