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Food Sanitation In Healthcare

Food supply in a hospital……
source of nutrition or disease???????

Do you have any idea what quality of food, you and your loved ones are getting in the hospitals. It is possible that many people may be feeling pretty satisfied with the quality and hygienic conditions without knowing the real facts and the magnitude of the risks their near and dear ones are exposed to because of the inefficient and dangerous hygienic conditions prevailing in a majority of healthcare centers in big cities let alone the smaller rural and semi urban medical centers.

The above image is not of a garbage point or some roadside dhabas. Will you believe it’s a HOSPITAL KITCHEN!!! Surprised? No one would blame you for being disappointingly surprised. Sadly it is the kitchen of a public hospital.  As a healthcare profession, I have been personally doing some research over this and found that it is not only just public hospitals. A lot of well -known private hospitals too are being supplied with highly infected and unhygienic food. Only a few hospitals follow ISO standards.

Food sanitation in healthcare organizations poses distinct health issues, particularly in the case of those patients who could be more susceptible to diseases than healthy individuals. What these organizations need to realize is that unhygienic food could have serious detrimental effects on the recovery or improvement of patients’ condition. Usually the supply is maintained by a food handler, who is recognized as an individual who directly controls packaged or unpackaged food, various apparatuses and utensils used for preparation of the food meant to be consumed by patients. He is therefore expected to fulfill food sanitation requirements. Hence the role of Food handler is very critical in inhibiting food contagion throughout the preparation and delivery phase.

This accountability is even more critical in hospitals, since a significant number of patients have low immunity and therefore food contamination by pathogenic bacteria could be specifically harmful. Protection of food from infection remains an indecisive issue these days among experts in the food service division as well as among the consumers. Certainly the extensive and rising occurrence of food-borne diseases has vigorous social and economic influence on the human population.

The most serious issue regarding the absence of  supply of food fulfilling the sanitary and hygienic requirements could be attributed to many factors such as inadequate education, lack of awareness, low socioeconomic status, inappropriate personnel turnover, illiteracy and inefficient communication issues. Lack of motivation due to low wages and job grades can seriously add to poor professional performance at work. Also  lack of training and guidance programs play a crucial role here. Consequently, a pleasant working environment and periodic guidance and training should be provided to food handlers by higher management.

The purpose of my research was to assess the bacteriological quality of patients’ meals and to assess the bacteriological quality of food and the kitchen utensils in hospitals of Karachi to assess the food safety knowledge and food management practices of the food handlers. Unfortunately the results were shockingly alarming.

In this hospital kitchen (as shown in the above pictures), there is no proper ventilation., There is no evidence that this kitchen was ever visited by a qualified nutritionist or sanitary inspector to assess the hygienic status of the food and the surrounding space that was littered with filth and dirt.  The food trolley as shown in the picture tells a sordid story of absolute disregard of hygiene and cleanliness. The food is supposed to provide nutrition and health to the patient to expedite recovery. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the consumption of such filthy and unhygienic food is bound to exacerbate illness rather than quick recovery. One wonders how the government authorities could justify such a state of affairs that send a shudder down the spine of any observer who has some concern for the health and recovery of helpless patients.

Besides public sector our private hospitals are also not providing adequate food and sanitation . These pictures are real and captured in a well reputed private hospital located in gulstan-e-johar (it’s a teaching hospital).

A picture can speak a thousand words!! The way the person is washing dishes reminds one the pre-civilized era when proper sanitation and hygienically competent equipment were the last concerns of the people providing healthcare.

Patients who already have low immunity get food coming from these unhygienic conditions are more prone to food borne diseases. The absence of a qualified nutritionist who could determine the specific needs of particular patients in the light of their ailment has serious effects on the recovery of patients. To add insult to injury, the presence of harmful bacteria can accelerate the worsening of the patient’s medical condition. For example, the dietary requirements of patients suffering from cardiac disease, diabetes and kidney disease are extremely different but in most of the hospitals the diet provided to these patients are basically the same thus creating a serious drawback in recovery of the patients. It is high time the responsible officials need to wake up and look into this serious aspect of healthcare. They have patients’ lives in their hands which they just cannot risk. They have to be a lot more considerate towards the rightful needs of the ailing patients. It is the moral duty of the responsible people to ensure that the quality and sanitary condition of the food ingredients meant for patients fulfill the basic criteria and any lackadaisical attitude towards this aspect of patients’ care should be strictly reprimanded.

Strict measures should be taken to avoid contamination of food and these include the following:


Upper management must make proper policies and SOPs for food handlers

  • Upper management must establish periodic training programs for existing workers
  • Proper training programs of food and equipment handling for employees.
  • Provide appropriate environmental conditions
  • Proper sanitation and ventilation of the kitchen and food premises
  • Satisfactory pay and benefits must be given to food handlers.
  • Encourage team work and open communication between staff and supervisor.
  • Manager with good leadership skills must be hired to motivate the staff.
  • Non financial incentives such as improvement in working conditions, appreciation by management and performance appraisals.
  • Get quality assurance and standards certifications.
  • Appoint a qualified nutritionist , who not only design and plan food chart of the patient but also provide a supervision regarding health and hygienic conditions

Above recommendations leads to the positive attitude for proper training of food handlers to provide quality food in hospitals/ health care and take part in the recovery of patients rather than increase the chances of more diseases.

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