Sharon Nkansah offers up food storage advice at King’s Peri Peri Chicken in East Ham, east London.
Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian
When you’ve been a food safety inspector for as long as Sharon Nkansah, you know how to smell a rat.
“Last month, there was a place I inspected [where] I walked in and you could smell it,” she says. “You can smell mouse activity. They had droppings in fridges, where they have their sauces, where they have their cutlery; the droppings were everywhere. So I just said: ‘Pull the shutters down’.”
You also learn tricks to catch out wily business owners. The best time to inspect a suspect business is in the morning, she says, before staff have had a chance to sweep up anything nasty deposited overnight.
Nkansah has worked as a food safety inspector for Newham borough council in east London for 10 years. As we move between businesses throughout the day, she is fun and chatty, talking about her children and her recent holiday, but as soon as she’s in a kitchen, her bright patterned dress is covered with a white coat and her braids are tucked under a hairnet. She becomes brisk, businesslike, at times tough.
Her repeated refrain, delivered to staff at the takeaways she inspects who ask her for food hygiene advice, is: “I am not here to train you, I am here to enforce.”
A firm approach is needed in Newham. A Guardian analysis of Food Standards Agency data found that the borough has the lowest food hygiene scores in the country: 26% of its food businesses fail inspections, rising to 50.4% for takeaways. Far from being embarrassed by these numbers, Matthew Collins, a principal environmental health officer at the council, and Nkansah’s boss, sees them as a point of pride.
“I think it’s an indication that we’re out doing our jobs,” he says.
Nkansah began her career as a chef, but wanted a job with more child-friendly hours after having children, so did a one-year degree in food hygiene and began working as an inspector in Newham.
Cuts to local government funding have meant the number of food inspectors has declined in recent years. The ratio of food safety inspectors to businesses has dropped from 4.2 full-time inspectors per 1,000 food businesses in 2012-13, to 3.7 per 1,000 in 2014-15. This figure is dragged down considerably by England, where there are only 3.2 officers per 1,000 businesses, compared with 5.7 per 1,000 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The job, says Nkansah, is satisfying, but it comes at a cost: she has seen what goes on in the back rooms of takeaways, cafes and restaurants.
Before going to a new restaurant, Nkansah says she always looks up its food safety rating. When asked if she would eat somewhere that scored zero, one or two, Nkansah is appalled. “Absolutely not,” she says.
On a good day, Nkansah can inspect three establishments. On a bad day, if she visits businesses where standards are very poor and the management is either belligerent or impossible to track down, she can spend half a day trying to evaluate one.
KFC: High Street North, East Ham
Nkansah starts at KFC on the high street. She is expecting big things here: large chains often do well with food safety and at its previous inspection in March 2014, this KFC branch was given the highest possible score of five.
Inside the KFC kitchen, the first thing Nkansah does is wash her hands. “It’s a way of testing if they have adequate hand-washing facilities. If they don’t, that’s not a good start,” she says.
KFC’s hand-washing station passes muster and Nkansah then works her way through the kitchen, starting at the entry point for deliveries, before moving on to the tills.
Nkansah is happy with everything – the general cleanliness of the kitchen, the way food is stored and the waste management system. The temperature of the freezer and fridges are good, and she is pleased to see a designated raw chicken preparation area.
I have been a customer of reliance fresh, Peroorkada since its opening. Today I saw Rotton vegetables, flies around and bad smell. Coriander leaves are decayed. When I touched It was itching even after I soap washed hands. Sales boys are around as usual joking and talking. They never help the customers who help themseves weighing loose items. Their response and body language is also not positive when we approach them and they are not customer friendly comparing with other outlets.
[Sep 26, 2016] Reliance Fresh customer support has been notified about the posted complaint/
Customer satisfactory rating : 6%
Complaints : 1030, Resolved : 12
PESPRO Comments :
Reliance Fresh should be a licensed vendor of Food Safety Act and needs to follow Good Hygiene Practices in their outlet. If the customer is not satisfied over the conditions there, he can represent the matter to the District Designated Officer Food Safety.
Voice of Tobacco Victims (VoTV), a pan-India organisation campaigning against usage of tobacco, has welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision asking tobacco manufacturers to abide by the ban on the sale of gutka and other products. State patron of the VoTV, Dr Prahlad Duggal, said they now hoped to see a decline in the rate of oral cancers sweeping Punjab. He said, “The order needs to be strictly enforced by the state government so that there is a real impact on the health of citizens.” While hearing the appeal filed by manufacturers of pan masala, gutka and chewing tobacco (zarda) against the state government notifications issued under the FSSAI regulations banning these products, the Supreme Court (SC), had on Saturday directed for strictly complying with regulations of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulation, 2011, notified on August 1, 2011, by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
The said regulation 2.3.4 mandates prohibition and restriction on sale of food products having tobacco and nicotine as their ingredients, including gutka, pan masala and zarda. The regulation was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2013, but the tobacco industry was bypassing the directive by selling ingredients of gutkha, pan masala and chewing tobacco, separately as twin packs, said Duggal. Welcoming the order, Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi, surgeon and professor at Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, said the order finally ended the gutka industry, which had led to an epidemic of oral cancers in the country. A noted lawyer, Ranjit Singh, remarked that this was a landmark order. He said it would plug legal loopholes, which the tobacco industry was using, to bypass the ban on gutka.
India is committed to adhering to international food safety standards, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said, underlining the need for enhancing awareness about Codex, a collection of internationally recognised standards and codes of practice related to food.
Noting that Codex has developed important guidelines for different categories of food, Nadda called for harmonisation of national standards with Codex for health protection and fair practices in international trade, saying India has already embarked on this harmonisation process.
Codex Alimentarius is a collection of internationally recognised standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations relating to foods, food production and food safety.
“India is committed to adhering to international food safety standards,” Nadda said, speaking at the 20th session of the WHO/FAO Coordinating Committee of Asia (CCASIA).
He also asked CCASIA to focus on standardising cuisines of Asian origin and popularising them internationally to facilitate their global trade.
“CCAsia should work on the communication strategy and standardisation of processes, which shall be the contribution to Codex. There is an urgent need for enhancing awareness about the work of Codex in different countries.
“The benefits of the work done by Codex Alimentarius could be further spread among all countries, especially in the developing countries that comprise almost 70 per cent of the world population,” Nadda said.
The Health Minister said there is a need for more coordinated action amongst Asian countries on food standard related areas while stressing on the need for the Codex member countries to pool their resources and provide support to least developed countries in the region.
“Codex has developed important standards and guidelines for different categories of food. National standards need to be harmonised with those of Codex to achieve an appropriate level of human health protection and fair practices in international trade. We, in India, have already embarked on this harmonisation process,” he said.
Minister of State for Health Faggan Singh Kulaste said it is imperative to lay down standards for food so that the food safety is ensured and the difficulties in trade of safe food are eliminated.
“In essence, the Codex Alimentarius has reached every continent, and its contribution to the protection of public health and fair trade practices is immeasurable,” Kulaste said. TDS PMS SK PMS .
A new shop at Anna Nagar East, Chennai – KULFI HOUSE, keeps the Kulfi in very unhygienic conditions, without proper packing.
Being a milk product and such bad handling of food is a severe threat to the health of the consumers. Upon confronting the staff of the shop, the sales person had a simple reply that we have license and we do not do proper packing.
PESPRO Comments :
Consumer is advised to file a complaint with Chennai Dt.Designated Officer for regulatory action.