Having worked in kitchens for quite some time and always pushed the health aspect on to my colleagues, it was always going to be an interesting placement for me. The role the inspection officers play is important in my eyes and I felt I could make a difference. As I always say “I could make a difference in one kitchen, or an entire city”. I chose an entire city and that has lead me here to London to pursue an educational dream. To help realise that dream, my placement started with Wandsworth Council Environmental Health Department.
From the moment I walked in to the office I felt like I belonged, and that feeling was quickly strengthened on my first trip out for an inspection. They not only enforce here, but they educate, they listen and offer advice because we need restaurants and food premises to remain open for a thriving community and economy.
My second day of placement was a contrast to the first. We walked through some markets and just to see how these business owners have come to know the officers that look after this area, is a true blessing as they look up to them for advice and help. At the end of the day, the officer is there not just to be a pillar of knowledge, but to protect the community from any malpractice that may be happening within establishments like this.
The past three weeks of placement were intense. I began to see the teamwork within the group really kick in. A food borne illness broke out and my supervisor tasked me with research and collecting data. I creating a line table which consisted of details of all those affected, what time they felt sick, what they ate and where they ate. This helps break down the data and link any similar issues whether it be place or a particular food item consumed. It also helps narrow down the types of virus or bacteria that may be involved once a common onset time of symptoms is found.
I researched a few of the more common gastrointestinal causing bugs and narrowed it down to two – Clostridium Perfringens and Norovirus. My early guess was Norovirus as the onset of symptoms was quick and Norovirus is very common at this time of year in the United Kingdom (during winter). My supervisor persisted with gathering data and finding common links as he was leaning more towards Clostridium Perfringens. Over the next week data and samples were collected from those willing to participate, funnily enough many make the complaint but don’t want to help the investigation which can hinder the investigation process. It turned out to be Norovirus in the end – good guess…or good investigation skills!
In the the fourth week I went out into the field on my own and performed some low risk inspections. Initially I was very nervous at the prospect of representing the Council in an appropriate and legal manner. My manager reassured me that once I put my knowledge into practice I would be fine – spot on! I had an array of different places to visit from child care centres, health food stores and supermarkets to chocolate shops. This proved invaluable to my confidence and outlook and I knew this was the job I wanted to be in. The respect garnered from the public and gratitude and happiness that you are there to help is a surreal and amazing feeling.
I cannot wait to put this into practice in my everyday life for the foreseeable future.
Since I couldn’t include any pics from placement, here’s a few from my journey to placement through the Richmond and Putney area in London!
Visit the CQUGlobal section of the CQUniversity website for more info on study abroad programs.