Tag Archives: Australian food safety standards

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