‘Sausages That Make You Smile’ is scrawled across the side of The Big Apple Hot Dog stand right round the corner from Old Street Station. Those sausages or ‘dogs’ as I was calling them by the end of my meeting with the founder of the successful street stall, Abiye, did exactly that. I stuffed my face and smiled silly as I ate delicious 98% locally made meat dogs and chatted with him about the Olympics and where local, community rooted businesses like his fit into the grand corporate occasion and having been invited by reps of the Food Standards Agency, what he was doing health and safety wise to prepare for the event.The Olympics (dare I say the word) are a funny time for food. Yes it’s exciting that there will be up to 4 million extra people in the capital and yep, they gotta eat, but who knows where and what they’ll want? For restaurants, it may be easier to store goods and so plan for the unexpected but for street food stalls like Abiyes’ who aren’t rooted in one place and don’t have the same facilities, it’s harder to accommodate for hoards of suprise tourists or on the other hand, none.
Abiye seems like he’s got it his prep down, and even though he’s unsure about how many people are going to turn up during the month, he’s managed to set up a network of community contacts to support him as an when he needs. The local pub for example have agreed to store ice to keep his modest cooler cool and the local catering college stocks his dogs to make sure he’s got a constant supply. What’s clearly at the forefront of his plans is his food safety and he’s doing what he can to stay inline with the Food Standards Agency’s requirements for food businesses to have good food hygiene and food safety especially throughout the testing Olympics.
In terms of his dogs, the Big Frank/Frank Jnr is an absolute must with a crispy caramelised casing that melts into smooth meat nicely seasoned with spicy black pepper and warming paprika. On offer too is a really interesting and truly meaty ‘Pimp Steak’, a frankfurter made with beef and the tiniest hint of garlic that will leave you questioning how a frankfurter can taste that good. His bread looks like a classic cheap hot dog bun but actually is amazing quality- crispy yet cushiony and perfect for holding in the buttery thyme heavy onions he has simmering away.
I for one will be encouraging visitors to make a special trip to meet Abiye and eat his food and it’s great thay they can be safe in the knowledge knowing that his food is prepped safely and thoughtfully.
For further information and top tips on how to eat safely in the capital, read more about the FSA Play it Safe Campaign below.
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?
Local authorities run various hygiene rating schemes that can help you to 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 using the link below.
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 any doubts about any of these things, try somewhere else.
Be allergen aware
Not knowing exactly what’s in your food could result in a serious allergic reaction. Always read the labelling 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-prepacked 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 confident in the information you’ve been given by serving staff, don’t risk it.