The end of each year is usually associated with lots of celebration and merriment. Christmas parties, New Year parties, Corporate End of Year Parties etc. But with the opportunity to celebrate comes the need for care and caution about what is being eaten.
About this time last December a company in Benin City, Nigeria chose to host the company end of year party and long service award with staff and their families in attendance.
Speeches were given, toasts were given, awards were given to outstanding staff and long serving staff, and retirees were recognized.
A reputable caterer (name withheld) in Benin City was contracted to provide food and drinks for the occasion and there was enough merriment and fun for everyone.
However hours after the party several staff and their family members were down with food-borne illness and with many being admitted to hospital for treatment.
What was meant to be a moment of celebration ended up to be terrifying moments of pain and discomfort. Fortunately there were no fatalities.
Quoting what was reported in the media:
“Staff participated at the occasion and ate the food irrespective of the type eaten some reacted later that day. Some reportedly had issues of recurring stool, while others experienced vomiting alongside the stool. It was obvious from the number of people involved that food poisoning could not be ruled out, though this has not been officially stated to be the case.”
What interested me from the entire episode was that the company management were quick to “suspect foul play” in the aftermath of the incident. That is to say rather than consider the food safety/food hygiene competency of the caterer and investigate if due diligence was carried out by the caterer to prevent an outbreak of food-borne illness, the company management began a witch-sniffing.
Perhaps the only foul play to be considered is inadequate time and temperature control of the food, poor HandWashing practices, insufficient sanitizing and disinfecting of utensils, using same utensils to prepare raw food and ready-to-eat food. Who knows.
As we gear up for this year’s end several parties and celebrations, we need to have it at the back of our minds that a food-borne bacteria may be lurking around the corner. When selecting caterers do not focus only on the kind of delicacies they can provide, or how reliable they are in getting the food ready on time before guests arrive…also ask about their food safety records and competency. Get your catering from a food safety assured source. So you can celebrate the season with peace of mind.