Microbiological quality and safety of perishable food sold by take-away food outlets in the central operational entity of eThekwini Municipality, Durban.
Cele, Aneliswa Priscilla Revival.
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One hundred take-away food outlets within the Central Operational Entity of eThekwini Municipality were investigated in order to assess the microbiological quality and safety of perishable food sold as well as the level of hygiene conditions under which these food shops operate. This cross sectional observational and descriptive study was conducted between August and September 2005 with the overall aim to improve the delivery of safe food, promote good hygiene practices from take-away food outlets and target interventions that will assist improvements of service delivery in the food control section of eThekwini Municipality Health Department. Ready-to-eat foods which were collected included salads, beef, chicken and chips to determine actual microbiological quality of these products. Food temperatures were recorded at the time of sampling. Premises were inspected by the teamof trained Environmental Health Practitioners who used pre-structured checklist forms to determine the status food preparation areas and associated food handling practices. Standard methods were used to determine total bacteria count, coliform count, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella. The overall microbiological quality of the food served by the take-away food outlets were found within acceptable safety limits. Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella were evaluated and no incidence of these organisms was detected in all the food products sampled. 76% of samples showed high total bacteria count and coliforms were detected in 50% of food products. The results of the study indicate that there are some handling practices in the preparation process of ready- to-eat food that require more attention. In particular, control in food handling needs to be observed by food handlers as a result of significant incident of a high total bacteria count. There was a lack of correlation between bacterial count and the observed cleanliness of preparation areas and food handling practices. It is recommended that eThekwiniMunicipality Health Department embarks on a health education campaign on food safety. Food handlers should receive training and education in two aspects of food safety; namely, principles of good hygiene practice and the application of the Hazard Analysis and CriticalControl Point concept to food preparation.