Food Safety – Ignorance is NOT Bliss, It’s Dangerous!

Image courtesy of The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Image courtesy of The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

“Safety saves sickness, suffering, sadness.”

We now thankfully move into the hospitality and licensed on trades busiest period the summer! Longer days, warm summer evenings – last year’s summer heatwave brought a record-breaking £31 billion boost to the economy as millions of people enjoying Staycations.

The great news is that Staycations are on the agenda this year! More British holidaymakers are opting to take domestic breaks this summer instead of travelling abroad, according to research earlier this year.

The increasing trend for Staycations comes amid Brexit uncertainty along with hopes for a repeat of last Summer’s record-breaking heatwave.

However as the weather warms up, and foot-fall increases so do the risks surrounding food poisoning. According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), it is estimated that up to 5.5 million people are affected by food poisoning in the UK each year, and in the vast majority of cases, believed to be up to 76%, the cause is thought to be food prepared outside of the home. Many of these cases go unreported, however, over 850,000 cases of food poisoning are reported each year, resulting in more than 23 million lost working days, costing this country an estimated £350 million.

So now is the time to ensure that your busy summer season is a profitable period and not a costly one. The effect of food poisoning on any food serving business is catastrophic: with the damage often irreparable.

Fines for food safety and hygiene offences and prosecution of directors and senior managers have increased following the introduction of new sentencing guideline in England and Wales.
NFU Mutual is warning businesses owners across the UK of the dangers of poor food hygiene and safety practices, following the findings in an impact assessment published by the Sentencing Council during April 2019.

The Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences guideline for England and Wales came into force in 2016. It helps to ensure that imposed fines are proportionate to the circumstances and seriousness of the offence, including accountability and harm.

The impact assessment found that the number of organisations sentenced for food safety and hygiene offences has more than doubled from around 60 in 2013 to 130 in 2016, but has since remained stable.

Darren Seward, Hospitality and Food and Drink Sector Specialist at NFU Mutual
Most organisations received a fine (94% in 2017) and analysis found the mean figure increased from £2,200 to £7,100 comparing 10 months pre-guideline with 10 months post-guideline, an increase of nearly £5,000. Darren Seward, Hospitality and Food and Drink Sector Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “To see an increase in penalties is positive for the food service industry as a whole. The vast majority of businesses work incredibly hard to meet their hygiene and safety obligation, and the irresponsible businesses which demean that are being held more accountable for poor conduct.

“Managers have a duty to put hygiene and safety at the heart of the company’s values to prevent getting into a serious situation in the first place, and damage as a result of hygiene issues reaches much further than a fine. Company reputation can be destroyed overnight, the directors responsible can be prosecuted, putting a fatal ending to their career in the industry, and most importantly, innocent lives could be put at serious risk of harm. Getting it right takes work but there is no excuse in the eyes of the law, or indeed the public.”

Temperature Control

Hot weather means outdoor eating, which inevitably prompts complaints to restaurants and doctors after someone has eaten a ‘dodgy’ burger or hot dog.

Recent news from the USA has once again highlighted that it’s not always the foods you expect to be vehicles for food poisoning bacteria; an E.coli outbreak, which has so far caused 5 deaths and made 197 others ill, has been linked to prepared Romaine lettuce. Whilst at this point the outbreak is not necessarily directly associated with poor temperature control, it serves as a timely reminder that all foods need to be carefully controlled to make sure that they are safe.

Controlling the temperature of foods is relatively simple but you need to ensure that you have the right equipment – starting with a probe thermometer and antibacterial probe wipes. The probe needs to work properly; you can test this by simply placing the probe in boiling water (in a pan, not a kettle) and checking that it reads 100oC, then also in some iced water to check that it reads 0oC. If that works, then you are good to go. Always make sure that you clean the probe with an antibacterial probe wipe before use and test foods in their thickest part. If you are checking temperatures of foods in pans, make sure that the probe doesn’t go through the food and touch the pan. Don’t forget to always wipe the probe again with an antibacterial probe wipe after testing food.

At this time of the year, there’s plenty of guidance about barbeque safety and what to do to ensure that the food you serve is safe. As a minimum, you should ensure that you do the following:

• Cook foods in the main kitchen and finish them on the barbeque to give that chargrilled flavour
• Make sure that foods are kept in refrigerators or purpose designed cool boxes until needed for service. Keep raw and ready to eat foods separated
• Cook little and often – don’t just cook everything you have and leave it out for guests to eat when they want
• Make sure that you wash your hands and avoid contact with raw meats as much as possible
• Limit service and display times to as short a time as possible
• Check food temperatures regularly, ensuring that all burgers, chickens, kebabs etc. have a core temperature above 75oC

Food temperature control is enormously important at any time of year, not just during the summer months. Whether kitchens are hot or cold, whether food is being cooked outdoors or in the main kitchen, maintaining the correct temperatures is critical to maintaining food safety. Whilst the current US E.coli outbreak has not been directly linked to temperature, poor temperature control of prepared salads can result in bacterial growth – especially if they have been prepared in conditions which can result in cross contamination. For example, if dressed salad items are left out in the sun for long periods of time, any pathogenic bacteria within may multiply to levels which can cause food poisoning. That’s why it’s vital to limit service times if it’s not possible to ensure that food is kept adequately chilled.

A lesser-known fact is that fridges and freezers have key operating temperature ranges and if the ambient temperature in the area where they are stored falls outside of those limits, then they will not efficiently maintain the correct temperature. It’s therefore important to try and manage the temperatures within your kitchen and stores, thereby allowing your chilled storage units to work at the correct temperature(s) and keep food safe.

One last point is record keeping. While it’s important to check temperatures, it’s equally important to maintain records of these checks. These can help protect you if your business receives an allegation from someone who says they’ve become sick after eating there. Records should be taken daily for fridges and freezers, cooked and reheated food and any foods that are held hot or cold. Make sure that you check the temperatures of food when they arrive on deliveries and record these as well.

Making sure that your food maintains the correct temperature throughout your chain of service is paramount to ensuring that you don’t get the dreaded call saying your guests have become ill. By protecting your food temperature chain, you will also be protecting both your customers’ health and your reputation.

Food safety made quick and easy with the NEW ThermaStick® Pocket Thermometer

The NEW ThermaStick is a pocket-sized, waterproof (IP66) thermometer which incorporates a reduced tip penetration probe providing a much faster response time than traditional probe thermometers.

Saving you valuable time and accurately measuring temperature over the range of -49.9 to 299.9 °C, the ThermaStick is simple to use, featuring two push buttons – on/off and max/min.
A large, easy to read LCD makes the ThermaStick an economical, fuss free solution for numerous temperature measurement applications in today’s commercial kitchen. This HACCP compliant thermometer is powered by a single lithium coin cell battery, providing a minimum of 5,000 hours use.

The ThermaStick thermometer is available in red, white or blue and is priced at £16.50 each exclusive of VAT. Buy online at www.thermometer.co.uk

Klipspringer Thermometers

Lead your compliance agenda forward by using digital probe thermometer and infrared thermometers from Klipspringer, designed to meet the precise needs of your industry.
Klipspringer offer a broad selection of digital food temperature probes and thermometers (including reference instruments), as well as infrared thermometers, for every stage of the food supply chain, including prep, cook and cool, deep freeze, as well as storage and distribution. These are supported by a wide choice of probe configurations and accessories helping you to deliver enhanced performance and efficiency in the food and beverage manufacturing environment in support of HACCP and quality control.

Visit www.klipspringer.com

If a restaurant or takeaway receives a 0 food hygiene rating, why doesn’t it have to automatically shut down?

It’s something that may seem like common sense to consumers, but the reality of the situation may be a little less widely understood.

Most people know that the food hygiene grading system by the FSA (Food Standard Agency) runs from 0-5. However, as highlighted by STS Food Safety Consultant, Annabel Kyle, the ratings are composed of cleanliness levels, documentation and the layout of an establishment. It’s therefore, not as clear cut as to whether the cutlery is clean or whether there’s a dead rat in the jam.

Having said this, the score is still a very fair indicator of the overall ‘ethos’ of an establishment. We spoke to Fiona Sinclair, Director of STS Food Safety, to find out just what needs to happen for an establishment to close down, and why some of them can stay open with a ‘0’.

“To close a premises an emergency prohibition notice (EPN) needs to be served by the EHO (Environment Health Organisation). Service of EPN’s is governed by legislation and codes of practice, and closure is only permitted where there is an ‘imminent risk’ to public health.
Examples include uncontrolled pest infestation, an outbreak arising from premises or even flooding with sewage etc. So, a food business can be poor, but if there is no ‘imminent risk’ they cannot be closed. Instead, other enforcement powers can be exercised e.g. prosecution, service of improvement notices, but they won’t be shut down. A ‘0’ grading will also be subject to routine inspections at the maximum frequency of 6 months, potentially with revisits in between.”

Another common misconception is whether establishments get prior warning of when an EHO is visiting the premises to conduct checks. Fiona explains what powers they have when conducting checks:

“EHO’s have a ‘power of entry’ and must be permitted entry at any reasonable time. Generally this means when anyone is present on the premises. To not allow an EHO in is an offence called obstruction, for which the business can be prosecuted. Most EHO inspections are unannounced, although some local authorities do announce their inspections to make sure the manager or owner is available to speak with.”

Currently, the law states that businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland are legally required to show their FSA rating, however, in England, businesses do not have to display the rating they have been awarded.

If you happen to be unfortunate enough to be awarded a low (0,1 or 2) food hygiene rating then food safety experts are here to help. They can carry out independent audits, ensure your food safety management systems are legally compliant as well as providing you with food safety training to ensure your team’s knowledge, practices and food safety standards are up to scratch.

Education & Training

A politician when electioneering once famously said “Education, Education, Education”, and it really is the key.

One of the biggest solutions in the foodservice sector lies in the industry’s own hands, the frontline! From food producers, to retailers caterers and all hospitality and on-trade businesses serving food education and training of vital:

• Make sure that all staff are well trained in food safety procedures
• Make sure that all staff understand food safety issues duties and responsibilities
• Make sure all staff comply with best practice guidelines

Impact/ benefit of food hygiene products

Virtual College offer a wide range of food hygiene training. Virtual College are proud to be the UK’s largest provider of food hygiene certificates and have trained over 750,000 individuals across many different types of organisations. Their Level 2 Food Hygiene course is accredited by City and Guilds and their customers have rated it 5 stars.

Their customers range from students looking to boost theirs CV’s to restaurant owners who need to train large numbers of staff. At Virtual College the comprehensive and easy to understand courses are suitable for everyone, offering cost effective training without the need for off-site learning or disruptive classroom sessions.

If you’re looking for large amounts of training, their range of food course bundles and subscription packages can help support a wide range of needs and develop a learners skills to become an expert in Food Hygiene.

Virtual College can also help If you’re looking to train a significant number of staff in food hygiene, need help with policies or procedures, or are looking to combine online and offline training, then they have expertise in developing custom training solutions. Get in touch with them today about your specific training need and they will be happy to assist you.

Virtual College have worked with some amazing clients and have helped them develop strategies to help achieve specific goals. Wigan Council have over 1,500 members of staff working in the Early Years sector including staff who needed food hygiene training. Within three months of providing them with an e-learning solution, 300 staff had successfully completed online food hygiene training alongside a range of other courses.

Visit www.virtual-college.co.uk

Food Allergies – What They Mean For Food Businesses

Were you worried by the news of the deaths of Natasha Ednan-Laparouse, Megan Lee, or Shahida Shahid, or the lifechanging brain-damage suffered by Amy-May Shead?

These young ladies had all relied on information on packaging or by word of mouth from staff, and they had been given inaccurate information.

Could you deal with the cost of this happening to your business? Even if the customer does not die, there are serious repercussions for giving wrong information; fines and court costs, loss (even closure) of business, sleepless nights etc. because of the stress, possibly a prison sentence, a lifetime knowing you had been responsible for such devastation.

FIR1169/2011 requires that food businesses can advise customers of the presence of 14 specified allergens in any food they produce. This information can be through word of mouth, on the menu, on a board, matrices, or ingredients lists, and must be provided on request of the customer. There must also be signposting for customers to know where to find the information.

Food safety law requires staff to receive training according to their role, and there is a myriad of courses to choose from. How do you choose?

According to UK statistics, there are around ten deaths due to anaphylaxis every year, and hospital admissions due to allergies have risen dramatically in recent years.

Allergy sufferers must rely on the information they are given by food businesses. Can you, or your staff, remember all the ingredients in every dish on the menu? It’s better to have it documented and available.

When someone with a food allergy finds a pub, restaurant or café where they feel confident and safe, they will come back, they will bring family and friends, they will tell others in the food allergic community, and so your business can grow tremendously.

In order to accomplish this increase in your business, you need to make sure your staff are all properly trained. Accredited courses are best because they give the opportunity for discussion or questions, which enhances the knowledge gained by your staff.

There must be procedures and policies in place to ensure that everyone on site knows how your business deals with allergens.

Allergen information must be documented and available for both staff and customers, it needs to be kept up to date with any changes in ingredients, recipes or menus. Full ingredients lists are better for those with allergies outside the 14. Suppliers should give you access to their ingredients, which can be useful when choosing suppliers, if they can’t tell you their ingredients, take your custom to one who can.

Annual audits are helpful to monitor your processes and policies, and compliance with the law, and may provide further confidence for everyone.

Engaging the services of a consultant to help you with the details of all the documents and requirements will pay dividends against the potential of getting it wrong.

Can you afford to get it wrong? Food Allergy Friends can help.

Visit www.foodallergyfriends.com

So, as we get set for a busy and profitable summer season, practising a high level of Food Safety not only good for business it’s also the law. Whether it’s your pub, restaurant, cafe, hotel or bar; by preparing and serving unsafe food, you risk literally everything.