Food onboard is considered as a critical welfare issue for crew members. A healthy, nutritious and low-fat food program provides seafarers with the required energy to perform their duties, protect their health and fight any fatigue symptoms. On the other hand, if not handled properly onboard, food can be a significant cause of diseases and foodborne outbreaks. So how crews can ensure the food hygiene onboard?
Below issues are to be considered:
Catering staff should be properly trained in food safety and personal hygiene, as they are responsible for ensuring that high standards of personal hygiene and cleanliness are maintained at all times throughout the galley, pantry and mess rooms.
- All cuts, even small, should be reported immediately and first-aid attention must be provided to prevent infection. An open cut, burn or abrasion should be covered with a blue waterproof dressing which must be changed regularly. Anyone with a septic cut or a boil, stye, etc. should stop working with food until it is completely healed.
- Illness, coughs and colds, rashes or spots, however mild, should be reported immediately when the symptoms appear.
- A person suffering from diarrhea and/or vomiting, which may be signs of food poisoning or a sickness bug, should not work in food-handling areas until medical clearance has been given.
- There should be no smoking in galleys, pantries, store rooms or other places where food is prepared or stored.
- Hands and fingernails should be washed before handling food using a dedicated hand basin, a bacterial liquid soap from a dispenser, and disposable towels. It is also important to thoroughly wash and dry hands after using the toilet, blowing your nose or handling refuse or contaminated food. An alcohol gel may be used to supplement the use of soap and water.
- When handling food and preparing meals, catering staff should wear clean, protective clothing, including appropriate protective gloves if necessary. They are also discouraged from wearing any jewellery.
- The cleanliness of all food, crockery, cutlery, linen, utensils, equipment and storage is vital. Cracked or chipped crockery and glassware should not be used. Foodstuffs that may have come into contact with broken glass or broken crockery should be thrown away.
- The risks of cross contamination should be eliminated by thoroughly stripping and cleaning the relevant parts of equipment when successive different foods are to be used (especially raw and cooked foods). It is important to wash hands after handling raw meat, fish, poultry or vegetables.
- Separate work surfaces, chopping boards and utensils should be set aside for the preparation of raw meat and must not be used for the preparation of foods that will be eaten without further cooking. Color coding is an established way of ensuring separation between the two activities.
- Food waste, empty food containers and other garbage are major sources of pollution and disease and should be placed in proper covered storage facilities, safely away from foodstuffs.
- Fresh fruit and salad should be thoroughly washed in fresh water before being eaten.
- Foodstuffs and drinking water should not be stored where germs can thrive. Frozen food must be defrosted in controlled conditions, i.e. an area entirely separate from other food in cool conditions. Food should be prevented from sitting in the thaw liquid by placing it on grids in a container or on a shelf. Frozen food that has been defrosted is not to be refrozen.
- Raw food should be kept apart from cooked food or food that requires no further treatment before consumption (e.g. milk). Separate refrigerators are preferred although, if stored in the same unit, the raw food must always be placed at the bottom to avoid drips contaminating ready prepared food. Food should also be covered to prevent drying out, cross contamination and absorption of odour.
- It is vital to ensure that all food is kept at the correct temperature to prevent the multiplication of bacteria.
SQE has developed a sample of toolbox meeting to be used as guidance onboard