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Hand-washing drive: Secret of safe food

Hand-washing drive: Secret of safe food

16 October 2012

For Emirates Flight Catering, one of the largest flight caterers in the world, hygienic hands of staff in Dubai means safe food to millions flying across the world.

Because of the very reason, the company spares no effort in ensuring best standards in hand hygiene of its nearly 6,000 staff, including 4,500 food handlers working in Dubai.

On Global Hand Washing Day on Monday, the Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC) joined hands with the Food Control Department of the Dubai Municipality (DM) to spread the message of the occasion through various ways.

“Effective washing of hands should always be coupled with soap,” said Mohamed Ezzeldin Ali, assistant vice-president of Food Safety and Cleaning services at EKFC.

“Hand washing with soap and water is like a vaccine against food-borne diseases and infections. We produce around 130,000 meals per day. So, hand hygiene of our staff from 45 different nationalities is crucial to protect them and the passengers flying from and to different parts of the world,” he said.

With the huge volume of meals that are prepared and uplifted to the flights in Dubai International Airport, he pointed out that no food poisoning complaint was received from any of the passengers which can be attributed to established food safety culture including hand hygiene amongst the employees of EKFC.  Last year, Ali said, the company consumed about 11,000 litres of liquid hand wash, 450 litres of hand sanitiser and around 10-million square metres of tissues for ensuring the hands of the workers remain neat and tidy.

Senior vice-president of Airport Catering Services Duncan Davis inaugurated the day’s activities along with Ali and DM’s senior food safety expert Basher Hassan Yousif.

Taking reporters on a tour around the EKFC premises, the company’s Food Safety Manager Jahaber Sadiq said the number of hand wash stations on the premises stood at 153 compared to just 20 in 1990.

Each hand wash station is strategically placed, giving easy access to it every time a worker has had a “critical moment” requiring his or her hands to be cleaned. Protective clothing and waterproof finger protectors are provided to food handlers whereas top ten habits of dirty hands and the areas that are missed while washing hands are highlighted in posters.

There is a code of practice for all food handlers to wash their hands and random swab tests and monitoring through camera are in place to ensure strict compliance. The service of nearly 40 food safety assistants and five microbiologists are used for testing food handlers for bacteria like E. Coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella. Staff who are unwell are not allowed to work and strict health screening of workers and visitors is conducted to minimise risk of infection on the premises.

“We cannot compromise on food safety and hand hygiene plays an important role in ensuring it. Being in Food Safety Department, our aim is to motivate staff to automatically wash their hands with soap following the correct steps of hand washing not just because the job requires it but because this is part of their discipline which they can share with their family and loved ones,” said Sadiq.

Employees from different departments participated to create a video, in five languages, showcasing the importance of washing hands with soap on their job and in their lives.

Glo-germ kits were used during the event to educate the people on the proper way of washing hands with soap. Stickers and mascots were also used to reinforce awareness and diligence on proper washing of hands.

DM to take hand-washing drive to schools

With an aim to instil a culture of hand washing in younger generation, the Dubai Municipality is targeting schools to conduct awareness campaigns in view of Global Hand Washing Day.

Officials from the municipality will train schoolchildren in the correct ways of washing hands with soap and water, a key practice in protecting people against infections and food-borne illnesses.

“The habit of hand washing should come from within and it is a must that top management and elders show the way to others,” said Basher Hassan Yousif, a senior food safety expert the municipality.

Khaleej Times