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Impact of Cultural Barriers on Food Safety Violations

September 10, 2010







Food safety violations

Enforcing food safety rules can be challenging for cash-strapped health and safety agencies that struggle with resources.  It can be even more challenging when they’re dealing with establishment owners who don’t speak English, or follow different cultural beliefs.  Considering that California is home to thousands of ethnic restaurants from Mexican and Filipino to Greek and Lebanese, California food poisoning lawyers wonder if there is a neglected food safety issue here.

Ensuring food safety in a restaurant isn’t exactly rocket science.  There are established steps that you can follow to make sure that the food you serve to customers is clean and hygienic.  That includes enforcing strict hand washing practices at your facility, encouraging safe handling of foods, and implementing safe storage practices.  These are basic and simple steps, but educating restaurant owners about these can be difficult if they are non-English speaking immigrants.  According to public health and safety experts, cultural differences and language barriers can pose a serious challenge when it comes to enforcing food safety regulations.

In many cases, food safety violations occur not willfully, but because restaurant owners find these regulations alien to their culture.  For instance, some Asian cultures recommend that you chop meats followed by vegetables.  That means that cooks end up using the same cutting boards for vegetables and meat.  Any California food poisoning poising attorney will tell you that that is an absolute no-no.  Using the same chopping board allows germs and bacteria from the meat or poultry to be transferred to the vegetables which are very often eaten raw.  There is a recipe for salmonella or E. coli poisoning right there.  Not only should you have separate chopping boards for meat/poultry and vegetables and fruits, but you should also wash your chopping boards thoroughly after every use and sterilize them regularly.  Those are well-established food safety practices, but may be alien to many foreign cultures.

Earlier this year, a study conducted by Kansas State University researchers found that ethnic restaurants that were independently owned and operated, were more likely to have food safety violations, compared to non-ethnic restaurants.  Some of the most common violations at these restaurants included failure to implement hand washing practices, failure to follow proper time and temperature control rules and improper use of utensils.  In most Asian cultures, handing food with your bare hands is normal food preparation practice.  In the US, practices like these could increase risks of food poisoning.

Besides cultural and language barriers like these, there’s also the question of whether foreign-born persons who decide to open a restaurant in the United States, understand the magnitude of food safety issues here.  It’s very likely that these people have a different perception of food safety and risk factors.

That doesn’t mean that every ethnically owned restaurant is a food safety risk.  Establishment owners can help their workers understand food safety regulations by conducting training sessions for them, including using translated training videos and manuals, audiovisual aids and on-site demonstrations.

The Reeves Law Group is not representing any party in the matters discussed in this posting.

Posted by Robert Reeves at 4:29 pm - no comments
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