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17/11/17: Borneo takes steps to ensure food safety in country

BB_650A total of 67 food poisoning outbreaks affecting 1,645 individuals were recorded in Brunei from 2005 to 2016.

In most circumstances, these outbreaks were caused by poor hygiene habits by staff involved in preparing food, lack of sanitation of the surrounding kitchen area, and improper storage of food at unsuitable temperatures for a prolonged period of time.

As the vast majority of these cases are preventable with proper food handling, the

Ministry of Health has focussed efforts in promoting food safety and proper hygiene practices by providing education programmes for food handlers and requiring them to be registered with the ministry.

In line with this objective, on November 7, 2017, the Ministry of Health undertook a review of its existing procedures for food handlers’ certification, and is currently upgrading the programme in phases (first in the Brunei-Muara District, and then to the remaining three districts in Brunei by 2018).

The implementation of the first phase of the programme features an upgrade on the existing process to further empower food handlers and emphasise on the importance of knowledge and practices on basic food safety and good food hygiene practices for food handlers who are directly or indirectly involved in the food supply chain (such as preparation, cooking, handling, packing, storage or delivery of food products or items meant for public consumption).

This upgrade includes the provision of a Basic Food Safety Course, covering topics on basic safe food handling practices and prevention of food-borne illnesses – including an emphasis for food handlers to report any disease when they are sick, and also an assessment process for food handlers.

Previously, food handlers who had registered at the Health Screening Centre in Berakas were required to undergo a stool test, a chest x-ray, typhoid vaccination, and a medical assessment, but were not assessed on their food handling practices.

With the revised programme, certain administrative burdens are now eased for businesses and food handlers.

Food handlers will now only need to show proof of a valid typhoid vaccination, attend the food safety course, and successfully demonstrate safe food handling practices.

This revision means that the validity of the certification period has been increased from two to three years.

These changes are based on the Ministry of Health’s ongoing efforts and commitment to continually provide better and more efficient services to its clients and support the country’s drive to improve its Ease of Doing Business rankings.

The recommendations for changes have been carefully evaluated to achieve a balance between public safety and providing food handlers in Brunei the recommended best practices which is comparable to regional and international standards.

By placing importance on proper food handling practice knowledge, encouraging safe food hygiene practices, and emphasis on early detection of food-borne illnesses among food handlers to avoid the spread of illness to others, individual food handlers can be empowered to make better-informed decisions in the overall undertaking of daily food-related activities.

Implementing good food hygiene practices during food preparation not only ensures safe food, but also helps achieve public confidence and improves both business performance and customer satisfaction, in the sense that patrons know that the food served is not only delicious, but safe for consumption as well.

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