Food Safety Week
This week – 10th to 16th June - has been declared Food Safety Week 2013 by the Food Standards Agency.
In a slight departure from our usual “Employers take” on advisory matters we thought giving some publicity to this and to broaden the learning points businesses will also benefit.
The FSA report that there are more than a million cases of food poisoning in the UK each year and in a recent survey, they found that 80% of those questioned carried out one or more food behaviours that put them at risk of food poisoning.
This finding puts an interesting perspective on the occasional customer complaints our restaurant, hotel, cafe, public house clients receive if someone falls ill and who jump to the conclusion that it must be something they have eaten “out” rather than “in”. Our support services to clients include following up such complaints and we are pleased to say that the application of good Food Safety Management Systems, avoidance of cross contamination, good temperature control and effective personal hygiene and cleaning etc has meant that when faced with such complaints the conclusions we can report have invariably re-assured them and reputations and repeat business are maintained.
Picking up on the FSA theme – this time of year sees many of us enjoying the long evenings and sunshine (we hope) with BBQs proliferating. This brings in cooking techniques and equipment that through large parts of the year are dormant. The seasonal burst of this activity raises the chances of food poisoning occurring and of course that in turn causes absenteeism in the work place. We see the FSA publicity as a good thing for employers and employees alike.
Much information is available on the FSA website and we encourage you to take the FSA On-Line Kitchen Check and find out if your kitchen habits are putting you, or your family and friends, at risk of food poisoning.
By going through each cooking stage and ticking the boxes next to all of the actions that best describe your kitchen habits you'll be given a score and will be able to link through to some tips on how to improve.
The following summary points are a good start when cooking at home:
Hands are one of the main ways in which germs are spread. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before cooking and after touching the bin, going to the toilet, handling pets or handling raw food.
Wash or change dish cloths, tea towels, sponges and oven gloves regularly and let them dry before you use them again. Dirty, damp cloths are the perfect place for bacteria to breed. Disposable wipes are the best solution for commercial operations.
Cross contamination occurs when harmful germs are spread between food, surfaces and equipment. Help to prevent this by removing clutter that you don’t need and washing worktops before and after cooking.
Always use a chopping board. Wash the board and other utensils in hot, soapy water when you’ve finished using them and in between preparing raw foods (meat, poultry, eggs, fish and raw vegetables) and ready-to-eat food. Better still, use a separate chopping board for each. In commercial operations you should of course always use separate boards.
Make sure your fridge is set below 5°C, using a fridge thermometer to check. This is to prevent harmful germs from growing and multiplying.
Don’t overfill your fridge. This allows air to circulate and maintains the set temperature.
Store raw meat and poultry at the bottom of the fridge and properly wrap or cover it to avoid raw juices contaminating other foods. Again in commercial settings separate fridges are recommended.
Cook food thoroughly until it is steaming hot in the middle. This will kill any harmful bacteria that may be present. If cooking commercially, core temperatures need to reach 75oC.
‘Use by' dates
‘Use by’ dates are found on perishable products, such as dairy, meat and fish, and are based on scientific testing to determine how long these foods will stay safe. After that date, food could be unsafe to eat even if it is stored correctly and looks and smells fine.
‘Best before’ dates are used on foods that have a longer shelf life and tell us how long the food will be at its best. After that date it is normally safe to eat, but its flavour and texture might have deteriorated.
By applying good systems we can all enjoy what we eat and avoid the unpleasantries that food poisoning can put us through. This will in turn lead to reduced time off from work.
If you need any advice or assistance with any Food Hygiene matter do not hesitate to call us. We have a wealth of experience in establishing Food Safety Management Systems and delivering training including accredited courses to Level 2, 3 and 4. We also have an in-house hygiene training system (Practical Hygiene) that can assist any employer meeting immediate and basic food hygiene training needs.