British Food Journal Volume 53 Issue 9 1951
Article publication date: 1 September 1951
In a recent edition of the Ministry's Bulletin, Mr. F. T. Willey, M.P., Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, urged that the utmost effort should be made by local authorities and food manufacturers in the education of food handlers and members of the public. It is noted that the Ministry of Food has decided to publish articles in the Bulletin, contributed by officers of local authorities who have had experience in organising Clean Food Weeks, Lectures and Exhibitions. This should prove of the greatest value to all interested in the subject of food hygiene, as it is those who actually come in contact with the public who can best deal with this problem— for problem it is. Those who sit in the seats of the mighty and do not themselves have to deal directly with the public obviously cannot fully understand the difficulties caused by the general indifference shown by them to all such matters. Once this indifference has been broken down, many of the difficulties now encountered will be reduced. All would‐be educationists will appreciate the extent to which this can influence and slow down any progress. No matter how widely they are advertised or what methods are adopted to encourage interest by means of posters, newspaper advertisement, etc., lectures arranged for the public are often poorly attended, but too great a significance should not be attached to the poor and irregular attendances at food hygiene lectures. The average housewife's time is usually too fully occupied, particularly at present, when many attempt to hold down a part‐time job in addition to their domestic duties. It is the consensus of opinion, not only among those engaged on food hygiene, but the food traders themselves, that the public are rapidly becoming more discriminating. Their remarks concerning exposure of food, cleanliness of garments, and frequent complaints of the condition of cups and utensils in some establishments will inevitably make itself felt in their patronage in the future. The proprietors of multiple stores seem well aware of this and do not consider expense incurred in training and equipment as other than an essential investment that will pay good dividends. I have been most encouraged by the interest shown by school children of all ages in food hygiene, and subsequent lectures and questions reveal that they have compared this approach with the practices adopted at home. Film shows have been given, which proved most useful in this respect, the films being chosen to suit the particular audience. Recently, two thousand children saw films on food hygiene, and, from essays which were written after‐wards, it was obvious that the lessons had been well learnt, and many children, particularly the girls, had been most observant, judging by the number of errors they noticed in the films. It will be found that Education Committees view, with favour, education of this nature, especially if approached from a specialist angle. When dealing with food handlers themselves problems of a different nature arise. Food handlers, once roused to a sense of responsibility and competition with their fellow traders, are, in the main, far easier to deal with. Managements have, in many cases, attended lectures more than once in order to ensure the attendance of members of their staffs. The main difficulty in dealing with food handlers is to find sufficient new material with which to keep their interest alive. It is of little use for senior officials of the Ministry to urge action by local authorities unless they provide suitable material upon which education can be based. At present, the only filmstrips available on food hygiene are compiled in such a way that it is almost impossible to follow a consistent theme when lecturing. Also, the contents are quite unsuitable for many food trades; for instance, little or no reference is made to fish and greengrocery trades —surely among the most important where hygiene is concerned. Could not the Ministry of Food produce a series of filmstrips in which particular attention is given to one or, at the most, two trades in each strip. If progress is to be made and the traders' interest kept up, it is essential that, for example, butchers and especially meat manufacturers should not be expected to sit through lectures where the films and filmstrips barely refer to their trades. With the detailed histories of food poisoning cases already in the possession of the Ministry of Food, a very instructive film could be made of the methods adopted in tracing the cause of an outbreak and the subsequent action taken to eliminate a recurrence from the same or a similar source. Take, for example, the outbreak which affected nearly 400 persons living in various parts of the country which was eventually traced to a worker in a food factory who was found to be a “carrier”. This man apparently washed his hands at the factory, using the same towel as five other workers whom he thus infected; they were all employed in preparing the gelatine which was later placed round liver sausage. Owing to the low temperature process used at this factory the bacteria transmitted to the gelatine by the infected workers was never killed, and the goods prepared were distributed over a wide area. Following this outbreak, research showed that by a new process this danger could be avoided. There is also a grave shortage of sound films dealing with food hygiene. “Another Case of Poisoning’” is excellent and brings out many of the more common faults practised by food handlers both in the trade and in the home. But this one film cannot be shown more than once to the same group of people. What efforts are being made to provide a sequel in this country? There is, I know, a film entitled “ Behind the Menu” produced by the National Film Board of Canada which is of good educational value—but only for those in the catering trade. All those in the public health and food trades services who have entered this field must realise the very great importance the layman attaches to samples and other visual aids shown to him by the lecturer to emphasise his point. It would be interesting to know if the Ministry of Food have any suggestions to make for the provision of such visual aids to assist in educating the food handler. These will provide a welcome alternative to the expenditure on large scale posters on other aspects of hygiene. Those who are arranging lectures and stimulating interest by the issue of certificates are looking forward to holding refresher and advanced courses for food trades. The whole value of these further lectures is their ability to retain the interest of the food handler and, at the same time, to enable advanced education to be given. If this is not put in hand quickly it must be obvious to all concerned that this aspect of health education, on which so much stress has been laid, is likely to fail. At the one‐day conference held recently on the Report of the Catering Trade Working Party it appeared that, however divergent were the opinions expressed by the principal speakers, Sir William Savage, Professor G. S. Wilson, Capt. K. C. McCallum and Dr. W. R. Martine, they were unanimous that education of all those engaged in food trades was of paramount importance. Would it not be appropriate now for the Ministry of Food to call together representatives of the food trades, the Society of Medical Officers, the Sanitary Inspectors' Association and some of the leading bacteriologists to formulate some definite plan for producing suitable films on the lines suggested. These should specialise in the work of each group in the food trades; should preferably be based on the research carried out in a specific outbreak of food poisoning; and illustrate the practices that should and should not be employed in food handling. They should avoid at all costs illustrations of large scale plant and factories, which are completely inappropriate for the average food trader. It is felt that no useful purpose is served, in fact exasperation has often been engendered, by photographs of enormous plants that may well have cost more than the whole shop premises and equipment of any of the food traders present at the lectures. From information available, it is felt that a successful approach could be made by the Ministry of Food to the Central Office of Information, asking for films of this nature to be undertaken on the lines already mentioned. I am convinced that this would receive the whole‐hearted support, not only of the food traders, but also of the departments of local authorities concerned.
(1951), "British Food Journal Volume 53 Issue 9 1951", British Food Journal, Vol. 53 No. 9, pp. 81-90. https://doi.org/10.1108/eb011475
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