Hygiene Practices in Urban Restaurants: Investigating Possibilities of Introducing HACCP Systems in Thika Town

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Kisembi, Raphael Muinde
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The restaurant food sector has experienced significant growth in the past few decades due to population growth and rapid urbanization. Despite the economic benefits of the sector, it has been recognized as a potential hazard to public health when food is not well-prepared. The purpose of this study was to examine hygiene practices and the possibilities of introducing food safety assurance systems based on scientific methods to enhance food safety in urban restaurants. Whereas the science of sanitation has changed in a global context, very little has changed in sanitary and food safety practices in developing countries like Kenya. The need for the study arose from lack of evidence on the food hygiene and manufacturing practices, food microbial contamination levels and the possibility of introducing HACCP as a quality assurance system in urban restaurants. The study adopted a descriptive survey and experimental design. Systematic random sampling was used. Data for the study was obtained from a random sample of 137 restaurants out of the representative total of 298 formal restaurants in Thika town. Data collected were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics and the results presented in pie charts, tables, graphs and percentages. SPSS and One-way analysis of variance at 95% level of confidence interval was used. A survey questionnaire was used to collect data on food hygiene standards and opinion of the staff on the desirability of introducing a HACCP system in (30) thirty restaurants. The Staphylococcus aureus, Aerobic plate counts and Escherichia coli microbial levels were established in various foods, water and other surfaces. Total plate counts (TPC) was below 105CFU/g in all the seventeen (17) samples. The mean total plate count was high in nyama choma, work surfaces and passion juice while the lowest was in chips, plates and fruit salad. 63% of the business operators had some knowledge on food quality, only 8% apply these controls in the kitchens. Independent variables used included age, literacy level, marital status, sex and designation of the respondent. Dependent variables included knowledge on HACCP, principles of HACCP application and the effects of these principles in the overall management of the restaurants. The study also indicated that, there is no significant relationship between customer turnover and HACCP implementation at p≤0.05 confidence level. The study recommends that there is need to educate the management of the restaurants on HACCP implementation. The findings suggest that restaurants in Thika town do not adequately follow safe food hygiene and manufacturing practices or processes. This was so significant from the levels of bacterial food counts in most samples. However, the staff surveyed acknowledged that food contained bacteria that can present microbial hazard if poorly handled in the kitchen. They did not apply any good quality control strategy and therefore not sure of the food safety standards. Application of food safety control measures in the entire food processing cycle to ensure quality control had significant relationship between maintenance of general hygiene standards and HACCP awareness in the restaurants. In conclusion, there is need to establish and implement HACCP system to prevent probable food poisoning outbreaks and the restaurants can easily adapt the strategy only if law enforcers could put proper measures in place. Further research could open ways on how best the system can be applied, reinforced and be sustained in the urban restaurants and other food establishments to enhance food safety and protect consumers from food related health hazards.