Ick, ick, and triple ick.
Hidden cameras in Tongcheng Rice Noodle Factory in Guangdong province of China captured its workers standing with bare feet and sleeping in its rice noodles prior to packaging them.
This isn’t the first time the factory has been found lacking (to say the least) in its hygiene practices; last year the owners were caught in a similar infraction and they promised to improve.
If this is improvement, how bad must it have been before?
The Company’s Product has Now Been Dubbed “Stinky Feet Rice Noodle”.
A spokesperson for the factory said that staff management had been eased due to its excessive workload (that explains the nap). Employment of the workers in the photos has been terminated and extensive training has been given to new staff, he said. The factory has been forced by local authorities to shut down until the problems have been appropriately addressed; other rice factories in the city of Dongguan (there are fifteeen) have been advised to perform their own internal reviews and take appropriate action if food safety standards are not being met.
The local Dongguan Food and Drug Administration was aghast at the photos that appeared first in the Chinese media before they spread abroad. Its spokesperson made a statement:
“Undercover photographs taken in the rice products factory show plain clothes employees kicking around piles of noodles on the floor with their bare feet. They are trampling over them as they walk about and even laying down to take their afternoon naps before packaging them up and shipping them to stores. We will not tolerate such breaches of the health and hygiene laws.”
Well, that’s nice to know. No one even mentions that the rice noodles are all over the floor, on tables, and hanging from the processing machines. Even if the workers were wearing proper footwear, headwear, and didn’t take naps during work hours, the stuff is still ON THE FLOOR.
In the United States, There are Regulations and Guidelines to Protect Consumers and Workers.
A brief review of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) “Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for the 21st Century – Food Processing” says nothing about using your feet to process noodles nor the advisement of napping amid the product. The FDA does recognize the importance of hygiene and potential barriers to optimization:
“Inefficient hygienic practices among employees. Employee hygiene is paramount to plant sanitation and is one of the leading causes of food contamination (Higgins, 2002). One of the challenges that food processors have to overcome is how to motivate employees to comply with hygienic practices. Training is one step in the process, but is often not enough to ensure employee compliance. Companies have adopted several aids to ensure employee compliance. For example, Atlanta’s Buckhead Beef Company requires workers to key in their Social Security Numbers to activate the hand sanitizer dispensers on the plant floor. The company then uses the collected data to impose financial reprisals on employees found to be deficient in hand-sanitizing practices. Other controls include a sensor-equipped towel that prevents the cross-contamination that can occur with hand cranks. These units also count the number of towels dispensed. A signal dispenser that beeps when users have washed their hands sufficiently is also available to ensure adequate hand-washing time.
“Ineffective training of employees. Although effective training is crucial to ensuring that sanitation standards are met, it is not clear that current training methods are sufficient. In the third Annual Best Manufacturing Practices Survey conducted by the Food Engineering magazine in 2002, a panel of food manufacturing professionals rated employee training as the lowest among all food safety measures in terms of effectiveness (Gregerson, 2002). Employee training that companies conduct may be too generic. For example, external consultants may not be familiar enough with a plant’s operations and requirements to give effective advice. Other impediments to effective training might include training the wrong people, not training enough people, or not providing enough training (Blackburn and McClure, 2002).”
Perhaps when in doubt, common sense should prevail: if there is a question, the employee should be advised to put the shoe on the other foot and consider whether s/he would eat the result of her/his actions—as long as neither the shoe nor the foot is coming into direct contact with the food…
The owners of the factory are now facing large fines and potential jail time. As for the workers, they seem to be on equally slippery footing. Guess it’s snoozle time.