Working at a hostel can be an exciting, and challenging job. Hostel workers have a lot of things to do. This includes such things as checking in guests, making sure the hostel rooms have supplies (bathrooms have soap, towel, etc), fixing minor repairs, helping guests navigate around a new town/city/state/country that they are in, handling cash and handling food in the kitchen. Food safety is an important part for any business that makes, handles, stores, prepares, cooks or serves food. Many backpacker hostels like to provide a free or inexpensive breakfast option for their guests. If food in a hostel kitchen is not stored and prepared properly it can spoil and grow harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Clearly food safety is important for everyone, and that is why some states mandates that people working in the food industry have a food handling or food safety supervisor certificate. This allows everyone to have the same training and knowledge when it comes to health and food safety in a food related industry.
There are many types of food poisoning that can occur in a hostel. Most types of food poisoning can be stopped, or prevented by very simple means. The first is for people handling food to properly wash their hands with soap and warm water. This also prevents human borne illness, like a common cold or flu, from spreading onto food and making other people sick. Even those who are not sick themselves cannot account for everyone they come into contact with throughout the day. People also need to be aware that bacteria and viruses can be found on everyday items they touch like their mobile, their purse or wallet, and even door handles. When people wash their hands properly it prevents viruses and bacteria from these surfaces going onto their hands, and then onto the food and beverages that people handle, prepare, cook, or serve. It is important to scrub your hands (fingers and palms) as well as your wrists and lower arms for thirty seconds or longer. Use a disposable towel to dry your hands, rather than a tea towel that can harbor bacteria. Have food handling certificate trained staff or volunteers in your kitchen, along with a poster of proper hand-washing by the sink, to remind everyone about proper hand washing for food safety.
Aside from washing your hands properly, many people may not know that it is important to keep foods at the correct temperature. This is especially important for animal based products such as meat, eggs, or dairy. These products can spoil easy, become rotten and grow harmful bacteria if not stored properly. Dairy products should be kept in the refrigerator and used by their expiration date. If a milk based product has grown mould, has expired, has a strange smell, or tastes sour when it did not taste sour originally (milk going bad) you should dispose of the product immediately. Food handling certificate training will also tell you that eggs should be stored in the refrigerator for long-term use. Meat products, if your hostel will be serving them, should be either frozen and then properly defrosted, or kept in the fridge. Meat needs to be cooked properly as raw meat can have bacteria like E-coli or salmonella. Fruits and vegetables also need to be stored properly, and checked for signs of mould or rot. If a fruit or vegetable has gone bad it should be disposed of. Finally grain products can usually be stored at room temperature. These products can also grow mould and should be thrown out if moldy or rotten. As well if there are bugs, or insects if a food product it should be removed. Just as humans can be carriers of disease, insects can be carriers as well, so it is much better to be safe and remove possible contaminated food, then to take any risks. Important information, such as the best temperature to store various food products, is learned in food handling certificate courses.
If your hostel has a kitchen that guests can use, make sure to have information available about storing food items properly. Hostels will often have long term guests so remind people to check the expiration dates of products, look for signs of mold, rot or spoilage and dispose of these items when they go bad. Give guests labels so they can label their food as their own, making sure it doesn’t get confused with the food from another guest. Have the kitchen well stocked with soap for cleaning kitchen items. If your hostel uses tea towels wash and replace them frequently (a few times per day) in order to minimize the bacteria that can grow on tea towel surface. Make sure the hostel host(s) have a food safety supervisor certificate so they know how to keep the guest’s kitchen clean and safe. Having the tools to prevent food poisoning and other food related illnesses will ensure everyone will have a great experience at a hostel.
Food Safety Now has food handling certificate courses that are convenient, affordable and comply with state and territory legislation.