This summer’s Olympic Games are expected to be the world’s largest peacetime catering operation, with 14 million meals served across 40 venues during the Games. There will be a huge impact on food businesses outside the Games venues as well, with restaurants, street food vendors and shops having to cater for many more visitors than normal.
Eating out should be an enjoyable part of the London 2012 experience for visitors. However, as many food businesses will be extremely busy during this time, it’s sensible to be more vigilant than usual when choosing where to eat.
The Food Standards Agency, which is responsible for minimising food safety risks during London 2012, has put together the following tips for visitors when they’re eating out and about this summer.
Keep it clean
Travelling around a city can be a bit of a dirty business. Always wash your hands with soap and water before touching, cooking or eating food (and always after using the toilet). If washing facilities are thin on the ground, consider using hand wipes or hand gels.
Is it rated?
Check out the hygiene rating given by the local authority. This can help you choose food outlets with good hygiene standards. Look out for stickers on the doors or windows of outlets you are planning to visit, or check ratings of businesses in the Food Hygiene Ratings Scheme.
Check it out
If you can’t see a hygiene rating sticker, take a look at the staff, equipment and premises. Do they look clean? If food is out on display, is the cold food kept refrigerated? Is raw food separated from cooked food? If you ordered hot food, is it hot and cooked all the way through? If you have doubts about any of these things, try somewhere else.
Be allergen aware
For some people not knowing exactly what’s in your food could result in a serious allergic reaction. If this is the case for you or a member of your family or party, always read the label and check the ingredient list on pre-packed food. Check for allergy advice statements or boxes. This labelling isn’t compulsory in the UK, so if there isn’t a warning statement don’t assume the product is safe for you to eat. If buying non pre-packed food from self-service counters, delicatessens or cafes, ask the serving staff for information and let them know you have a food allergy or intolerance. And if you aren’t sure about a food or are not confident in the information you’ve been given by serving staff, don’t risk it.
The Food Standards Agency’s work involves supporting food inspectors, assisting businesses, and providing information for consumers to help them make informed decisions about buying and eating food during the Games.
In April, the FSA launched the ‘Play it Safe’ campaign with the announcement that around 15,000 extra food premises inspections would take place in the run up to the Games, together with extra training and resources for food businesses. Games visitors are also being reminded of what to look out for when eating out during London 2012.
The campaign has a dedicated Twitter feed, @playitsafefood, and the FSA website has a section containing information about the Games at www.food.gov/olympics.