In today's age we are much more in tune with health of the environment around us and what we are putting into our own bodies. Environmental health is the combination of these two things.
Broadly speaking, environmental health is how human health and well-being is impacted by the environment. It is equally a global and local issue—safe water and food sources can be a concern in even the most developed areas. It is easy to forget the dangers that could cause a food-borne illness outbreak in a community can be anywhere.
As a business owner, it is important for you to keep in mind the issues you face and how to keep your employees and customers safe.
Keep in mind, the process and supply chain that makes it possible for you to have food to sell. Who are your vendors, food suppliers, or food manufacturers? If there is an issue with their product, will they take the necessary measures to ensure safety?
What are your policies? Do you have a plan or schedule to make sure receiving deliveries is not interfering with dinner prep? This can be an issue with new employees who are not familiar with kitchen protocol.
Is food safety a priority to you and your leadership team? And is that apparent to all your employees?
Do you have a sick leave policy to keep sick employees home?
Local weather can impact food safety as well. Consider ice—it is essential, customers expect cold drinks, whether at your restaurant, convenience store, or at their own party. In most cases, ice comes from a local source. Many environmental factors can impact these sources and some may cause them to become contaminated. In 1987, 5,000 people in four states became sick after having drinks at a football game and a few other local events—all of which used ice that contained norovirus. The investigation concluded that the water used to make the ice was from a well that had been contaminated by a nearby river that had flooded during a rain storm a few weeks prior.
It is also important to remember that ice contamination can vary based on how the ice is transferred to a drink. According to the Journal of Food Research, when transferred by hand, up to 67% of contaminants transferred to the drink, but when a scoop was used, up to 83% were transferred. Adding lemons is a popular way to enhance many beverages, but it can come at a cost. Lemons can pick up bacteria from surfaces such as cutting boards, hands, or utensils.
While ice is an easy example, the same susceptibility is true of many foods and drinks. So, as a business owner providing food and drink to the community, your role in environmental health is key. If you do it well and keep your customers and employees safe, your business will thrive and so will your community.