Courses for food operators

Home-based food businesses continue to be on the rise and operators are urged to practise stringent hygiene. — Filepic

JOHOR BARU: Homemade food products are sold everywhere -– from physical stores and stalls to online platforms such as e-commerce sites, and mobile messaging applications.

The home-based food business trend continues to be on the rise and many have jumped on the bandwagon in hopes of earning an income, especially now with so many Malaysians suffering from loss of employment due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As such, Johor government sees the need to educate home-based businesses on the importance of hygiene and safety during food preparations.

Johor investment, entrepreneur development, cooperative and human resource committee chairman Mohd Izhar Ahmad said there must be no compromise on those aspects related to food.

He said all food operators and food handlers were required to follow guidelines including getting typhoid vaccination to prevent the spread of diseases through contaminated food.

He said typhoid vaccination could bring down the risk of spreading such illnesses by up to 80%.

“The state government is encouraging small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) to take their marketing efforts online to maximise their capacity in view of the limitations and standard operating procedures (SOP) due to Covid-19.

“For this, we plan to organise a series of courses aimed at educating food operators and handlers, especially home-based businesses, on the importance of observing food safety, ” he said.

He added that several of such programmes were organised last year by Johor Entrepreneur Corporation, and the body would continue to help SMEs in the state based on the current situation.

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) Social Sciences and Humanities Faculty senior lecturer Dr Nornazira Suhairom, who specialises in food safety, said hygiene and safety during food preparations must be given priority.

“Many who are home-based are self-taught and get tips either from friends or video streaming sites, without receiving proper training and certification from Health Ministry and other relevant authorities.

“Some consumers may think that homemade food products are better and cleaner compared to commercially-produced goods, but that is often not the case.

“As food handlers we have to always put food hygiene and safety first, such as ensuring the utensils used are not for cooking other dishes and always making sure there are no pets around the food preparation area, ” she said.

Negligence in these areas could lead to unwanted incidents such as food contamination or poisoning and even result in casualties, she added.

Nornazira stressed on the importance of food handlers getting vaccinated against typhoid and undergoing a half-day basic food handling course conducted by government-accredited institutions.

She said this food handling course course cost about RM50.

Although she noted that RM50 might be considered a big amount for the B40 groups, she said it was a necessary investment to ensure their food products were safe for consumption.

Besides that, she said UTM was open to lending its expertise to those who were interested in a more hands-on learning experience through the university’s service learning programme.

“Although we can learn the skills online, sometimes there are techniques that we can only learn in physical classes.

“So we welcome collaborators, be it to learn at our facilities or at their respective venues, including community spaces.

“This programme also gives an opportunity for our students, as future educators, to become facilitators and transfer the knowledge learnt in class to others through community engagement, ” said Nornazira.

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