21 September 2007

Reducing risks when eating out

The right to know.. What's in the stuff, where is it from?
Occasionally restaurants specify the origin or the quality of their produce.
Free-range eggs being the most commonly declared product in Manly. Most other ingredients, one has to trust, but one can not engage in informed consent. If one does not want to consume food with detrimental health effects, there is very little information provided.
In Australia alone, more than $1 billion worth of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides are applied each year.“ Part of food literacy might also be that one would like to know the origin and treatment of the food and the ecological footprint of the resource.
In various cities people eat local now, even restaurants offer locally produced foods.

Menus with imagination and consideration would be appreciated. Instead it often is the usual fish&seafood-mash up, platters full of lobster by the kg or just meat. Vegetarian dishes containing protein are as rare as organic vegetables on the menus.

Bugs in food and water can cause sickness and death - Sydney 'Gastro'
“In Australia, there are an estimated 5.4 million cases of food-borne illness every year In Queensland for example it has “...caused an estimated 10 deaths and 750 hospitalisations in the state every year.” In Sydney, customers do not seem to have a right to know which eateries did not pass as “ the names were best kept secret as revealing them could damage the businesses unnecessarily.“

Over 80% of foodborne gastroenteritis due to ‘known’ pathogens is caused by pathogenic E.coli, norovirus, Campylobacter and non-typhoidal Salmonella. 32% of all gastroenteritis may be transmitted via contaminated food. Foodborne gastroenteritis results in about 1.2 million people visiting the doctor, 300,000 prescriptions for antibiotics and 2.1 million days of work lost each year.” (pdf) Water as well as food is of course a medium of possible transmission.

Hygiene – as infrastructure and practice

A measure for good hygiene in eateries (or anywhere) are the bathrooms. Facilities and updated cleaning are essential. There seems to be a general decline in the tradition of washing hands (properly, video), often the infrastructure to do so for staff and clients is also lacking.
Recently it was
overheard in Manly that a small boy wished to wash his hands after a pee. His male carer convinced him that it is not important. With eateries that do not offer a lavatory one is forced to use the public ones which are in dubious states.
Having (lap-)dogs on seats or eating off dishes is common and a health hazard.

Olfactory assaults
As most bathrooms lack windows some businesses offer 'air freshner sprays' in
each cubical. This practice seems more hazardous (pdf) than the previous fumes, the artificial volatile chemical vapours have been distributed into the small confined space. Some of the effects of Volatile Organic Compounds are: ”Eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans

More cocktails to inhale
Other ambient pollutants in Manly are of course air and noise pollution from motor vehicles, which often gets topped up with gas/fire heaters (even unflued inside). Occasionally 'romantic' candles add to the cocktail of pollutants. “ Paraffin-based candles.. tend to use wicks which are made with a metal core like zinc or possibly lead." Passive smoking is still an issue, while trying to smell and taste your food. As reported before, most eateries reserve the fresh-air area for people polluting the air. Just where the air is to enter the premise, the combined toxic fumes of the smokers enter the 'non-smoking part' and accumulate there.

Mental spam pollution – while having a drink
Apart from many neon-lit 'convenience' places springing up, another new form of enforced attention grabber has sprung up. Huge screens peddling 'solid state spam', unwanted and unwelcome messages "

It would be advisable to have ecological and ethical audits for businesses, as well as for municipalities, to encourage an open transparent communication with their clients that is sustainable and reciprocal.

See also: Manly Restaurants and Eateries - a Wishlist

-"...Three-quarters of the world's fish stocks have been over-exploited, mainly by commercial fishing"
- Disclosure on industrially 'farmed fish'
- Choosing sustainable seafood, ca
- Food, Mindfully
- Public rating of restaurants, web 2.0
- One Los Angeles menu boasts dishes where 90 percent of the ingredients were raised within 400 miles.

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