Get a stool sample it may improve your food safety knowledge in Vietnam

Consumption of fast food and street food is increasingly common among Vietnamese, particularly in large cities. The high daily demand for these convenient food services, together with a poor management system, has raised concerns about food hygiene and safety (FHS). This study aimed to examine the FHS knowledge and practices of food processors and sellers in food facilities in Hanoi, Vietnam, and to identify their associated factors.

A cross-sectional study was conducted with 1,760 food processors and sellers in restaurants, fast food stores, food stalls, and street vendors in Hanoi in 2015. We assessed each participant’s FHS knowledge using a self-report questionnaire and their FHS practices using a checklist. Tobit regression was used to determine potential factors associated with FHS knowledge and practices, including demographics, training experience, and frequency of health examination.

Overall, we observed a lack of FHS knowledge among respondents across three domains, including standard requirements for food facilities (18%), food processing procedures (29%), and food poisoning prevention (11%). Only 25.9 and 38.1% of participants used caps and masks, respectively, and 12.8% of food processors reported direct hand contact with food. After adjusting for socioeconomic characteristics, these factors significantly predicted increased FHS knowledge and practice scores: (i) working at restaurants and food stalls, (ii) having FHS training, (iii) having had a physical examination, and (iv) having taken a stool test within the last year.

These findings highlight the need of continuous training to improve FHS knowledge and practices among food processors and food sellers. Moreover, regular monitoring of food facilities, combined with medical examination of their staff, should be performed to ensure food safety.

Evaluating food safety knowledge and practices of food processors and seller working in food facilities in Hanoi, Vietnam, April 2018

Journal of Food Protection, vol 81, no 4


Ooey, Ooey, Ooey, Ooey Allergies

The Wiggles, Australia’s highest-grossing and soon to be retired musical act, played a farewell gig last week after an 18 month reunion of their original lineup. The make-up album brought a song about allergies that Sam, our two-year-old, likes with the line, You can have a reaction to foods that you eat, it can be really serious with shellfish nuts and seeds.

I don’t have any food allergies that I know of, but I’ve had a couple of reactions to ASA (the compound found in Aspirin) resulting in a body full of hives for six weeks. That sucked, but it was just an inconvenience. Food allergy sufferers have reactions somewhere on a continuum between this nuisance and death. If The Wiggles are an indicator, the recognition and public discussion around allergens has increased but along with the attention comes a potentially dangerous attitude that an allergy isn’t severe, or the kid’s parents are overly protective.

And then comes the bullying. reports that Dr. Eyal Shemesh and colleagues at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have published a study in Pediatrics that shows that kids with allergies are bullied at a higher rate than their peers, which might cause them to avoid interventions.

The suffering is often done in silence. Nearly half of parents surveyed said they were unaware of the bullying, though both the bullied children and their parents reported experiencing higher stress levels and lower quality of life.

“Parents and pediatricians should routinely ask children with food allergy about bullying,” said Dr. Eyal Shemesh, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Finding out about the child’s experience might allow targeted interventions, and would be expected to reduce additional stress and improve quality of life for these children trying to manage their food allergies.”

Food service staff, the front-line folks for allergy protection, can’t tell whether an allergic reaction is going to lead to patron’s slight discomfort or worse. Allergen control and food safety practices are similar, but at the root of both issues is the organization and employee’s recognition of risks, reduction methods and evaluating whether everyone is really doing it. In the June 2013 issue of Food Control, Ji Hee Choi and Lakshman Rajagopal discuss knowledge, attitude and self-reported practices of food service employees regarding food allergies. When asked on a survey, food service staff report that allergens are important – but they couldn’t always identify what the allergens of concern are, and seemed to not retain specific allergen knowledge from training.

From the discussion:
Respondents in this study were knowledgeable about what a food allergy is and how to handle customers with food allergies; however, most respondents were not knowledgeable about the top eight food allergens from a given list of allergens…
 Employees scored higher on attitudinal statements related to the importance of foodservice staff providing accurate information to customers with food allergies to prevent incidences of food allergy reactions. However, employees were not confident about effectively handling food allergy emergencies. Employees’ positive attitudes toward food allergies and handling patrons with food allergies might be explained by the possession of food safety certification, which could also be a proxy for training received. However, no significant differences in knowledge scores were observed between employees who had received food safety certification and those who were not certified. This indicates that while certification and training maybe crucial for improving knowledge, it might not always be the case, as employees might not retain the knowledge or the training may not have contained updated information about food allergies.

Training matters, but not much (if retention counts) – and self reported practices don’t always match real life. The studied staff know something is up with allergens (maybe because the consequences are high), but don’t know exactly what to focus on. The less-trusting patrons of a food business who are looking for verification that their food is allergen-free can explore a bevy of apps to track symptoms, explore product ingredients or do uh, colormetric assays to look for traces of proteins (test reliability might be problematic).

From NPR’s The Salt:

Ozcan’s lab on a phone looks like it could take care of the inaccuracy problem. But the prototype requires users to undertake a mini chemistry experiment. They would have to grind up the food, mix it in a test tube with hot water and a solvent, and then mix it with a series of testing liquids. That process takes about 20 minutes.