Food sanitation is the practice of following certain rules and procedures to prevent the contamination of food, keeping it safe to eat. Many jurisdictions around the world have specific food sanitation laws, along with lists of regulations created by public health agencies. The practice of food sanitation is recommended at every step of the supply chain within the food industry, from workers in crop fields to waiters at restaurants. The term "food sanitation" typically refers to rules and procedures within the food industry, whether during production, packaging, transporting or serving. At the consumer level, such as in a home kitchen, practices designed to ensure that food is uncontaminated and safe to eat are often referred to using the term "food hygiene."
Food Safety Issues
From the moment that food is produced or harvested to the time that it is eaten, it is vulnerable to contamination from bacteria and other substances that could be harmful. The key to food sanitation is keeping food safe and clean, with all of its handlers complying with the necessary rules and recommendations. These rules concern things such as safe holding temperatures for the food; safe cooking temperatures; sterilization of cutting boards and other implements; proper attire for handlers, such as gloves and breathing masks; and times or dates by which the food should be eaten, served or sold.
Sanitation Within the Food Industry
Within the commercial food industry, food sanitation can get complex. A single mistake along the supply chain could make many people sick from eating contaminated food. For example, if a deli worker failed to wash his or her hands after using the restroom and then prepared a dozen boxed salads, many customers could get sick from fecal bacteria on the leaves of the salad greens. If a case of meat at a packaging plant was not stored at the proper temperature, it could be sold, transported and then served in a restaurant, possibly making the restaurant's customers sick, even if the restaurant followed all of the proper food sanitation guidelines. Within many jurisdictions, any business that produces food or sells it to consumers must pass regular inspections that ensure that all sanitation laws and procedures are being followed.
Outbreaks of foodborne illness because of poor food sanitation are a recurrent problem in many regions of the world. Failure to process foods properly has led to sickness from foods such as peanut butter, spinach, hamburger meat and many other basic staples, and outbreaks have been traced to restaurants, roadside food stands and many other locations where food is sold or served. Even institutions such as churches and community bake sales are not exempt from food safety issues, making it important for people to remember to use handling precautions every time they come into contact with food. Information about food safety is available from many government agencies and health organizations.