23rd May 2016
Does your business handle raw and ready to eat food? If so you must be aware of this new guidance released on 15 February 2011 by the Food Standards Agency.
You may well find that during your next EHO inspection this is a point of focus so let us guide you through, highlight what’s new and what action you need to take.
E.coli O157 can cause kidney failure in children and can be found in low levels on raw foods. As few as 10 E.coli O157 bacteria transferred from raw to ready to eat food can be fatal.
This guidance has been sparked by the E.coli O157 outbreak in Wales where a school boy died needlessly from eating a school dinner of cooked meat supplied by a butcher whose unacceptable practices led to cross contamination.
The guidance identifies procedures that food businesses are expected to have in place to avoid cross contamination from raw foods (includes raw meats, raw poultry, non ready to eat leaf and root vegetables) to ready to eat foods.
You may well already have many practices in place which meet the guidance, however STS advise you take a fresh look at controls within your organisation and tighten up your food safety management system where necessary. Of course, your team will need training and supervision in the practices you decide on for your operation.
Whereas the guidance focuses on avoiding cross contamination (and will help control other pathogens such as Campylobacter), remember that another important control for E.coli O157 is thorough cooking of minced meat products and rolled meat joints.
- Separate facilities, including staff, should be provided for raw food and ready to eat food, This includes facilities such as:
- Work areas
- Storage facilities
- Complex equipment such as slicers, mincers and vacuum packing machines must NEVER be used for raw and ready to eat foods; separate machines must be provided. Consider other, less obvious items which could be vehicles for cross contamination for example:
- Cash registers
- Mobile phones
- Cleaning materials & equipment
- Cleaning & disinfection Where separate facilities cannot be provided for raw food, cleaning and disinfection after use for raw food must be thorough:
- Heat The guidance promotes the use of dishwashers to disinfect equipment such as boards and utensils. To disinfect, the final rinse cycle needs to reach 82ºC or above. Several of STS’ clients check and log dishwasher temperatures daily. Reusable cloths should be hot washed at this temperature.
- Chemicals Where sanitisers and disinfectants are used, be sure your chemicals are up to scratch and also that your team are using them properly. STS find a common problem with use of sanitizers is use at the incorrect dilution or that staff are unaware of the correct contact time. Disinfectants and sanitisers must meet the official standards of BS EN1276:1997 and BS EN 13697:2001 – check with your supplier.
- Hand washing The guidance advises that movement of staff handling raw then ready to eat food must be minimised. It stresses hand washing after handling raw food, using the toilet (we can be carriers of E.coli), and before handling ready to eat food. The guidance refers to using a “recognised technique” and also cites that gels should not be used instead of hand washing. The use of non-hand operable taps is recommended but if unavailable they should be turned off using a paper towel so that hands are not recontaminated. The guidance stresses that contact with food should be minimised; tongs and gloves (if used properly) can be used in preference to hands.
- Further information The guidance is available in full at the Food Standards Agency website.