A chef’s takeaway in this pandemic
READER’S VIEWS (The Freeman) - April 27, 2020 - 12:00am

For the past few weeks, I have been asking myself these questions, “What is it really that I’m going to take after this bleakness? How heavy would the impact be in the industry that I am in? And how long does it take for us to get back to the usual operation?” All of these remained questions unanswered, not until today.

Fortunately, I was able to participate in the Webinar (a seminar conducted over the internet) hosted by Enderun Colleges in partnership with Foodshap (Food Safety Training and Examination in the Philippines). The Webinar’s topic was entitled: Food Safety, Hygiene and Sanitation: Rebooting your food business during COVID 19. The speakers and panelists have made such interesting points and brought enlightenment and clarification for some information.

And it brought me to these questions: “Being a food handler and with the Enhanced Community Quarantine now where all of us are immobilized, what actions have you made so far to be prepared for the next one? Do you really have a strong foundation or program for food safety measures? Does your food establishment have proper food safety culture? Or are you really practicing a strict cleaning and sanitation procedure?” As the authorities have said, COVID-19 is not a food-borne illness, meaning it cannot be transmitted through food, however, asking these questions would help us reassess and double check our protocols when handling food, let us not forget that we have other enemies as well, taking extra-precautionary measures won’t hurt.

So here’s my take:

I’m not being hopeful for the next pandemic, (God forbid) but in having a solid action plan when it comes again we can say to ourselves that we are prepared. Since this situation we can no longer operate the way we used to operate and with this new normal now, “food deliveries” which is done by external partners (e.g. Lalamove, Angkas, Grabfood to name a few) have taken over the industry. Taking this into consideration and refining it would help the food industry cope with the situation in the near future. Dr. Wessam Atif, founder of Foodshap (one of the speakers in the webinar) said that “animals have always had a role in starting pandemics”, and if I may add, humans too play a huge part in starting this pandemic as well. Let this be a reminder for us to take seriously the procedure in handling food, and implement safety practices (e.g. wearing of PPE’s in the kitchen especially when handling cooked food, following the temperature guidelines, sick staffs should not report to work, imposing a strict proper hygiene to staffs ,suppliers and purchasers, and even washing delivered fruits and vegetables with potable water and other important practices). We can also take this “vacant” time to thoroughly check the kitchen if it’s not prone to the spread of bacteria and invest in facilities for handwashing and effective chemicals needed for sanitizing.

As a chef, these general realizations during this Enhanced Community Quarantine should be our utmost concern. I hope that by the end of this quarantine period, all of us must have a visible risk assessment plan. As they say, “we are not changing, we are evolving”.

Jose Gerard Patrick Apurado

Pastry Chef

Plantation Bay Resort & Spa

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