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Festival food – how hygienic is it?

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The first couple of weeks in September normally signal the end of the summer music festivals, open air concerts, village fetes, galas and agricultural shows. A reminder that summer is coming to a close and the nights are beginning to draw in.

As well as face painting, henna tattoos and stalls selling clothes and jewellery, paintings, accessories etc. there is always a wide selection of food stalls at this type of event. Many vendors take food safety very seriously; in fact at a recent festival there were a number prominently displaying their Food Hygiene Rating (old Scores on the Doors). However, occasionally you come across one that falls foul of hygiene rules and as a result could cause the purchaser some discomfort – and I’m not just talking about the inflated price!

Obviously it pays to be vigilant, so before you purchase ask yourself these questions:

Are the people serving you wearing protective clothing such as aprons?

  • Have they tied their hair back?
  • Are they wearing gloves when handling food?
  • If the same person handling food is taking money, do they remove the glove to take the money?

This is basic personal hygiene, but I would put money on the fact that you will find at least one vendor who isn’t wearing gloves.

Do they clean utensils between each use?

This is important to prevent cross-contamination from one type of food to another – for example from raw meat and salad.

Is hot food kept at an appropriate temperature?

  • Is salad/grated cheese etc. kept covered and refrigerated?
  • Are items such as fries and rice replaced regularly?
  • Are raw meat products, ready to eat foods  and salad kept separately?

Nobody wants to eat chips that have been sitting there for half the day, but it is important that chips, rice, pasties and so forth are kept at a holding temperature of no less than 63°C for no longer than 2 hours. Likewise salad produce needs to be kept cool and veg should always be washed in clean water before being prepared. If products are not stored, held and prepared properly there is the risk of bacteria forming and consequently food poisoning.

pulledporkAre sauces served in sachets?

This is by far the most hygienic way to serve ketchup, brown sauce, mayonnaise, mustard and vinegar. If not, do the bottles used look clean? Also, is the tray where forks, spoons and stirrers are kept clean?

Is the actual kiosk/trailer itself clean?

Wooden counters might look rustic and ‘natural’ but they are not easy to keep clean and can harbour bacteria – stainless steel or formica is far more hygienic.

Are they safely disposing of rubbish?

Waste food should be disposed of properly in plastic sacks which have been tied tightly at the top and in lidded bins which are situated away from the food preparation area, to avoid attracting pests.

Are there facilities for handwashing?

There should be running water on site so that those serving and preparing food can wash their hand regularly and also clean the surfaces and utensils.

Are cartons and food containers clean?

No matter how good the food is, serving it from a carton which has been stored on the floor is a no-no.  All food containers should be protected by either a plastic bag or in a dry cardboard box which is stored in a cupboard.

Do they have basic food safety training?

This is a legal requirement for anyone whose job involves preparing, handling or serving food to the public. This does not take long to complete and can even be done online, so there is no excuse. To find out more about Food Safety courses, both on and offline please click here.