F&B

Food safety: What consumers should really know

Exploring the sanitation standards and requirements of food business operators in the country

Photo by James Sutton/Unsplash

On Aug. 30, a Facebook user named Karessa Mae Bulay Limpot shared a post about her family getting hospitalized after eating dinner at Chef Laudico Guevarra’s in San Juan on Aug. 19. “Hindi po ito basta basta sakit lang sa tiyan. My dad’s and sister’s kidneys have shut down. My dad had to undergo dialysis twice. They suffered from acute kidney failure due to severe dehydration secondary to acute gastroenteritis. I myself was also hospitalized two days ago. My mom and my older brother also experienced stomach problems. Almost all of us are positive of cholera vibrio.” She had no choice but to call out the restaurant through social media after “false assurances” were made. Other families who dined on the same day also experienced a similar fate.

San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez then ordered an investigation into the reports and eventually shut down the restaurant temporarily as well as instructed Guevarra’s to undergo food handling reorientation and inspect the facility and the drainage system in the restaurant. On Sept. 4, the restaurant released a statement that they were coordinating with the families as well as initiating an investigation and inspection together with the Department of Health (DOH) and other third-party companies to ensure the incident will never happen again. Chef Laudico Guevarra’s resumed operations last Sept. 12.

SETTING THE STANDARD FOR FOOD SAFETY

We’ve all heard or read about cases of food poisoning before. Some of us might have even experienced it once or a few times already. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), food poisoning is a common illness that affects an estimated 600 million (or one in 10 people in the world) due to contaminated food. Each country has its own safety, quality, and labeling standard that should be established on a broad scale, since food safety is a global concern. In coming up with these safety standards, local governments should allow the industry, the scientific community, and the public to brainstorm on opinions and ideas. Food safety control focuses on various factors such as safety, nutrition, quality, and value.

FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS

In the Philippines, the Food and Safety Act of 2013 (RA No. 10611) covers everything we need to know about food and food safety standards. The law primarily aims to strengthen the food safety regulatory system in the country, which is a set of regulations, standards, inspection, testing, data collection, monitoring, and other activities by the food safety regulatory agencies (FSRAs) and by local government units. The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Health (DOH) are the implementing agencies of this law. Specifically, the DA is responsible for food safety in the primary production and post-harvest while the DOH is responsible for the safety of processed and prepackaged food. Food business operators have the principal responsibility of ensuring that food is in accordance with the requirements of food law relevant to the food supply chain activities. Control systems are in place to prevent, eliminate, or reduce risks to consumers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), food poisoning is a common illness that affects an estimated 600 million (or one in 10 people in the world) due to contaminated food.

Section 5, Article III of RA No. 10611 tackles the requirements in food safety.

In determining the safety of food, it should be presented in accordance with their intended use as provided for in their specific guidelines determined by the FSRAs. Food is also safe if the normal conditions during production, processing, handling, storage, and distribution are maintained. Furthermore, the state of health of the plants and animals where the food comes from should also be determined. This will also determine if the feeds, chemicals, and other production inputs can have a positive or negative effect on these plants and animals. Hygienic measures should also be observed in food handling and food preparation as well as during cooking demonstrations, cooking shows, food launches, and other similar activities.

Precautionary measures should also be taken if food is injurious to health; its short-term and long-term effects on subsequent generations of a food on health. On the other hand, the DOH will monitor the effects of the food on the individuals’ health and their subsequent generations.

When a food is unfit for consumption, the conditions of the food shall be evaluated and thoroughly examined through physical, chemical, microbiological, microscopic, and other tests needed. A contaminated food item that is part of a batch will be generally considered unsafe.

Food that complies with a specific set of national laws or regulations shall be considered safe as long as it covers national laws and regulations.

When a food is unfit for consumption, the conditions of the food shall be evaluated and thoroughly examined through physical, chemical, microbiological, microscopic, and other tests needed. A contaminated food item that is part of a batch will be generally considered unsafe.

PROHIBITED ACTS

The law also defines prohibited acts against its provisions: It is unlawful for anyone to produce, handle, or manufacture for sale, offer for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the Philippines any food product that does not apply and conform with the safety standards promulgated in this Act. Banned food products in the country or anywhere else should never be produced, handled, manufactured, offered, or distributed in commerce. Any form of refusal to have goods inspected and failure to comply with an order of recalling products are also prohibited acts. The Act also prohibits unauthorized food business operations and conniving with other food business operators or food inspectors to harm the public’s health.

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