Garden Route District Municipality’s (GRDM) Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) from Knysna, Mr Mtetho Sithonga and Ms Mendy Tyhawana, presented an information and awareness session on 13 November 2019 to Informal Food Traders – also known as street vendors. These traders currently run their businesses in the Smutsville/Sizamile areas.
According to the traders, they primarily see a spike in business over weekends when they sell braai meat in front of taverns and on street corners.
In view of the information and awareness sessions provided by EHPs, Mr Johan Compion, Manager: Municipal Health and Environmental Services, said: “Ongoing health and hygiene education sessions play an essential role in the practices of food traders”. He also confirmed the following: “Improper food handling practices, inadequate temperature control and poor food storage practices, as well as improper cleaning of equipment and utensils, cause foodborne illnesses.”
During last week’s session, EHPs focused on the five keys to safer food, compliance issues and incentives for those adhering to food safety standards.
The keys to safer food deal primarily with:
- Keep clean (dealing mainly with hygiene practises);
- Separate raw from cooked food (deals mainly with how to handle and keep raw food and cooked food apart to prevent cross contamination);
- Cook food thoroughly (deals mainly with the technique of cooking to ensure all the micro organisms that were in the food are killed);
- Keep food at safe temperatures (this key focus on safe temperatures of storing cooked or raw food and the importance of not breaking the cold chain and the consequences of not adhering to that); and
- Use safe water and raw materials (importance of knowing the source of the water you use is safe or not safe, if not, how do you ensure that the water is safe. The raw material you use e.g. meat products, vegetables, etc. are from credible sources meaning they are being checked and authorised to trade.)
Mr Mtetho Sithonga, EHP and one of the presenters of the session, said: “Food safety is about producing, handling, storing and preparing food in such a manner, which prevents infection and contamination of food”. It is especially important to have Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for food in the big production chains as well. “In other words, food safety helps to promote good health by ensuring wholesomeness of food,” said Sithonga.
The crux of the matter is that education sessions promote the importance of public health. While awareness sessions remind food traders about the importance of a “health first” approach – so do inspections and enforcement. These mechanisms require synergy and ongoing collaboration between the public and private sectors to make things work to the standard it was intended to by law. Strict adherence to standards and best practices is required for every food trader, because they are the final point of sale of foodstuffs.
If anyone becomes aware of any suspicious food trading activities, or would like to lodge an anonymous complaint, contact the GRDM Municipal Health Services Department at 044 – 803 1522 or send the details to firstname.lastname@example.org