Start main page content

Food standards save lives

- Wits University

Fun and practical lessons help University community to learn more about food safety.

Examining common practices such as food storage methods, washing of hands left many students re-examining their own wisdom. Take for example, Nthabiseng Moloi, a second-year student, who walked into the dining hall to collect her meal. Although confident that her hands were clean, this belief was turned on its head when she placed her hands under the bacteria scanner during Food Safety Week.

"I was under the impression that my hands were clean after washing them before entering the dining hall, but the bacteria scanner revealed otherwise. It was surprising,” said Nthabiseng Moloi, who is a resident at David Webster Residence and eats at Convocation Dining Hall.

The conditions under which food is managed and consumed is a critical aspect of ensuring the well-being and health of individuals, communities, and nations. The Wits Services Department  which runs six dining halls and manages 41 retailers on campus, hosted awareness events primarily targeting students and staff, to promote food safety and manage foodborne risks. The awareness events held at various dining halls from 5 to 9 June, coincided with World Food Safety Day  observed annually on 7 June. The event aimed to raise awareness about the importance of food safety and remind members of the Wits community about hygiene practices in order to maintain optimal health.


Addressing food safety challenges and enhancing standards

Apart from speaking to the end consumers of food prepared on campus, the week-long activities also included a day of dialogue through a conference held on 9 June. The conference was attended by staff,  leaders from the food industry and allied services.  Among the speakers were representatives from the Food Control section in the National Department of Health, Office of Consumer Affairs from Gauteng Department of Economic Development, South African Bureau of Standards, Department of Health City of Johannesburg, South African Institute of Environmental Health and hosts – Wits University Services Department. Discussions ranged from best practices to trends threatening food safety and legal requirements.

Wits’ Environmental Health Specialist Basil Minyuku said:  “ The conference sought to promote a deeper understanding of the topics and advocate for policies that enhance food safety standards. Furthermore, the event aligned with global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals related to food security, nutrition, and health..”

Veronica Lephalala the Dining Hall Operations Manager highlighted the importance of ongoing training adding that “catering staff undergoes training during academic breaks, and our food undergoes regular testing." This commitment to continuous training and testing reinforces the Department's dedication to providing safe and nutritious meals to the University community.

The Director of Services Department, Israel Mogomotsi explained that the main objective of Wits World Food Safety Day activities is to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne illness, which is almost entirely preventable. He concluded by stating that the Department is committed to build a food safety culture through continuous awareness on food safety and monitoring compliance across dining halls and food retailers.

World Food Safety Day 2023

Recognition of exemplary dining halls and food retailers

The event concluded on a high note with the presentation of Food Safety Awards in two categories: Dining Halls and Food Retailers. These awards recognise and celebrate the efforts of establishments that prioritise and excel in food safety practices. In the Dining Halls’ category, Jubilee Dining Hall took the first place while  the Main Dining Hall and Executive Kitchen both secured second place. In the Food Retailers’ category, Zesti Lemon claimed first place for their exceptional food safety practices. Tubatsi Grill House and Student Corner both achieved the second place.

Unsafe food can lead to severe health risks and increase economic burdens as this may result in the loss of productive hours and hours seeking care. The latest World Health Organization (WHO) reports states that unsafe food causes 600 million cases of foodborne diseases and 420 000 deaths, worldwide. About 30% of foodborne deaths occur among children under 5-years of age. WHO estimates that 33 million years of healthy lives are lost due to eating unsafe food globally each year, and this number is likely to be an underestimation of the real figures.

Related Articles: