Allergens

The Food Standards Agency has produced a series of publications to help small and medium food businesses (SMEs) and local authorities, in supporting SMEs, comply with new allergen rules. As you may be aware, the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation (1169/2011) introduces new allergy rules which take effect on 13 December 2014. This includes changes to current allergen labelling rules for pre-packed foods, and a new requirement affecting businesses that provide non-pre-packed foods or loose foods such as restaurants, takeaway businesses, bakeries, delicatessens, food suppliers and institutional caterers.

If you require any further advice on this subject please contact  West Sussex Trading Standards . The SME publications aim to generate awareness and improve understanding of the new allergen rules, including advice on safer allergen management practices. The publications are available for download from the FSA website.

 

E.coli Guidance

The Food Standards Agency has recently issued guidance for food businesses on how to control the risks associated with E.coli O157. E.coli O157 is a bacteria found in the environment predominantly on raw meat and in the soil which can cause serious illness and even death. It can cause infections when only a few of the organisms are ingested.

If you would like to discuss how to implement this guidance in your business, please contact us. For businesses who use vacuum packing machines, there is a Vacuum Packing 'safe method' on our Safer Food, Better Business web page. Businesses must have controls in place to ensure raw and ready to eat foods are adequately separated. It is now no longer acceptable to allow dual use of 'complex equipment' such as vacuum packers and meat slicers.

 

Foreign objects in food

The Health Protection and Environmental Management, Health Protection team receives a lot of complaints relating to food safety each year. However not all foreign objects are a health risk. Below are the most common complaints, together with the action you should take

Fish

Fish
TypeDescriptionPublic health risk?Action required

Glass-like crystals

During the canning process naturally occurring elements, which are commonly found in fish, may develop into hard crystals which are called struvite. These crystals are often mistaken for glass fragments. They are not harmful if swallowed and will be broken down by the stomach acids.  It is more common in tinned salmon.  If you are unsure whether you have glass or struvite crystals in your fish simply place in vinegar and heat gently.  Struvite crystals will dissolve, glass will not.No public health risk.Contact retailer if struvite, Health Protection and Environmental Management if glass.

Codworm

These small, round brownish yellow worms are found in the flesh of white fish such as cod or haddock. The affected parts of the fish are usually cut away but some may be overlooked.  However they are harmless to humans and are killed by the cooking process.No public health risk.Contact retailer.

Glowing Fish

Some seafoods such as crabmeat, cooked shrimp, prawns and even simulated seafood products made from surimi glow due to the presence of luminous bacteria. When seafood glows it does not mean that it is unsafe or of low quality.  There are no reports of illness from luminous marine bacteria growing on seafood.  Refrigerate all seafood products to slow the growth of bacteria. Consume cooked seafood products within a day or two after purchase.No public health risk.Contact retailer.

Vegetables and fruit

Vegetables and fruit
TypeDescriptionPublic health risk?Action required

Stones, soil and slugs

Fruits and vegetables frequently have stones, soil or small slugs on or in them. This is because they originate from the soil and is quite normal.No public health risk.Wash thoroughly.

Mould

Mould growth occurs naturally when fruit and vegetables are stored too long or become bruised and damaged. Ensure you check produce when buying.No public health risk.Dispose of mouldy produce.

Greenfly

Salad vegetables, especially lettuce, may have greenfly attached. They can be difficult to wash off but they are not harmful. In fact, they demonstrate that the salad is fresh. This will become an increasingly common problem as the use of pesticides decreases.No public health risk.

 No action required.

 

Tinned food

Tinned food
TypeDescriptionPublic health risk?Action required

Wasps and Fruit Flies

Wasps and fruit flies are naturally associated with ripe fruit and do not carry disease. They are common in tins of fruit.No public health risk.Contact retailer.

Field Insects

Insects that are found naturally in fields are sometimes harvested up alongside fruit and vegetables.  Food companies do take measures to remove these insects but, occasionally, some will slip through the net.  However the insects and grubs will be killed and sterilised by the canning process.  The frequency of finding these pests will increase as the use of pesticides decreases.No public health risk.Contact retailer.

Mould

Damaged, dented or incorrectly processed tins could allow mould growth to occur.  This may indicate an error in production or storage.Possible public health risk.

Contact Health Protection and Environmental Management..

 

Dried food

Dried foods
TypeDescriptionPublic health risk?Action required

Insects

Products such as flour, sugar and pulses may get infested by insects such as beetles and weevils if the foods are stored for too long.  They breed very quickly in warm, humid conditions and spread into uncontaminated food very quickly. These insects do not carry disease.No public health risk.Dispose of all infected packages in an outside bin and vacuum clean the cupboards thoroughly, ensuring that you immediately dispose of the vacuums contents in an outside bin. Ensure new dried foods are stored in airtight containers in well ventilated storage areas.

Field Insects

Insects that are found naturally in fields are sometimes harvested up alongside fruit and vegetables. Food companies do take measures to remove these insects but, occasionally, some will slip through the net.  However the insects and grubs will be killed and sterilised by the canning process. The frequency of finding these pests will increase as the use of pesticides decreases.No public health risk.Contact retailer.

Mould

Damaged, dented or incorrectly processed tins could allow mould growth to occur. This may indicate an error in production or storage.No public health risk.

Contact Health Protection and Environmental Management..

 

Chocolate/confectionery

Chocolate/confectionery
TypeDescriptionPublic health risk?Action required

Bloom

If stored at too high a temperature chocolate can develop a light coloured bloom.  I is not harmful and is not mould, it is simply due to fat separation.No public health risk.Contact retailer.

Crystals

Large crystals may form in confectionery and are sometimes mistaken for glass. To check whether glass or crystals place in warm water and if they are crystals they will dissolve.No public health risk.Contact retailer.

Bakery goods

Bakery goods
TypeDescriptionPublic health risk?Action required

Bakery Char

Occasionally bread and cakes may contain bits of overcooked dough which has flaked off bakery tins. It is sometimes mistaken for rodent droppings, however it is not necessarily an indication of poor hygiene.No public health risk.Contact retailer.

Carbonised Grease

Occasionally some bread or cake products have areas with a grey/greasy look. This is because the machinery used to produce them is lubricated with a non-toxic vegetable oil, which can sometimes become  incorporated.No public health risk.Contact retailer.
 

 

Food safety at home

Everyone has an expectation that the food we buy from shops is safe to eat, but we can also help ourselves by keeping food safe at home.

Tips for Buying Food

  • Always check use by and best before dates before buying - go to our 'Use by' and 'Best Before' Date' page for more information.
  • Check that the package isn't damaged.
  • Always ensure that raw meat or poultry is completely wrapped.
  • Keep raw and ready to eat foods separate when packing the shopping bag.

Tips for Keeping Food Safe at Home

  • Always ensure that chilled and frozen food is taken straight home after purchase and put into the fridge or freezer immediately - one bacterium can turn into one million in less than seven hours at warm temperatures.
  • Always store cooked and raw foods separately.  Make sure that raw meat and poultry are stored in the bottom of the fridge.
  • Keep the coldest part of the fridge at 0-5ºc.
  • Keep eggs in the fridge.
  • Check use by dates, don't keep food beyond that date.
  • Keep pets away from food dishes and work tops.
  • Always wash hands before preparing food, after going to the toilet and after stroking or playing with pets.
  • Make sure that food is cooked completely all the way through.  If heating a ready meal read and follow all instructions.
  • If you do reheat food, it must be piping hot all the way through.
  • Frozen poultry should always be thoroughly defrosted before cooking.  Poultry is fully defrosted when completely pliable and there are no ice crystals on or in the body cavity.

Looking after your fridge and freezer

In order to keep chilled and frozen foods in good condition, it is important to observe these simple precautions as these type of food are perishable:

  • Fridges should run between 2ºc to 5ºc. Freezers should run at -18ºc, use a thermometer and regularly check temperatures.
  • Ensure fridge and freezer are kept clean.  Use warm water and a mild detergent inside and out.
  • Sanitise door handles regularly.
  • Keep frozen food covered to prevent contamination and drying out.
  • Ensure that the juices from raw meats do not drip onto any other foods.
  • Store raw meats and poultry in leak proof containers at the bottom of the fridge.

High Risk Foods

  • Dairy Products - milk, cream, cheese e.g. soft cheese, stilton.  Dairy based products like fromage frais or mousses.
  • Cooked products - those foods containing eggs, meat, fish or dairy.
  • Sliced/cured meats - like ham and smoked fish.
  • Prepared ready to eat foods - such as vegetable salads or products containing mayonnaise.

Always ensure these foods are kept refrigerated.

 

Infectious diseases and food borne illness

When people suffer sickness and diarrhoea they often suspect they are suffering from food poisoning. In fact these symptoms can also result from viral infections, which may be present in the air, or some other cause, and may not be food related. Please contact us to report such illnesses or make a complaint about a food premises that you think might be linked to your illness. You should always contact your Doctor for medical advice if you feel you need this.

It is important to inform your Doctor or Environmental Health Officer if you:

  • Are a food handler whose work is connected with the preparation or handling of food and drink.
  • Are a health care or nursery member of staff or other staff who has direct contact or contact through serving food, with highly susceptible patients or person to whom food poisoning would have particularly serious consequences.

Very often, people suffering from suspected food poisoning feel sure that the cause is the last meal they have eaten, especially if this happens to be a meal at a restaurant or takeaway. Often though food poisoning bacteria take quite a long time before they actually make us ill, on average 1-2 days or more after we have eaten them. Sometimes it can take up to 11 days before you show any signs of illness.

The symptoms of food poisoning can vary but generally include some or all the following:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting (sickness)
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Stomach pains

What are the main causes of food poisoning and food borne illnesses?

  • Food prepared too far in advance and then kept at room temperature
    Food poisoning bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature. Any food which has been prepared in advance must be refrigerated in order to slow bacterial growth.
     
  • Undercooking
    This may be dangerous as any harmful bacteria in the food will not be destroyed.
     
  • Not reheating food to high enough temperatures
    Reheated foods are those that have been previously cooked, allowed to cool and then reheated before they are eaten. Some bacteria can survive the cooking process and will grow if the food isn't cooled quickly. Try not to reheat leftovers if possible.
     
  • Cross contamination from raw food and ready to eat food
    Food poisoning bacteria may be naturally present in raw food, especially raw meat and poultry. If these bacteria are allowed to get onto food that is not going to be cooked before it is eaten and is 'ready to eat'  food poisoning can result. Cross contamination can result from poor storage whereby the juices from raw meat are allowed to drip on to cooked food and in other ways such as a chopping board, work surface, dirty dishcloths or food handlers hands.
     
  • Failure to keep hot food above 63 degrees
    Holding food at a hot temperature ensures that harmful bacteria will not grow.
     
  • Poor personal hygiene and infected food handlers
    Poor personal hygiene can result in food becoming contaminated with bacteria. Additionally, persons suffering from infections such as food poisoning and septic cuts can contaminate the food. It is important to remember that anyone who has been in contact with someone suffering from food poisoning can pass on bacteria, even though they show no symptoms themselves.

 

Safer Food, Better Business (SFBB) packs

Since 1 January 2006, all food businesses must have a fully documented food safety management system. This means that you have to decide what it is that you do to produce food that is safe, and have this written down. What's more, your system will have to be based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles; and you will be expected to follow it.

Whilst larger businesses will have these systems in place, many smaller businesses won't. That is why the Food Standards Agency have produced Safer Food Better Business (SFBB). There are three types of packs, one for caterers, one for retailers and one for childminders. The caterer type comes in four versions, standard cuisine, Indian cuisine, Chinese cuisine in English and Chinese cuisine in Chinese. The SFBB pack contains a series of easy to understand safe methods for cooking, chilling, cleaning, cross contamination and management.

It is designed to be easily tailored to your business and can be implemented in a relatively short period of time. You can order any of the SFBB packs or diary refill from us, printed and bound, for the following prices (including postage and package) at the link below.

SFBB pack order form

Alternatively they are available on the Food Standards Agency - SFBB website to download for free.

  • SFBB pack for caterers £10
  • SFBB pack for retailers £10
  • SFBB pack for childminders £10
  • SFBB residential home supplement £5
  • SFBB for Indian cuisine £10
  • SFBB for Chinese cuisine £10
  • SFBB in Chinese £10
  • SFBB Diary refill £10

Changes to SFBB Caterers pack 2015

Bed and breakfast packs

Chichester District Council have now added another pack based on the food standard agency's SFBB pack designed for Bed and Breakfast premises.

How does this pack help me comply with the law?

Regulations introduced in January 2006 say that you must be able to show what you do to sell food that is safe to eat and have this written down. This pack helps you do this. This pack is based on the principles of HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point), but you will not find words such as HACCP or HAZARD in this pack because we have cut all the jargon.

Who should take charge of the pack?

The person who is responsible for the day-today running of the business is the best person to work through the pack.  It is a good idea to involve other staff to help the pack work in your business.

Vacuum packing safe method

Food businesses that carry out Vacuum Packing must have documented procedures for dealing with the vacuum packing process, there is now a Vacuum Packing safe method to help implement the necessary controls for the safe use of this process.

Businesses must have controls in place to ensure raw and ready to eat foods are adequately separated. Since the implementation of the Food Standards Agency, E.coli 0157 Control of cross-contamination .

Safer Food Better Business (SFBB) coaching sessions

If you have any difficulty with completing and implementing the SFBB pack Chichester District Council are running 2 hour coaching sessions to help businesses understand what is required and how it should be used. Sessions are arranged as and when they are required at a location convenient to you and are charged at £20.00 per head. If you would like more information or would like to attend please contact us.

It should be remembered that having a Food Safety Management System that is adequate and fully implemented is a legal requirement and will also have an impact on the score achieved for the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.