03.How to spot a dodgy food establishment
Looking hygienic is no guarantee that a food outlet is. Restaurants in particular can be hard to judge, as much of the food handling and preparation is done out of sight, but you can still look for:
- Dirty floors, counters and tables. If people can’t keep their premises clean, chances are they don’t do much better with the food.
- Staff with dirty hands or fingernails, dangling jewellery and long hair not tied back.
- Dirty or chipped crockery, cutlery or glasses.
- Lukewarm food that should be hot, and cold food that isn’t quite cold. Hot foods should be kept above 60°C (steaming hot) and cold foods below 5°C, to stop most bacteria from multiplying.
- Foods not cooked right through, such as a pink centre in hamburger meat and pink uncooked chicken (particularly near the bone).
Cafés and takeaway outlets
You can avoid the worst cafés and takeaway outlets by keeping a lookout for the following:
- Uncovered or unwrapped food on counters.
- Unrefrigerated prepacked sandwiches.
- Condensation dripping from display cabinets onto food.
- Raw and cooked foods, such as salads and meats, touching each other in display units.
- Staff using the same set of tongs for different types of food — for example, salads and meat.
- Staff not washing hands after handling raw meat.
- Don’t automatically think that if staff are wearing gloves everything is OK. If they handle money as well as your food, or if they don’t change the gloves when handling different foods, the exercise is pointless.