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Last updated: 20.07.17

Why every business should aspire to better food hygiene standards

Food and dining industry companies are well aware of the importance of maintaining high standards of food hygiene, but knowledge of these important issues tends to be patchier among the wider business community.

In one sense, it's understandable that organisations with no direct links to the preparation and handling of food might be less aware of food safety issues than those that deal with them in their day-to-day operations, but the fact remains that the same basic hygiene laws apply to every organisation, so there's no excuse for being lax.

Fortunately, the basics of food hygiene are relatively easy to grasp; the bigger challenge is to make sure everyone within your organisation is aware of the issue and takes it seriously. Only then will it be possible to achieve a healthy, safe and successful workplace, free of risks associated with poor hygiene standards.

Why is this important?

The key thing to remember is that even in non-food industries, there's really no such thing as a food-free workplace. Every office is going to have food in it at some point, whether it be snacks or packed lunches brought on-site by hungry staff, or drinks served as part of an official function.

As such, a failure to store this food properly can have major consequences for any business. Chronic hygiene problems can make it more likely that workers will end up being less productive or taking time off work due to illness, while the risk of cross-contamination means that any problems can quickly spread out of control.

This isn't just a health issue, but a legal consideration. Food safety failings could see your company fall foul of workplace legislation, putting the whole business at risk of punitive action and reputational damage from which it may be hard to recover - as such, there's every reason to treat the matter with the utmost seriousness.

Remembering the basics

When considering food hygiene, a good place to start are the so-called four Cs - cross-contamination, cleaning, chilling and cooking - which together can help businesses to prevent the most common food safety problems.

Following these guidelines means making sure facilities are in place to help staff wash their hands regularly and that surfaces are all kept clean, while also taking steps to ensure that potential sources of bacteria - including uncooked food - does not come into contact with anything consumed by your staff.

It also means keeping a working refrigerator running at the right temperature without overstuffing it, and - in any instances where meals are prepared on the company's behalf - that food is cooked properly before being eaten.

Ensuring your premises are hygienic

Bosses should also give some thought to how food hygiene issues might arise in more business-specific settings.

For example, it's important to ensure that work premises are kept clean and well maintained, with regular cleaning of all surfaces and office equipment - a vital consideration, given how often people consume food at their desks or workstations. Additionally, there should be plenty of kitchen surface space to allow staff to prepare food in a way that's hygienic, and proper cleaning of this area is particularly essential.

Maintaining appropriate temperatures also plays a part in helping to make sure that food can be handled and stored properly, so keeping track of the heat levels in an office should be looked upon as a food safety issue as much as it is a general safety consideration.

Making your staff hygiene-aware

However, all of these safety efforts will be wasted if your company isn't able to get the proper buy-in from staff. After all, maintaining good hygiene is a shared responsibility, and avoiding risks becomes much harder when some people are not pulling their weight.

As such, it would be wise to provide training and guidance on the importance of food safety standards, and to remind workers of the actions they can take to prevent the spread of bacteria. That includes keeping their own working area clean, making sure that any kitchen items are properly washed or placed in the dishwasher after use, taking responsibility for clearing up any food-related messes they may cause, and observing proper etiquette and hygiene standards when using a communal fridge.

Ultimately, it's impossible to keep up proper standards of food hygiene without everybody in the company - from upper management to ground-level workers - being committed to doing so. By educating the entire company on the risks of lax standards and the benefits of good performance, it'll become easier to eliminate avoidable mistakes and provide the kind of safe, healthy workplace that you aspire to have.

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