I watched in seemingly slow motion with curiosity and hopeful denial that this was not happening to me. From our many experiences with restaurants in Latin America, I knew what was happening, but for some reason, maybe it was my lack of Spanish, I continued to watch as the food safety snafu unfolded in front of my eyes. It took less than five seconds from start to finish. All I wanted was a little taste of some cheese at the deli counter to see if I was going to order half of a pound of it for sandwiches. What I received was a piece of cheese that was wet with an unknown chemical sanitizer. Why was the cheese covered in sanitizer? The deli counter attendant had pulled a knife out of a bucket of sanitizer and put it, dripping wet, straight into the block of cheese. At this point the grocery store received a failing grade in food safety 101. Chemical contamination is covered in the first day of most food safety training courses.
It just so happened that at the same time, there was a team of about four or five management personnel in the store hovered in front of the deli counter. One of them had a clipboard full of checklists. I took a tiny bite of a dry section of the piece of cheese and then I couldn’t resist engaging in an educational moment.
The language barrier was a problem, so the manager was trying to call someone who spoke English. After a translator arrived, they tried to explain to me that the chemical is safe. Okay, here is what is wrong with that statement. If the chemical is safe for me to drink off of my cheese, then what pathogens is it going to kill? The answer is not enough to be significant.
Next, I asked the manager and deli supervisor to drink the sanitizer and they said no. So, if it’s safe to drip all over my cheese, then it should be safe for them to drink. They declined to drink the sanitizer after I insisted three separate times while trying to make my point.
Cocina Verify Food Safety Training at La Cassina Restaurant in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
Food safety is not rocket science. The three types of food contamination are biological, chemical, and physical. What these people were doing was purposefully adding a chemical contaminant to my food and telling me it is safe, but rejecting the idea of drinking it to prove its safety. That is wrong.
Chemical use is often vital to ensuring the preparation of safe food. Chemicals should not be sold under these types of false claims. A simple Google search will provide all the latest science and guidance on why this is NOT okay. If the chemical is safe to drip all over food, then it is not doing anything to prevent pathogen growth and thus the grocery store is wasting its money.
Here are some questions to ponder:
1. How many times had the knife been used before and just thrown back in the bucket without being washed, rinsed, and sanitized?
2. Was the knife used on a type of meat that contained a protein allergy that I or someone else may have been highly allergic to?
3. How is an upscale grocery store trusting a food safety company that is not following the latest research and standards on why it’s not okay to leave utensils in sanitizer?
Grocery stores, restaurants, and hotels in Latin America, Cocina Verify is here for you with food safety training and standards that follow the latest information from the US FDA and State of California. Let us help you reach all of your food safety regulatory requirements and goals. Choose Cocina Verify® and Trust Standards, Not Reviews!