Various hazardous bacteria grow in food that has been kept out of its optimum temperature for a long period of time. Eating unhealthy food regularly can lead to the vicious circle of food poisoning and severe health issues. Regulatory authorities are developing strategies and food safety compliance frameworks that put all the responsibility to the food handlers to make sure that the food they are providing is healthy and safe to consume.
What we will cover
What is food safety – think about the food you are eating, how it is harvested from the fields and how it is handled in packaging and finally shipped to you. There are chances that the food items are not handled in the most appropriate ways for example, businesses do not use proper sanitisation for equipment, or the temperature of the food items is not maintained at any of the stages, which could lead to severe food-related diseases.
Food safety is described as the process of handling, preparing, and storing food items in a manner so that foodborne illness is avoided. Several routines are usually involved from the time food is picked from the fields until it is delivered to end users. Food labelling, cleanliness, additives, and pesticide residues are a few examples. Food safety ensures that contamination is not added at any stage that can lead to embarrassing situations.
Food is a fundamental need for human survival. Good and healthy food provides our body with the energy to keep us active throughout the day, nutrients for growth and nourishment and help us prevent food-related diseases. This makes it critical to understand “Why is food safety important?”
According to the latest OzFoodNet annual report, “5.4 million cases of foodborne illness occur annually in Australia, many of which are preventable. The cost of these illnesses is estimated at a staggering AUD $1.2 billion”.
Talking about food safety in Australian food businesses, food handlers are strictly required to comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Food Standards Code), which bounds enterprises to prepare and handle food most efficiently and that people are eating safe food.
Top 5 basic rules for food safety that food handlers must follow
Foodborne illness is one of the major threats to the food business worldwide, affecting people due to consuming contaminated or unhealthy food. There are five simple ways we can keep food safe and healthy:
- Keep it clean
- Place raw and cooked food separately
- Cook the food thoroughly
- Keep the food at safe temperatures
- Use sanitisation methods to prevent harmful bacteria from growing.
Temperature control is one of the most critical rules to consider whenever and wherever food is involved. If it is not adequately monitored, tracked and controlled, harmful bacteria may grow in the food, making it inedible and even poisonous.
The correct range of temperature ensures that the food is safe, free of contaminations and that the quality of the food is not compromised at any stage of the supply chain (from raw materials to order fulfilment).
This is proven scientifically that certain food poisoning bacteria are always present in food items, even in frozen food, that start to grow best at temperatures between 5°C and 60°C and quickly double in number. This temperature range where bacteria nurture best is called Temperature Danger Zone. This is mandatory to keep potentially hazardous foods cold (below 5°C) or hot (above 60°C) to stop the bacteria from growing.
02-hour/ 04- hour rule
This is a famous rule that states that if the food is kept between 5°C and 60°C for less than 2 hours, then it is safe to be used, sold or put back in the refrigerator; if food is kept at between 5°C and 60°C for more than two hours but less four hours, then it is safe to be used or sold but should not be put back in the refrigerator; if food is kept at between is 5°C and 60°C for more than 4 hours then it should be discarded.
Various kinds of foodborne diseases develop in food that has been kept out of its optimum temperature for a long period of time. Disposing of spoiled food is necessary to prevent unhealthy consumption, eventually causing various foodborne diseases such as E. coli, Salmonella, stomach flu, food poisoning, etc., since warm and humid environments stimulate bacterial growth. The Food Standards code here is where the 2-hour / 4-hour rule comes in.
The time food is kept out of the refrigerator or freezer between 5°C, and 60°C is significant as cumulatively, it can tell us whether the food is good enough to use or sell. This time includes all the time (seconds, minutes and hours) the food has been kept out of its optimum temperature range during storage, preparation, transport and display.
If a food business fails to provide adequate proof or satisfactorily demonstrate that the 2-hour / 4-hour rule and the Food Standards Code requirements are strictly followed, it could lead to a lawsuit and even cause the reputation of the business to stumble.
Handling poultry and plant-origin products
Food originating from poultry animals and plants are usually temperature-sensitive products and these foods require time and a temperature-controlled environment to limit the growth of harmful bacteria. There are two types of TCS food:
- Hot TCS food
- Cold TCS food.
Hot TCS food must be kept at a temperature of 60°C or above, while cold TCS food must be kept at a temperature of 5°C or below. The temperature that the food products are handled in must be monitored during:
Moreover, the time factor is of utmost importance along with the temperature. If time is recorded correctly whenever the food is out of its optimum temperature, it will give correct results regarding the quality of the product and help us decide whether to use it. Hence, using automated temperature monitoring systems and timer systems has significant advantages because they omit human error, and they are significant in terms of accurate record keeping of time and temperature.
Handling food at optimum temperatures is one of the critical factors that every food handler must ensure so that the food he is distributing is safe to eat. Every country has food and safety regulations governed by food and health regulatory bodies. Their core responsibility is to ensure that the businesses follow proper standards and do not compromise at any stage of the food delivery process. With people getting more concerned about food and health matters, companies must ensure that they regularly comply with safe food standards and acquire food safety certification for the business. They can also hire a certified food safety supervisor to take care of the operations and hold strict control over the compliance practices.