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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


ARANGO, Julia et al. Sanitary conditions in community dining halls in greater Buenos Aires, Argentina . Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1997, vol.2, n.4, pp.225-231. ISSN 1680-5348.

Because of the importance of food safety for public health, a study was done to determine the microbiologic quality of foods provided to patrons of community dining halls in greater Buenos Aires, Argentina. The study was descriptive and was conducted in three municipalities with intermediate or high poverty indices; a sample of 52 dining halls was selected randomly from those municipalities. Information was Information was collected from April 1994 through April 1995 by means of surveys, direct observations, and microbiologic analyses of the water and food served. Water and food analysis followed the recommendations of the Argentine Food Code and the International Commission on Microbiologic Specifications for Foods, respectively. The results were interpreted according to the values for cooked foods agreed upon by the Working Group on Food Monitoring. The microbiologic analysis revealed that 28 (54%) of the dining halls had food or water of inadequate quality and 11 (21%) had inadequacies in both. Bacillus cereus was the most commonly found pathogenic bacterium in the food samples analyzed. The factors that were significantly associated with unsatisfactory microbiologic conditions in the food and water were lack of disinfection of the water (P = 0.009), lack of hygiene in the environment (P = 0.03), the presence of rodents and insects (P = 0.05), the supply system for raw materials (P = 0.01), and a relatively small number of users, i.e., fewer than 100 (P = 0.0008). It was concluded that water disinfection and general clean-up of the dining halls were measures that could be put in place by providing education in the areas of hygiene and food handling to supervisors and employees. The results obtained also indicate the need to include a food safety evaluation among the general evaluation criteria for food assistance programs.

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