Food & DrinkFast food | Professional Pharmacy

Fast food | Professional Pharmacy

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The characteristics of what has been commonly called “fast food” or fast food are reviewed below, from the point of view of the regulations that must be complied with in hygienic, sanitary and nutritional quality matters.

We call fast food or fast food the menus consumed in establishments whose common characteristic is that they have been created in order to satisfy the needs of a certain population group. Given the great variability that exists in the quality and nutritional value of the foods used by each of these establishments, it would be convenient that through good nutritional education and adequate quality controls, any consumer could have enough information to maintain a diet varied and balanced, regardless of where you consumed it.

The consumer who is initially intended to be satisfied with these menus is an individual who has little time to eat on so-called business days. However, today many families dedicate part of their leisure time, unhurriedly, to eating in restaurants of this type, generally belonging to no more than a dozen multinational companies. The danger of this habit, from the nutritional point of view, lies not only in not taking into account that it is possible to compensate the contributions of these diets with the consumption of other types of food that are not included in them, but also in that, In addition, establish eating patterns copied from these models in your usual diet.

All the aforementioned establishments have in common the reasonable price of the menus they serve and the speed in the food presentation service. In order to scientifically assess the quality of the food used, it would be convenient to have reliable inspection services. And with respect to the nutritional value or the balance of the diets they present, it is only necessary to demand good information.

In addition to fast food restaurants, the so-called company canteens and school canteens also offer these same products. The former are subject to the Technical-sanitary Regulations for Collective Canteens specified in Royal Decree 2817/1983 and all must comply with the existing regulations on food handlers, included in Royal Decree 2505/1983.

Any person who comes into contact with food due to their work activity is considered a food handler. All kitchen staff in any public establishment must be considered as such and have a card issued by the competent bodies of each autonomous community.

Company canteens are establishments provided with tables, seats, drinking water and some means for the worker to heat their food. The creation of these canteens depends on the day and the number of workers on the staff, in such a way that it is mandatory to establish canteens when the work regime does not grant the staff a minimum of two hours for lunch; or when, despite having said time, it is requested by at least half of the staff.

Understood in this way, the company canteen offers several theoretical possibilities: in some cases, it will only be possible for the staff to provide their own food, well prepared at home and brought in lunch boxes (which can be heated in the canteen itself) or bought in food stores. Pre-cooked. Generally, these dishes are kept hot thanks to the so-called “hot tables” and it is the workers themselves who bring them. Other companies choose to hire caterers who prepare meals outside the dining room and transport them there or offer a self-catering meal service. In these cases they usually have a dietitian responsible for preparing diets. The most common is to use the so-called vouchers or concerted restaurant tickets, close to the workplace.

According to current regulations, to obtain the food handler’s card, applicants must undergo hygienic and laboratory controls. Periodically, a stool study is performed on them (to control the presence of salmonella), an analysis of the nasopharyngeal exudate (in order to investigate the presence or absence of staphylococci) and they are trained on appropriate types of clothing and treatment, personal hygiene and behavior in the workplace.

It is necessary to separate food products from those that are not and raw foods from prepared ones, not leaving any food in contact with the ground. They should be well covered and packaged, but not in open cans. The warehouse must be clean and tidy.

Prepared food and dishes must be exposed in cabinets with a thermometer that allows to see that they are at a suitable temperature for their conservation. The juice of the raw meat or that of its defrosting must be collected with cloths that will be removed immediately to be washed. The same must be done with the cloths used to clean and dry, which will be changed to be washed continuously.

They must contain only packaged or covered food and have a thermometer. In addition, a covered dustbin is necessary near the machine to dispose of inedible waste.

The temperatures for the meals and dishes served must comply with the minimums and maximums included in table I. The process of heating and cooling a meal must be as fast as possible.

Currently, attempts are being made to implement the Risk Analysis and Critical Point Control (ARCPC) system in all European food companies (both industrial and catering) in order to guarantee greater food hygiene. The protocol for putting this system into practice is as follows:

1. Analyze all the potential risks of all the operations carried out by the company.

2. Locate both in space and in time the points at which identifiable risks may occur.

3. Determine, among these risk points, those that are decisive to guarantee the safety and healthiness of food products.

4. Define and apply effective control and monitoring procedures for critical points.

5. Periodically verify the risk analysis, the status of the critical points to be controlled and the control and monitoring procedures.

To begin with, it must be taken into account that a diet consumed once a month does not have the same implication on the nutritional status of the individual as one followed once during all the working days of the year. In this case, the diet under study represents more than 20% of the total for the year.

The best way to evaluate the offer of food and dishes is to compare it with the recommendations for a healthy diet. Although no food is good or bad in itself, they can be grouped according to the convenience of using them very or infrequently, from the point of view of balancing the diet. This is how table III has been prepared.

The objective of this work is to investigate the way to improve the nutritional value of the diet, in people who necessarily have to eat some meal of the day in this type of establishment and in a habitual way. For this reason, it is convenient to start from the list of the most frequent defects in their diets, although it must be remembered that not all canteens and restaurants of this type have these drawbacks:

High caloric intake. In general, they have a high energy density, mainly due to the use of large amounts of fatty foods and foods that contain simple carbohydrates.

Techniques: fried, battered and breaded are the most used. All of them increase the caloric value of food by absorbing fat.

Excess saturated fat. The fried food and the dressings are usually made with butter or with unspecified vegetable oils. In addition, to reduce costs, foods with a greater amount of fat are used.

Homogeneous flavor. The dishes are processed according to a rigid established pattern, so that variations are made on the same basic ingredients, often changing a single ingredient. Thus, all the menus taste very similar.

Low quality of food used. Currently, there are technical and legal tools to determine the quality of the ingredients used and penalize companies that do not comply with current legislation.

Abuse: these meals do not present any problem within a balanced diet, but their abuse implies the absence of basic foods necessary for a good diet.

Threat to gastronomic diversity. Many people around the world are changing their eating habits trying to imitate the menus of certain multinational companies on a daily basis. Ultimately, this is nothing more than a problem caused by an education that gives little importance to the individual and personal individuality compared to prevailing models.

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