Food Handling Behaviour of Food Handlers and Associated Risk Modelling

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JULY, 2017
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Food safety is an issue of global concern therefore the activities of food handlers affect the level of safety of prepared foods, which require appropriate guidelines or measures to guide such activities. Various studies have been carried out over time, to guide such activities, and still the problem of safety persists. This study sought to use the fuzzy modeling approach to determine the level of risk food is exposed to due to various handling methods. This was done by determining microbial levels (Microbial Risk Index- output variable) in food samples from selected restaurants in relation to the food handling method such as personal hygiene (PH), facility sanitation (FS), cold holding of food (CHF), hot holding of food (HHF), prevention of cross contamination (PCC) and raw ingredient handling (RIH). Food handlers in the study were also interviewed for knowledge in food safety. Results showed that contamination was attributed to inadequate food safety knowledge and practices. Less than 50 % of food handlers practiced good (high) food temperature management, ≤ 30% exhibited good (high) practices in preventing cross contamination. Inappropriate food safety practices such as inappropriate dressing (82%) usage of jewelry (66%) inappropriate washing of hands (70%), lack of or inappropriate medical screening (82%) and not having requisite training (66%) were also implicated. Modeling of PCC and FS; PH and PCC; CHF and HHF; PCC and CHF; and HHF and RIH gave rapid and high risk with deteriorating conditions. Cold handling of food, CHF and RIH interaction on the other hand gave a gradual rise in risk of microbial contamination. It is thus suggested that, while further studies are required for authoritative conclusions, regulatory authorities should prioritize risk factors such as personal hygiene of food handlers, temperature control during food preparation among others. Also, monitoring of restaurants by regulatory authorities should focus more on those food handling methods that pose risk of higher contamination of food rather than treating all factors as same.
A thesis submitted to the Department of Food Science and Technology, College of Science, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Food Quality Management,