Take-away food presents a certain safety concern that eat-in restaurants do not. For one because food is not consumed on the premises, the time food spends at room temperature is unknown and should not be over a few hours. For this reason takeaway food has the potential to harbour microorganisms that can make customers sick if it is not prepared, handled and stored correctly.
Although most of the outlets are visited regularly by health inspectors or officials and most are clean and hygienic there are some that have been issued with notices on a number of occasions.
The best method of assessing whether a take-away outlet is safe to eat at is by examining the general condition of the premises and whether the staff adhere to cleanliness. Staff should wear head coverings and gloves if they are preparing food. The front of house staff should also have a clean appearance.
If the premises looks dirty, or the serving staff are untidy or have exposed wounds or obvious signs of infection, they probably do not value cleanliness and you may have a food safety issue.
The take-away should appear clean and tidy, especially the floor because a dirty premises may be an indication of their attitude towardscleanliness and ultimately food safety.
Some of the tell-tale signs to look out for include grease build up around the exhaust system, mould on tiles or around fridge doors, paint peeling off the walls, rodents and pests like cockroaches and flies.
By observing the food handlers you can also gain some idea of how clean the restaurant is. They should be clean, tidy and well presented with long hair tied back or with a hair net. Staff should wash hands often, before beginning food preparation, after cleaning or blowing their noses, sneezing or coughing or going to the toilet. Also observe if staff smoke in the areas where food is prepared or handled. Staff also should not be eating or drinking while preparing food. Staff should never handle food after touching money without washing hands first. Foods that will be cooked such as raw meat should be handled with clean hands.
If possible to do so, check that perishable foods such as sliced meats and some sandwich fillings are being kept in the refrigerator and hot foods are being kept steaming hot.
Cold food should be kept cold and a way of making sure is to touch the display and make sure it feels cold to touch, and look for frost or ice around the corners of cabinets.
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Some foods which are often displayed should only be kept at room temperature for up to 4 hours, such as sandwiches and sushi. Do not buy food from the display without asking how long it has been in the display. Do not buy it if it was in the display for over 4 hours.
Also watch the take-away is not reusing utensils and cutlery that is meant to be disposed of such as plastic knives and forks.
By being slightly more cautious you can avoid contracting a foodborne pathogen that so often originates in take-away foods.