Back to School Food Safety Tips

“IF IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT” 

Young boy holding packed lunch in living room smiling

You must make a concerted effort to make sure your kid’s school lunches are kept out of the temperature danger zone.

Everyday we put our own and families health at risk without even thinking of the consequences involved, it is estimated there are 5.4 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year. It is so easy to take simple and quick steps to ensure the safety of yourself and more importantly your family on a daily basis.

Perishable food becomes unsafe to eat if the total time in the temperature danger zone (5° C – 60° C) is greater than 4 hours, to put this in perspective; this is about the time between leaving home and lunchtime!

Those packing lunches for children need to understand how vulnerable young ones can be and that food poisoning can have horrific long-term consequences including reactive arthritis.

Below are some precautions you can take to ensure your kid’s lunches stay risk free:

  • Ensure you prepare food with well-washed hands and utensils
  • Educate your kids to wash their hands before eating lunch.
  • Lunch boxes and reusable drink bottles must be thoroughly washed and dried daily.
  • If cracked, split or crazed, replace, as bugs will grow in any cracks.
  • Avoid risky foods such as soft cheeses, sprouts, pate, etc.
  • Children’s lunchboxes kept inside the school bag will keep cooler longer especially if the bag is kept away from heat sources such as direct sunlight.
  • Pack frozen or chilled drinks in with food items to help keep the temperature down.

Food poisoning results, on average, in 120 deaths, 1.2 million visits to doctors, 300,000 prescriptions for antibiotics, and 2.1 million days of lost work each year. The estimated annual cost of food poisoning in Australia is $1.25 billion.

If your child has food poisoning don’t let them go to school, and ensure they avoid handling food for others until 48 hours after symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea has stopped.

If your child’s food poisoning symptoms persist, please consult your doctor. 

For further information:

Food Safety Information Council

 

Back to Work Food Safety Tips

“BEFRIENDING THE OWNERLESS WORKPLACE FRIDGE”

woman-work-lunchYou must make a concerted effort to make sure your family’s lunches and your own work lunches are kept out of the temperature danger zone.

Everyday we put our own and families health at risk without even thinking of the consequences involved, it is estimated there are 5.4 million cases of food poisoning in Australia each year. It is so easy to take simple and quick steps to ensure the safety of yourself and more importantly your family on a daily basis.

Perishable food becomes unsafe to eat if the total time in the temperature danger zone (5° C – 60° C) is greater than 4 hours, to put this in perspective; this is about the time between leaving home and lunchtime!

Packing a lunch to take to work is a healthy and cost effective option, but leaving that lunch out of the workplace fridge or not in a cooler if you work outside can lead to food poisoning bacteria growing quickly during hot weather. Bacteria especially like to grow in the healthier foods, such as premade salads and cold meats. It only takes a few minutes to make a quick detour to the fridge when you first step into the office, a choice that can decide your health’s fate.

So step up and rather than avoid it, make friends with that fridge at work that no one seems to own. Make sure it is clean and not packed with ageing food. Put in a fridge thermometer and check it is running at 5° C or below.

Begin the working year by everyone getting together to clean out the fridge and giving it at least one owner – a person responsible for setting up a workplace roster for keeping fridges and kitchens clean. Pens and labels should be available for people to label containers with name and date.

Below are some more precautions you can take to ensure your lunch stays risk free:

  • Ensure you prepare food with well-washed hands and utensils
  • Wash your hands before eating lunch
  • Lunch boxes and reusable drink bottles must be thoroughly washed and dried daily
  • Avoid risky foods in hot weather such as soft cheeses, sprouts, pate, etc.
  • Put food in the fridge as soon as you arrive at work
  • Pack frozen or chilled drinks in with food items to help keep the temperature down
  • Use refrigerated leftovers within 3 days – if in doubt, throw it out! 

Employers can assist by making refrigerators and coolers are available and in good order. Hand washing soap and drying facilities should be made available in kitchens and hand washing posters put up or awareness made by Food Hygiene Courses undertaken. This could lead to a reduction in sick leave, not just from food poisoning but also viruses such as norovirus and influenza, which are currently taking a toll in the Northern Hemisphere.

Food poisoning results, on average, in 120 deaths, 1.2 million visits to doctors, 300,000 prescriptions for antibiotics, and 2.1 million days of lost work each year. The estimated annual cost of food poisoning in Australia is $1.25 billion.

If you have food poisoning, don’t go to work and avoid handling food for others until 48 hours after symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea stop.

If food poisoning symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

For further information:

Food Safety Information Council 

WHY do consumers ignore vital Food Safety labels?

Food poisoning, on average result in 120 deaths, 1.2 million visits to doctors, 300,000 prescriptions for antibiotics, and 2.1 million days of lost work each year. The estimated annual cost of food poisoning in Australia is $1.25 billion. A cause contributing to these totals is the increasing risk consumers are taking by ignoring vital information given on Food Safety labels, endangering themselves and their families.

A national Newspoll Survey, commissioned by the Food Safety Information Council for Australian Food Safety Week, shows too few Australian adults are taking notice of vital food safety advice on food labels and, with summer ahead, are taking risks by not using insulated bags or coolers to transport refrigerated food.

Dr Michael Eyles, Council Chair, says it is disturbing to find only just over half (55%) of those surveyed always read and comply with ‘use by’ dates and less than half (45%) always read and comply with ‘best before’ dates.

“Frightening is not too strong a word to describe other results, including that only a third (33%) of people always read and comply with storage instructions and a meager 14% always read and comply with cooking instructions,” Dr Eyles elaborated.

“Consumers are obviously not taking advantage of the wealth of readily available information on labels which are intended to make our food safer and shopping decisions easier. For example ask yourself ‘Will I eat all of this by the ‘use by’ date?’; ‘Do I have room in the fridge/freezer?’; ‘Do I really want to cook this for that long’

“When shopping, choose products you know you will consume or freeze within the ‘use by’ time. Never buy products after the ‘use by’ date. In fact it’s illegal to sell such food due to the risk of food poisoning.

“Food past the ’best before’ date is legal to sell and is often on special as this date refers to quality not safety − the biscuits may have lost their crunch, but won’t cause food poisoning.

“Storage instructions have a significant influence on the safety of perishable food, and can negate ‘use by’ and ‘best before’ dates as these depend on food being refrigerated or otherwise stored properly. ‘Refrigerate after opening’, ‘keep frozen’ or ‘refrigerate under 4°C’ must be followed or food poisoning bacteria will grow quickly.

“Don’t rely on how you stored food in the past. Products change with food trends, and many are now lower in salt and sugar than in the past. Food manufacturers know the recipe, the manufacturing process, and other details that indicate how long a product will last and how to store and cook it safely. “Read the advice on the label and you may find that the products you used to keep open in the cupboard now need to be refrigerated.”

Eyles says despite cooking instructions being hugely important “an astounding 86% of those surveyed didn’t always read and comply with these instructions which is far too high and creates a serious food poisoning risk, especially for poultry, minced or cubed meats, or egg products.

“Following the manufacturer’s advice on temperature, cooking time, stirring and resting time is essential to ensure the food is safely cooked through and delicious,” he says.

On an optimistic note, the Council’s Newspoll survey did show that more than 8 in 10 (83%) people say the last time they bought refrigerated food it took less than 30 minutes to get the food from the store to the home fridge with nearly everyone else getting the food home in under an hour.

“This was a great result, and with the hot weather now for most of the country the 3 in 10 survey respondents (25% in capital cities versus 37% in regional Australia) saying they used an insulated bag or cooler to take food home are the smart ones, and hopefully others will follow their lead.

“Refrigerated food can warm quickly into the temperature danger zone (5°-65°C) where food poisoning bacteria can grow − this is especially risky for foods that won’t be cooked again such as sliced deli meats, pate, prepared salads, cut fruits and soft cheeses.

“Also, pick up refrigerated and frozen food last when shopping and always take an insulated bag or cooler with you to the shops,” Dr Eyles concluded.

This information has been reproduced in with permission of Food Standards Australia New Zealand.

For more information visit:

Or contact:

Juliana Madden: 0407 626 688

Executive Officer

A La Carte Restaurant Scam

be-smart-dont-be-a-victim

As reported by The Age on 6th October 2013, several Southbank Restaurants have been hit by scam artists who demand compensation after claiming to have suffered an allergic reaction to one of their meals.

One female fraudster has duped several riverfront eateries over the past month, while at least two restaurateurs called the young woman’s bluff and refused to pay.

”She was quite well presented, spoke with a slight American accent and was very convincing,” said Pure South Manager Philip Kennedy.

The woman introduced herself as ”Jessica Harris” and claimed to have experienced a severe anaphylactic reaction to a dish that contained chestnuts, after warning waiters of her nut allergy.

The scam fell apart when Mr Kennedy tried to corroborate her story. ”She couldn’t have been sitting at the table she said, and we only served one dish with chestnuts that day, which was at lunch, but she said she’d been here for dinner,” he said. The woman gave a fake mobile phone number before leaving, but tried the Japanese restaurant Sake a few days later, where she pulled off the same scam and was compensated by an unsuspecting Manager.

Unfortunately as you would all be aware, these types of stories are not uncommon in the hospitality industry and because of the serious nature of the claims they cannot be disregarded. Any Allergen related complaints from customers MUST be taken seriously but you should also take the appropriate steps before handing over any form of compensation:

  • Ask the customer if they have a medical certificate
  • Ask for proof of identification (drivers license) to ensure who they claim to be is who they actually are
  • Always ensure kitchen records are filled in and up to date
  • Ask them to fill in a complaint form which may cover the list below, which will ensure you can do an investigation of your records to make sure their story checks out:

Beware

        •  Which meal they ate
        • Date of incident
        • Name of the waiter or staff
        • Which service they ate during
        • Reaction experienced

 

To ensure the risk of having a real Allergen complaint from a customer is at the minimalist you should ensure all staff have the appropriate Allergen Awareness Training and that accurate information is provided for meals including what ingredients they contain.

You can view a free sample of the online Food Allergen Training that we can offer to you and your staff.

For more information on this story please click the link below:

The Age – Eateries Done Like  A Dinner In Scam

 

Important Food Safety ALERT for South East Queensland

We recently covered the infectious Norovirus in our previous blog “Norovirus named ‘Winter Vomiting Bug’ ” in late July, only to have it reappear as a topic after Queensland Health is reporting an outbreak of Norovirus in South East Queensland. As per the Queensland Health website:

Noroviruses are a group of viruses that can cause gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) with diarrhoea, stomach pain and vomiting. Common names used for gastroenteritis due to Norovirus are ‘gastric flu’ or ‘stomach flu’, ‘winter vomiting’ and ‘viral gastro’.

Noroviruses are found in the faeces or vomit of infected people. People can become infected with the virus in several ways, including:

  • Eating food or drinking liquids that are contaminated with norovirus
  • Touching surfaces or objects contaminated with Norovirus, and then placing their hand in their mouth
  • Small airborne particles from projectile vomiting
  • Having direct contact with another person who is infected and showing symptoms (for example, when caring for someone with illness, or sharing foods or eating utensils with someone who is ill).

I feel this is an opportune time to approach this topic and food handlers responsibilities within the Food Industry.

It is a legal requirement in Australia that ANY Food Handler that is suffering from ANY type of communicable diseases (including Gastroenteritis, food poisoning, Hepatitis etc.) is excluded from working with food until they have received medical clearance certificate from a doctor, stating that that the person is safe to return to working with food. Each illness or condition that excludes an employee from working with food, have different clearance periods and it is vital that a doctor clears you to return to work. The clearance MUST be sighted by a Manager or Supervisor and kept on file.

The list of the illnesses and conditions that excludes an employee from working with food also includes:

  • Typhoid and Paratyphoid,
  • Cholera, Shingellosis,
  • Staphylococcal disease,
  • Streptococcal disease,
  • Campylobacter enteritis,
  • Amoeblasis,
  • Glardiasis,
  • Salmonellosis,
  • Rotaviral enteritis,
  • Yersiniosis,
  • Hepatitis A and E,
  • Taenia sollum (pork tape worm),
  • Tuberculosis,
  • Gastroenteritis with acute diarrhoea and vomiting,
  • Norwalk, or Norwalk-type viruses
  • Boils, abscesses, lesions of hands, face or nose.

PLEASE NOTE: This clearance certificate is different to the medical certificate required by HR to cover you for sick leave.

PREVENTION IS THE KEY!

Regular hand washing is a must at all times whenever your hands may have become contaminated!

If you need to wash your hands and are in the middle of serving a customer, excuse yourself and tell the customer that you just need to wash your hands (don’t just disappear).

For food service businesses, consider organising pump packs of food safe hand sanitisers to be available at the Point of Sale areas, or on counters where customers can access to help prevent contamination

It is important to consider your customers and not just your team members.

Hand washing and good hygienic practices are essential.  Hands should be washed with dispensable hand soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds and then dried thoroughly using disposable towels BEFORE handling food.

They must also be washed after going to the toilet, after handling rubbish, after cleaning, after having a break etc.  

Food handling gloves should be used at ALL times and changed regularly between tasks.

If any of your employees are suffering any symptoms likely to be caused by a gastro bug, please consider your fellow team members and your customers by letting your Manager or Supervisor know immediately. This includes if your symptoms occur after you have left for the day.

To assist in the prevention of norovirus and to ensure hands are being washed hygienically in your workplace, please click HERE to download a complimentary copy of the Prime Skills hand wash poster.

Norovirus named “Winter vomiting bug”

FSANZ Food Safety experts issue warnings to food businesses of cross contamination risk of winter gastro outbreaks

norovirus

As cold temperatures hit the non-tropical areas of Australia, the Food Safety Information Council has issued warnings to the food industry and the general public NOT to prepare food or drinks for others if they have gastroenteritis (gastro).

Norovirus infection causes gastroenteritis (a disease of the stomach and intestines). Norovirus infections are highly contagious and are a leading cause of gastroenteritis in Australia and throughout the world. Outbreaks occur in residential (aged) care facilities, hospitals, schools and child care centres. Outbreaks can occur at any time of the year but are much more common during winter.

Council Chair, Dr Michael Eyles, says that we often associate gastro with bacteria growing in food during our long hot summers but there are also viral gastro outbreaks in the winter months linked to norovirus that can also be transmitted by food.

Illness often begins suddenly about one or two days after exposure to the virus and most people experience several of the following symptoms, which usually last for one to two days:

  • Nauseasick
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Headache
  • Low grade fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches

People with norovirus are infectious for at least three days after the symptoms stop but on some occasions they can still be infectious for up to two weeks after, therefore it is VITALLY important to always practice good hand washing and hygiene practices.

According to the latest Australian Department of Health and Ageing’s OzFoodNet annual report there are usually around 580 reported norovirus outbreaks across Australia in a year. The actual cause of these outbreaks is often difficult to determine but it’s safe to say that poor food hygiene can make the situation worse.

You will reduce your risk of getting norovirus (or spreading it to others if you already have it) by:

  • Frequently washing your hands with soap and warm water and drying thoroughly.
  • Not sharing hand towels with others 
  • Do not put your fingers in your mouth
  • Do not share plates, utensils or drink bottles with others.
  • Do not go to work if you’re unwell
  • Follow good hygiene procedures

norovirus2

NOTE: The information provided in this blog has been sourced from the FZANZ news bulletin for more information on this topic you can contact Juliana Madden, FSANZ Executive Officer on 0407 626 688.

Of course if you feel that training your staff is even more important now, please contact us on 1800 FOOD SAFETY.

Alternate sources of information include:
Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing

Increase in Food Poisoning linked to reusable “green bags”

Unwashed 'green bags' have been linked to food poisoning by studies overseas. Photo: Wayne Taylor

The Canberra Times is reporting that counties in the USA that have imposed plastic bag bans on supermarkets have also had higher rates of food poisoning and subsequent deaths.

The Canberra Times article was titled “Study links plastic bag ban with increase in food-related deaths” and is available online, and references the research from the Social Science Research Network website. The referenced article is titled “Grocery Bag Bans and Foodborne Illness”

Both references can be accessed by clicking on the links above.

The Canberra Times article indicated:


One study conducted in California and Arizona found most shoppers did not use separate bags for meat and vegetables, did not wash reusable grocery bags, and often stored them in car boots, resulting in the growth of bacteria.

“If individuals fail to clean their reusable bags, these bacteria may lead to contamination of the food transported in the bags. Such contamination has the potential to lead to health problems and even death,” the paper states.

Focussing on a plastic bag ban introduced in San Francisco in 2007, the paper then compares the instances of emergency hospital admissions and deaths for food-related illness across counties with and without plastic bag bans, as well as across time periods before and after bans are introduced.

“We find that both deaths and ER visits spiked as soon as the ban went into effect,” the paper concludes.

In short, the article was referencing the importance of washing ALL food contact surfaces that are reused.

There are also some bacterias that are environmental so even if the produce you have purchased is in a bag it may not be protected…..

To protect consumers, the Food Standards Code has specific references in Standard 3.2.2 that relate to Single Use Items to prevent potential contamination.

Environmental studies have also found that the traditional cloth “green” environmental bags need to be used almost 200 times to have a lower impact on the environment. (as shown above in the photo by Wayne Taylor)

Maxpak Australasia, a HACCP Certified food grade packaging supplier have a great range of single use biodegradable bags that are great for the environment AND as a single use item, great for managing the safety of the foods you serve.

Sydney Morning Herald article on NSW “Name and Shame” website

On the 5th April 2013 our Founder and Managing Director Mr Gavin Buckett was interviewed for an article in the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Sunday newspaper the Sun Herald.

The article was on the NSW Food Authority Name and Shame website and indicated the number of businesses that had appeared on the site, including references to the businesses that had appeared on multiple times.

The article appeared on the Sun Herald front page and and then continued on Sun Herald Pages 8 and 9 with a double page spread.

We have attached the pages for your reference via the links above.

Let’s hope that there is a follow up article on the positive aspects of the NSW Food Authority “Scores on Doors” system as well as those businesses that choose to be HACCP Certified.

1 in 10 NSW food businesses are listed on the Food Authority website

On Friday, I was interviewed by Esther Han, a food reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and we discussed the benefits and problems associated with the NSW Food Authority Name and Shame website.

I will post the article online once I receive the electronic copy of the article, however if you can read the online version of the Sydney Morning Herald article.

Staggering that 1 in 10 business can be listed, and some offended on multiple occasions, however at The Gourmet Guardian we prefer to focus on the positives and recognise the 90% of food businesses that are NOT on the list.

The NSWFA through their local council Environmental Health Officers also have a Scores on Doors program highlighting the businesses doing a good job.

So keep an eye out for the NSW rated 5 star businesses and those that have HACCP Programs in place.

We have multiple HACCP Certified clients in NSW. We will shortly be publishing a list of businesses we can recommend.

Support the businesses doing a SAFE job.

“2 Star Michelin Restaurant Sickens 63 customers”

Food poisoning can happen to anyone!

In Denmark, a world renowned 2 star Michelin Restaurant caused food poisoning for 63 people.

As recently reported by the ABC news Danish Food Safety officials ordered a cleanup and better food handling at Noma, one of the world’s top restaurants with menu costs up to 1,500 korner ($260) and where table reservations often must be made months in advance.

The clean up was ordered after more than 60 people fell ill with viral gastroenteritis from eating at the two-star Michelin eatery that has also hit top spot three times in the world’s best restaurants list in Restaurant magazine, highlighting how important Food Safety is no matter how profound you’re in the restaurant world.

The 63 infected people ate at Noma between Feb 12 and 16, according to a food safety report based on an inspection of local restaurants and food retail companies a week later. Restaurant manager Peter Kreiner apologized for the incidents and said they were trying to track the source of the infection with officials.

Noma, which opened in 2004, is widely known for its chef Rene Redzepi who relies on fresh, locally sourced products, from moss and snails to sloe berries and unripe plums. The restaurant has been credited with redefining Nordic cooking and receives thousands of reservation requests every day.

This article puts into view just how easy it is for the unexpected and unthinkable to happen. Could this happen to you and your business? Are you implementing all of the safe food handling practices needed to ensure the only way your business will end up in the news is for good reasons?

The original online news article for this food poisoning outbreak