Environmental Health is a section within the Health Unit. Environmental Health comprises a diversified field of activities and programmes that are rolled out on an ongoing basis throughout the year to manage, minimize and mitigate environmental impacts, stressors and factors that exercise a deleterious effect on individuals and exposed communities.

One of the major core functions of Environmental Health is Food Safety and integrity. EHPs monitor all food premises to ensure legislative compliance, optimum personal hygiene of food handlers and hygienic practices so as to prevent food borne illnesses and food poisoning outbreaks. With the SWC there has been an enhanced and accelerated attempt to ensure monitoring and compliance. Various plans, programmes and interventions have been put in place to address the issues around food safety and integrity. This applies to both the formal as well as the informal sector. Food blitz have been conducted at the various high impact areas that have been identified around the city. All other areas are covered by routine work carried out by the department.

The department has developed a food safety plan which is part of a bigger Health plan to ensure a state of readiness relating to the FIFA SWC. The plan is in its implementation phase. We are continuously liaising with our provincial and national counterparts with regard to the FIFA SWC to ensure continuous communication and to prevent gaps and duplication in service delivery. People from all over the world including soccer lovers, world cup teams, Heads of State, Ministers etc will gravitate to our city during the world cup and it is our responsibility to ensure that visitors as well as the citizens of EThekwini are safe and protected from an Environmental Health perspective.

In order to ensure food safety and food integrity the department ensures that food premises comply with the various legislative requirements, which include local, provincial and national legislation. Currently we are getting up to speed with all business licence applications, Certificates of Acceptability for food premises, permits, etc. There is continuous monitoring and evaluation that is being conducted.

Laboratory Services

We have a fully fledged bacteriological laboratory based at City Health. The lab has been in existence for many years. The lab operates on a monthly sampling programme which has been in place for some time. An intensified sampling programme has been rolled out from February 2010. The bacteriological sampling includes ready-to-eats foodstuffs, milk and milk products and potable water samples. A food premises may look visually clean, but it may not necessarily be bacteriologically clean. Therefore agar sausage sampling is conducted at food premises to assess the standard of hygiene.

Training

Training is on-going by EHP in the field. However, In October last year the department held a formal Food Advisory Day for the formal food sector. Attendance included restaurants, hotels, food suppliers and caterers, etc. The aim was to improve the level of food safety by improving knowledge of legal requirements and responsibilities, good operational procedures and food handlers’ awareness of food safety issues. We have also prioritised the need for training of informal food traders within the city. The training programme has already commenced, with 3 out of 5 sessions already completed. Training materials have been put together and distributed to the various food outlets.

There are mechanisms and processes in existence in the Department to deal with any deviations and non-compliant food premises and traders. In addition action primarily in the form of health education is also taken in response to any unsatisfactory food samples.

The department is continuously working with other Council departments to ensure good governance and co-operation in dealing with matters relating to food safety.

All efforts and interventions are imperative in ensuring that no food borne illnesses or food poisoning outbreaks occur. This has always been our priority in terms of food safety. These interventions will leave a legacy beyond the FIFA SWC and the department will continuously ensure that the citizens of Ethekwini are protected and safe.