1 May

The consequences of improper food handling

Whether it’s at home or within the work environment, proper food handling is important.

Many of us already known some of the key rules to proper food handling, especially in terms of when we’re preparing and/or cooking it. But sometimes improper food handling does occur, and the consequences can be very serious.

Bacterial growth / cross contamination

Excessive bacterial growth and cross contamination are two of the main problems that can occur due to poor food handling. Bacterial growth can result from certain foods being left out in the heat too long (e.g. meats), improperly cooking, not consuming foods before the ‘use by’ date, and so on. Cross contamination, of course, occurs when you contaminate foods with either other foods or products. A basic example would be cutting up raw meat on a cutting board, and then cutting up vegetables on the same board without first thoroughly cleaning said board. Another example could be preparing food on a surface that was recently sprayed with insecticides.

These two are unfortunately common if food isn’t handled properly. And more often than not, these two factors typically lead to some of the following, more substantial issues…

Food poisoning

Without a doubt, food poisoning is the one of the key consequences that comes from improper food handling. It could be the food not being properly cooked (or at the right serving temperature), food left to defrost too long, food being handled with unclean hands, cross contamination, and so on. As mention, many of the poor food handling practices that allow for bacterial growth and cross contamination will also be the same practices that lead to food poisoning.

There are many variants of food poisoning, from nausea and vomiting to far more severe outcomes such as seizures, brain damage or even death. Different people respond to food poisoning in different ways, and certain types of foods can be tied to specific forms of food poisoning such as Salmonella and E. coli. But regardless of the form of food poisoning or how it affects different individuals, it is still the most common and concerning consequence of poor food handling. In the instances where an individual may sustain brain damage or die as a result of food poisoning, that is a very heavy form of guilt to carry for the individual responsible for the improper handling.

Other consequences

Food poisoning is the worst consequence that can come from improper food handling, given that it can lead to death in severe cases. On the professional front (restaurants, diners, etc.), this can lead to further consequences. If any of your food is handled improperly – be it in storage, preparation or cooking – and someone falls ill (or worse), then it could lead to any of the following scenarios:

  • A black mark on your business’s reputation
  • Fines for breaches of proper health and safety practices
  • A significant drop in patron numbers
  • Legal proceedings – in a notorious case, KFC had to pay approximately $8.3 million to a girl who suffered significant brain damage due to sustained food poisoning from one of their franchises
  • Financial ruin
  • Loss of business

While you may think some of these could be unlikely, these are some of the very real – and often very likely – consequences that can result if your business is found responsible for causing food poisoning due to improper food handling.

* Image source: gaelx

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