No food safety culture in Paraguay

While showing my sister-in-law around Paraguay, we stopped at the mall to let her sample typical “snack” food. Back in the day, ladies on the side of the road sold this type of snack food with baskets on their heads. In some parts of the country, it is still sold this way – but that’s a whole different food safety story.

Nowadays this “snack” is a trendy thing and there are food stands everywhere. The company that owns the stand we stopped at even has a website and offers delivery. It is worth mentioning that a former food safety newsie trainee (who only lasted a week) owns the stand.

Out of three people running the little stand, only one was observed to have washed his hands properly – once. After taking out the trash and making sure it all fit down the bag, he went on with his cooking duties without washing his hands. I think his rationale was, “One hand washing is good enough”.

Similarly, the employee in charge of making fresh juice washed her hands only once and didn’t use soap, which was available. Her rationale was probably “plain water is good enough.”

It was obvious that food safety was not a concern, and customers don’t demand it either. Apparently, the stereotypical Paraguayan motto of “minimal effort” applies to the food safety culture as well.