By Patricia Gordon (2014)
One of the notable realities of our busy lives is that Canadians are eating out more. For some people it’s an enjoyable experience, while for others it is a matter of convenience. But after experiencing more than a decade ago what I later suspected was possibly E-coli, I now find myself being pickier about the quick service restaurants I visit.
I remember there was a time when visiting a café, cafeteria, bakery, or fast-food outlet that the staff slicing, preparing, or serving the food to their customers wore hairnets and disposable sanitary gloves. Nowadays, I rarely see this. Some service restaurants opt for fashion over hygiene. Baseball caps and visors blend in well with the rest of a company’s uniform, but they don’t entirely cover an employee’s head of hair.
Some food services managerial staff may argue that their company has a hand washing policy, but how is their policy monitored? When I observed an employee preparing a sandwich and then wiping her finger across the base of her nose, ring in the customer’s bill on the till and then prepare the food for the next customer, how did the company’s hand washing policy protect those customers from potentially eating contaminated food? When I observed a cook in a post-secondary cafeteria run his hand through his hair locks, wipe his hand on a greasy looking apron before proceeding to make the customer’s sandwich on a bun, selecting the sliced meat not with a utensil but with his fingers, and opting to pick the customer’s vegetable selection by hand where no spoon sat in a dish, how was the hand washing policy monitored then?
In an age of reality shows and live cooking segments, viewers are left with the perception that the absence of hairnets and the touching of food served to others is an acceptable part of dining. Reality shows, however, don’t have food inspectors dropping in on their shows to expose conceivable hygiene infractions and contaminated food.
To ensure the safety of the food devoured when eating out, customers need to take matters into their own hands and report any inadequate hygiene concerns to the manager of the establishment. If those concerns are not addressed, then contact the governing body responsible for food inspection. Eating out should be a risk-free experience, and certainly not one that results in a serious illness.
“More Canadians Dining Out” CBC News, 10 Jun. 2010. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.