Australian Food Standards Update

The Australian food safety standards were recently released with a new updated version. Not a lot has changed from previous versions, and in my view they really missed an opportunity to improve training and compliance standards.

I’ve cherry picked a few items below that are interesting.

You can download your own copy here. http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx

Australian Food Safety Standards

extract: from standards 2.2.2 re training

(1) A food business must ensure that persons undertaking or supervising food handling
operations have:
(a) skills in food safety and food hygiene matters; and
(b) knowledge of food safety and food hygiene matters, commensurate with their
work activities.
Persons supervising or conducting food handling operations must possess the skills and knowledge
in food safety and hygiene matters required to handle food safely.

“Specific mandatory training in food
safety and hygiene is not required by this clause, as it is recognised that skills and knowledge may be
gained in different ways.”

?!?!?!! What! ‘not required, ‘may be gained in different ways’ Like how?! I’m sorry , I don’t see people in the hospitality industry spending their weekends reading and studying the details of food safety, systems, procedures, issues and concerns…if you don’t take the industry away from the workplace and train them in this area then we are asking for trouble…and its exactly why standards are SO LOW THESE DAYS , the lack of awareness, knowledge and understanding not only of food safety by operators but also the legal and business ramifications is poor to say the least.

They really missed an opportunity to really put some firm black and white minimum training standards in place here…the wording they used is weak and ambiguous at best.

extract: from standards 2.2.2 re mobile and temporary food stands/stalls 

This one could easily take up pages…needing to keep it brief… ‘How’ are a few trestles, esky, all laid on on some dirt, with a bit of cold water and detergent in a plastic sink, in anyway comparable to properly designed commercial kitchen or food van?

The answer is that they are not. I love local food markets/stands/stalls/vans etc , but even in among themselves  this group is widely different in standards. It’s not uncommon to see a description as above competing with an operator who has a correctly designed and built trailer or van worth tens of thousands of dollars. Correct refrigeration, waste management, hot water, santised surfaces, vermin control, v’s $500 of health risk.

Again they  missed the opportunity to get some decent standards in place. Once you start reading the 3.2.3 standard it’s clear that most mobile or temporary food stands haven’t got a chance at meeting many of these standards, yet they are increasing daily, most with poor standards.

4(2) When complying with subclause (1), the proprietor of the food business must answer all
questions asked by the appropriate enforcement agency in relation to the matters listed in
subclause (1) in the form approved from time to time by the relevant authority under the Act.

This read as …’we have wiped our hands of this issue and concern and will handball it off to the local council inspector, we really don’t want to know about it!’

extract: from standards 2.2.2, re food storage temperatures

General best practice for refrigerated storage
To make sure that cold food remains safe during storage, proper refrigeration is essential. For best
practice, businesses should ensure refrigeration equipment is operating and used correctly using the
following measures:
• Food temperatures are checked with a probe or infra-red thermometer to make sure the food itself
is at the required storage temperature, rather than relying on the refrigerator’s temperature gauge.

Great advice about not relying on the actual fridge display temperature as these can be hugely inaccurate , but so are infa red thermometers …it all depends on what is aimed at! I can get massively different readings just by pointing at items and areas. They are good for a quick guide, but they  are ‘loose’ to say the least.

‘Some food businesses may have temperature monitoring devices installed which provide an
ongoing measurement of chilled storage.’

Well they missed the boat here…if you have a device that measures and records your storage temperatures (and one that allows live 24/7 viewing of those temperatures) you know EXACTLY what your storage temperatures are , all the time AND you have evidence, should be mandatory minimum standard.

Without the above, there is no quality, independent, verifiable evidence, it’s basically just a bunch of numbers jotted down on a piece of paper , by anyone, anytime, with no meaning  and really wouldn’t last 5 minutes in a legal challenge.

If food manufacturers and major supplier/producers have accurate verifiable digital standards in place , why isn’t the wider food/hospitality industry doing the same?

There is a large section of 3.2.2 dedicated to temperature , monitoring and control, both of stored and cooked foods. To comply with the requirements as they are written is a seriously labor intensive job. I see areas such as health care, complying to it, general hospitality not.

3.2.3 deals with design and build.

My pet hate, not a new one, it’s always been in the code, the one that I wish architects would investigate at the commencement of a project rather than the end, because 9/10 times they have not allowed enough space.

(b) provide adequate space for the activities to be conducted on the food premises and for
the fixtures, fittings and equipment used for those activities

this also has always been there ….

The design and construction of food premises must:
(a) be appropriate for the activities for which the premises are used;

upgrade to ventilation codes…i have covered the new style canopies in other section on this site… but this is the one a LOT of new operators get caught with….they are Falsely (normally by real estate letting agents)  that the ‘old kitchen’ will comply with what their new plans are . BS!!!  in many cases that old exhaust canopy will need to come down…= big cost.

This is often also the case for plumbing/sewerage, just because there is commercial trade waste on site DOES NOT mean that it is suitable for your operations needs, especially if you are renovating and or upgrading facilities from an older premises….in many cases it will require an expensive commercial trade waste upgrade….a hydraulic consultant is the only person who can tell you this, and they can only tell you this in conjunction with your kitchen design and menu and anticipated volume of business .

The Building Code of Australia for Class 2 to 9 buildings (ABCB 2016, which includes commercial
buildings) — Part F4 on Light and Ventilation states that a commercial kitchen must be supplied
with a kitchen exhaust hood complying with AS/NS 1668.1 and AS 1668.2 -2012 where cooking
apparatuses have power inputs above specified levels (e.g. where any cooking apparatus has
a total maximum electrical power input exceeding 8kW or a total gas power input exceeding
29MJ/hour).
• AS 4674-2004 — in addition to referring to the Building Code of Australia and standards AS/
NZS 1668.1 and AS/NZS 1668.2, this standard covers provision of an extraction system where
a dishwasher or similar equipment vents steam and causes condensation on walls and ceilings.
Example
Change in ventilation system needed when a food premises changes hands
A business purchases a pre-existing food premises and begins operating in it using the
existing fit out, including ventilation equipment. Over a few weeks, the proprietor notices
that a greasy film is appearing on the walls and ceiling around the cooking equipment.
This shows that the mechanical ventilation that was suitable for the previous business is
no longer adequate. It needs to be upgraded or replaced with a system that will effectively
remove all the new business’s cooking vapours.

Summary:

In all there is 225 pages of content, a lot of is it also ‘examples’ and ‘training’ its actually a really good document and one that everybody that is ‘professionally’ involved with food should get to know. I keep a copy on all my digital devices and am constantly going to back to it ‘just to be sure’.

My Grief and much of the commercial food service industry’s grief is the clear lack of ability for local council inspectors to follow this guide correctly, they all are supposed to be following it.

Food Safety is no different in Nth Qld than it is Tassie. Yet time and time again i see new premise licences issued to new builds that clearly don’t comply to all of the standards, some but not all. And the worst is ‘existing premises’ that are so far off the standards it’s scary.

I have seen some of the ‘check lists’ that are used by various local authorities, they are brief. But what I can’t understand is that within meters of each other different premises can be so widely different in standards, (which also equals operators costs), it’s grossly unfair to the operator spending the money to comply as best as they can, it’s costly to comply.

Local politics  has a lot to do with it also, I won’t go into specifics, but i have seen it first hand played out, by players at the top. The local inspector often has their hands tied, and cant ‘really enforce’ because of such.

‘Food premise inspections and approvals should be carried out by independent bodies in my view, this keeps politics out of the way.’

An example where design can impact food safety.

A Chinese Restaurant on the Gold Coast that put caustic soda in the salt shakers!!! (yep true story*) …end of the day the chemicals and food should not have been stored anywhere near each other! If the design achieved this the chance of mix up would have been seriously negated. Those types of chemicals shouldn’t have even been in the kitchen ! OR? was the Salt (food) being stored in the chemical area?? That place had several inspections in recent times…I wonder if they were ever pulled up on it, initially its a design fault, then user fault, my guess the design didn’t have a dedicated chemical area out of the kitchen.

Good design can’t stop these things happening 100% but it certainly can make it really hard for it happen, to the point of only being able to be blame human error. (which still should have been avoided!)

*same happened in a chicken franchise WA few years back.

Good design not only can means increases in inefficiencies, improved sales and profitability , but it’s also paramount in achieving good food safety.

download your copy of the standards here, http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/Pages/default.aspx

 

Technology upgrades to temperature monitoring

Temperature monitoring technology leaps forward.

New updates in IOT temperature sensors means even more reliability, better ranges, security and ability to update firmware via the internet. Here’s the tech.

 

IOT temp sensors

ALTA – Leading Enterprise Grade
“Internet of Things” Solutions

Best in class remote monitoring solutions for business.

Superior Wireless Range

1,000+ ft. non-line-of-sight through 12-14 walls.

Long Battery Life

10+ years powered by 2 AA batteries.

Monnit Encrypt-RF™ Security

Integrated bank level security (256-bit exchange and AES-128 CTR on all messages).

Onboard Data Memory

Store up to 512 readings per sensor.
– 10 min heartbeats = 3.5 days
– 2 hour heartbeats = 42 days

Future Proof

Over-the-air updates allow products to be updated remotely.

FCC / CE Certified Module

Highest performing RF module for OEMs providing diverse enterprise IoT applications.

100% Comprehensive Solution

No additional hardware, software or subscriptions are required.

ALTA is the only wireless sensor platform on the planet with 10+ year battery life and over 1,000 feet wireless range (non-line-of-sight). ALTA 900 MHz products use frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS), and ALTA 868 and 433 MHz products are frequency-agile, providing better RF interference immunity in the most demanding applications.

ALTA products use Encrypt-RF™ bank level security, featuring a 256-bit exchange to establish a global unique key, and an AES-128 CTR for all data messages. So security is maintained at all communication points from sensor to gateway, gateway to software, and back again.

Integrated on-board data storage allows for days, weeks or months of time-stamped data logging.

Over-the-air (OTA) updates allow ALTA products to be updated remotely making them future-proof, to learn more about automated temperature monitoring , click here www.i-temp.com.au 

i-temp temperature monitoring

Domestic V’s Commercial

Sometimes the obvious needs to be stated. To assume that what may seem common sense  is often a mistake  in the hospitality industry.

The hospitality industry industry is perhaps unique in that its the one industry ‘that everyone thinks they can do’.  And many want to for various reasons, run their own cafe/restaurant/bar/ pub etc. Aside from cash and capital  to commence there are very few barriers, very little legal minimum requirements for skills, training or experience. And with this in mind its one industry that really  does struggle with people having a crack, but with little ‘real’ or ‘practice knowledge or experience’ …which is why so many struggle, learning as they go with expensive mistakes, often failing.

In many situations new comers to the industry would be well advised to watch/study/copy the big boys , they have already done the research/study and learnt from their mistakes.

Which is how this topic comes about….the too often seen mistake of new operators thinking they are saving money by cutting corners on equipment and appliances.

The thing that always still amazes me to see especially in smaller cafe type operations is the amount of ‘domestic’ appliances people are trying to work with.

If one was to study the major players in the industry you would see that they all use only the best quality commercial equipment to suit their operations.

The numbers add up quickly.

Recently a manager explained to me that their recently refurbished establishment was going to have to get the carpet replaced already (it wasn’t very old, like 2-3 years approx)…but then he explained in one section alone they calculated it was walked over around 10,000 times per month! The numbers surprised me ,  I knew how may people they seated and how busy they were, but i only ever had seen a couple of hundred people in there at any one time, 10,000, really?  I quickly did some maths and yes those numbers added up, the punters turned over several times a day, they are open 12+ hours per day 7 days a week…wow, its amazing how the numbers add up.

And this where quality/reputable/established brand manufacturers of kitchen appliances get it. They know their machines are going to  get worked really hard for long periods of time, often 7 days a week,  sometimes be available for use 20 hours a day and by multiple different operators.

To borrow some analogy from Menu Master Microwaves, a domestic microwave may get used 3-5 times per day maximum ( I would say this is very high use for the average home). A commercial machine is designed to be used say 200 times per day!

So the domestic machine may get used 1000-1500 times per year. If you placed that machine in a busy commercial environment it could achieve those numbers in one week!

The same goes for refrigeration, I’m amazed how many cafes try and pass off domestic refrigeration in place of commercial. The numbers of door openings per day for domestic for sure would be higher than 3-5 but no where near the volume of commercial.

It really simple layman’s terms think about how whisper quiet your domestic fridge is at home. How tiny the motor is, how little heat the motor produces. Now have a look at a standard 1 door commercial drinks fridge, noisy massive big motor, heaps of heat coming off the motor, yet internal capacity not that much bigger than a large domestic ref/freezer.

Its really simple when you look at the motor size, they are engineered and designed to meet a set of performance demands that are much higher than any domestic machine. There are of course many other specification and design differences between the two, but in summary they are designed for different purposes and standards of performance.

If you are storing food in your fridge you are required by law for that unit to have both external and internal temperature displays, not many domestic fridges meet this. The requirement for the storage system to be at or below 5c is something that most domestic fridges struggle with in the home environment let alone in a hot busy commercial kitchen.

There is also legal requirement for operators to be using equipment that is ‘fit for purpose’ , this is for ANZFSA food safe code. Domestic appliances are not ‘fit for purpose’

An under sized fryer will impact your ability to serve food quickly, and quality and food costs, but it might not have any food safety implications. A fridge that doesn’t hold temperature certainly does, if a Food Safety inspector or Auditor is on their job properly such an appliance would be required to be replaced asap, as its not designed to suit the purpose and application. You would/should  fail your inspection and be at risk of fine or closure until the problem is sorted out.

If you would like to learn more about exactly how powerful and energy sucking commercial refrigeration is , take a look at this resource. http://www.energyrating.gov.au/products/commercial-refrigeration

Same applies for ovens,grills and cook tops, selecting the right tools for the job. This doesn’t  always mean biggest is best, sometimes it’s not about the ‘initial power’ its more about the ‘constant usage’.

On top of this there is warranty, service and spare parts to consider, domestic machines are not covered by commercial use. Commercial machines rarely change models, and often keep parts for models that have been around for decades! Domestically, lucky is a)you can get parts at all b) if it can even be fixed c) no chance of finding parts for any models with years against them.

If your looking at starting up your own operation in the hospitality industry , I can’t stress enough the importance of tooling up with the right equipment to the job. When your shopping around, if something is for example is half the price/cost of all the similar items you have been looking at , then it’s for good reason! Avoid it like the plague!

The best way I think people should look at the costs of their equipment is simply ROI. Eg that $25,000 new pizza oven, how much money is it going it make you? If Pizza is mainstay of your operation then you could get that amount of sales easily within one month.

If you only do the ‘occasional’ pizza on your menu, then its expensive and you should be looking at smaller less expensive option, or even dropping it off the menu!

Simple stuff yes, but ‘too may many people get fixated on the cost of the equipment, instead of looking at business systems’, plans, staff, marketing, running costs, labor inefficiencies,  the things that will pay for the equipment and make you profit. Spending days ‘shopping around’ your equipment list to save a few hundred dollars is short sighted and a waste of energy and resources. This energy can be better spent for higher returns in other areas of your business.

The commercial equipment/appliance industry in Australia is loosely regulated to be polite.  Plumbing and Gas being the only section that seems to have quality and standards in place…as for the rest its buyer beware, and because it’s commercial there is very little consumer protection. So if it looks to good to be true, it is exactly that!

Here is some information on the quality of commercial plumbing, dish washing and any appliances that are connected to water and drains are being made to comply with some minimum standards.

https://www.abcb.gov.au/Product-Certification/WaterMark-Certification-Scheme

It’s all simple common sense stuff.

Changing the beverage game, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Changing the beverage game, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

Since the beginning of time, it seems that all restaurants cafes and bars have been limited to their drink offerings by what’s available on the RTD (ready to drink) bottled beverage market.

As a child I fondly recall the ‘slades’ truck rattling around our neighborhood delivering crates of locally bottles soft drinks. Then the big corporate’s of the world wiped these businesses out with mass production/distribution and marketing war chests the size of some nations defense budgets!

In the liquor industry things are not that much better with the bulk of Australia’s beer and wine all coming under the corporate umbrella of a few massive corporations.

Whilst the variety and choice of product out there now has grown massively a few of things haven’t changed.

*Look behind the label/brand, you will see in most cases it’s owned by the big corporations, even when it looks ‘bespoke’ or ‘craft’

*Profit margins are stagnate, and linked to the above controlling the market.

*People actually are aware and care these days. Think about the carbon foot print of that bottle of French bubbly water the next time you order…or the boutique euro beer. The cost of producing let alone shipping and distribution on our environment is massive, it’s a crime really, and really did it taste any better than local? Then there is the ‘wastage’ of the container’s, sure some of this can be recycled, but that is still not great for the environment, for starters  it all has to be shipped back to a recycle center, not to mention the energy and costs to recycle.

*Sugar is quickly going down the same path as the tobacco  industry, bottled soft drinks and RTD pre-mix’s are full of it, in very high amounts. Customers are looking for low sugar healthier alternatives.

 

How the game is changing.

1.Independent machinery that can chill/serve beverages ‘of your choice’, and importantly is not owned by the beverage supplier.

  1. Compact high-volume system solutions, machines that are smaller than a domestic under bench bar fridge that can dispense over 250 ltrs of chilled beverages per hour!

 

independent beverage systems

 

Water: No need to purchase any water be it still or bubbling when you can have high quality filtered local water, direct at your bar. No transport, no storage, less floor space, no packaging, no waste. No matter if you charge for your water or not, you are still in front.

sparkling water on tap

Soft Drinks: Ditch the nasty sugar companies, select low sugar locally produced flavour syrups, or even better make your own! Or simply flavour with fresh fruit/s, no sugar required at all, choice of flat water or bubbling.  Healthy, no freight, no transport, no storage, less floor space, no packaging, no waste. And the profit margin? MUCH higher when you make your own!

home made soda

Beer: Unless you have been living in cave lately, its pretty clear to see that Australians actually do have beer taste, consumers are looking for locally brewed, interesting and different flavours, and they are a wake up to the big brands purchasing the medium craft brands to gain that market. Customers want the beer brewed down the road, by real people in real business.

The same system that do our bubbly and flat chilled water can also be used to dispense keg beers, perfect for small batch brews. The restaurant/bar /café can change flavours/brewers to any time they want, as they own the dispensing equipment they are not locked into supply contracts.

The ability to offer ‘real’ craft beers is a massive drawer card for customers, and the ticket price at the cash register is higher than commercial product.

craft brew tap system

Wine: By the Glass, what!, wine you ask? Its always going to be bottled! Nope, and I’m not talking casks either!

There are many producers now making ‘keg’ wine and these systems can dispense chilled whites, or ambient reds also, and for all the wine snobs out there, the taste through the tap for the same wine compared to the bottled version is often MUCH better! There is no oxidization occurring with half opened bottles and the slight aeration of the wine as it’s poured from the tap enhances the  flavour.

Again, no freight, no transport, no storage, less floor space, no packaging, no waste. And the profit margin? MUCH higher.

 Coffee: Surely not?! Yep coffee. The two big trends in coffee that are hear to stay are ‘cold brewed chilled coffee’ and ‘espresso martini’ and guess what both can be dispensed by the same system with all the advantages listed above.

espresso martini on tap

Other Drinks: There are very few limitations, healthy brews such as kombucha are popular iced teas and even pre mix cocktails.

Rent: is expensive in the industry, one of the single biggest costs, just as it is also for the beverage manufacturers. They LOVE it when you store their product on your premises at your expense!

The floor space that commercial refrigeration occupies, then the back up storage in the dry store and or waste areas is insanely expensive, and that without adding up the massive electricity bill of that ‘free fridge or two’ (THOUSANDS of $$$ per year).

‘It’s a no brainer if you own a cafe, restaurant or any business that serves beverages in any sort of decent volume you really need to be looking at these systems’, beverage are possible the most profitable part of your operation, and if done correctly can be even more profitable.

I have worked with customers that implemented these system into their operations, and confidently tell me every time , ‘best thing we ever did’ even ‘now we are making good profit’!

Learn more about these systems here. http://vestalwater.com/