Food for Thought
The Coorong District Council has a legislative duty of care to promote appropriate standards of public health to ensure that food premises are operated and maintained in a clean and sanitary condition and that food for sale is safe and suitable to eat. In keeping with this duty of care, Council's Environmental Health Officer, carries out a variety of tasks related to food safety.
The Coorong District Council's Environmental Health Officer is responsible for ensuring that food businesses, community groups and temporary food operators within the region operate within the appropriate food safety standards. This is accomplished by offering the following;
- conducting routine inspections
- conducting audits of Food Safety Plans
- investigating food complaints and food poisoning incidents
- educational presentations
- notification and follow up of food recalls
Council's food business premises are fortunate to have excellent access to fresh foods and our cultural diversity is reflected in the many different styles of foods that are offered within the region. Unfortunately, many of these foods, if not properly handled, can provide the perfect environment for food poisoning organisms to grow and to contaminate the food. This contaminated food, if eaten, may result in sickness that can range from a minor stomach upset through to an extremely severe, life threatening illness.
Council's Environmental Health Officer may be required on occasion to investigate cases of food related illness where the ill person usually blames meals or take away foods. While commercially produced food can be the cause of illness, investigation reveals that poor food handling practices at home is often a significant factor.
Food Safety and Hygiene concerns are those that are considered to be breaching the provisions of Food Safety regulations and acts. Hygiene concerns can include the following:
- Manufacture and or sale of unsafe or unsuitable it food, which could include
- Food poisoning or illness
- Food contaminated with foreign matter
- Food contaminated with animals or insects
- Food spoilage
- Unhygienic or unclean premises
- Unhygienic or unsafe food handling practices
- Unhygienic or unsafe food storage practices
All food operators must comply with the relevant legislative requirements listed below:
- Food Act 2001
- Food Regulations 2002
- National Food Safety Standards
- All food must be labelled in accordance with the Food Standards Code
Should you think you have food poisoning, seek medical help immediately. The doctor will require a stool sample (faecal sample) to confirm that you have food poisoning.
Food Safety and Hygiene Investigations
The Coorong District Council has more than 100 registered food businesses located in the Council area, ranging from Hotels, Roadhouse premises, take away food shops, Resturants through to home based catering activities. The Environmental Health Officer co-ordinates and conducts routine inspections of all food premises, including food vans and stalls. The frequency of the inspections is based on a risk assessment rating.
The objective of the inspections is to assess premises, educate food handlers and enforce the relevant sections of the, Food Act 2001, Food Regulations 2002, and the Food Safety Standards.
Food Premises inspections include the assessment of the following areas:
- Structural condition of the premises
- Cleanliness of premises and equipment
- Food handler's level of hygiene
- Food handling practices
- Food storage
All businesses selling food are required to "notify" their local Council regardless of whether the business, enterprise or activity concerned is of a commercial, charitable or community nature or whether it involves the handling or sale of food on one occasion only. Under the Food Act 2001, a food business means a business, enterprise or activity (other than a primary food production business) that involves:
- the handling of food intended for sale; or
- the sale of food
In addition Food business even includes businesses like chemists, cinemas, delicatessen, canteens, child care centres, liquor stores, video stores, petrol stations and swimming pools, if they sell packaged or any other type of food. Food businesses, from major food manufacturers to the local church group or sporting club that holds a once per year food fair, have defined responsibilities under the legislation to ensure the safety of food.
Mobile food businesses will notify the Council in which the vehicle is normally garaged.
How does a food business notify? - Food Business Notification
All Businesses are required under Section 86 of the Food Act 2001, to fill out a Food Business Notification (FBN) form. There is no fee attached to this, but there is a legal obligation to complete one. A FBN form should be submitted to Council or filled out on line. These must be submitted before you commence trading in accordance with Food Safety Standard 3.2.2 Division 2 Clause 4. Also, if any details change, e.g. a new proprietor, or change of location, you must notify Council within 14 days.
Please contact Council's Environmental Health Officer on 1300 785 277 for any further advice on completing the FBN.
Temporary Food Business
Sausage Sizzles, Market Stalls & Charitable fundraising events
If you are wishing to sell food to the public it is essential to complete a Temporary Food Notification Form and adhere to the guidelines for a temporary food premises by;
- ensuring food is handled appropriately
- ensuring the operator complies with the relevant legislation
Consideration should also be made when operating a stall to the following;
- Proprietors should maintain a list of where foods are made, or supplied
- Temperature controls for high risk foods
- Suitable display of food with requirements of Food Safety Standards
- Hand washing facilities
Sausage sizzles, whilst enjoyable as a social event and a great fundraiser, are subject to legislation administered by Council. Sausage sizzles are not permitted on Council property, without a permit. Please complete the application form for permit to use Local Government Land.
It is essential that temporary food business operations complete a food business notification form and a temporary permit form return to Council.
Food Safety at Home
A large percentage of food poisonings cases occur due to poor food handling or storage in the home although we tend to blame the last place we ate out. Food poisoning symptoms generally take 24 -72 hours to become apparent, so you need to be aware of what has been eaten & how it was prepared during this time (especially from the home). Included below are a number of links to websites with information for consumers about food handling, storage, preparation and hygiene.
The Food Safety Information Council aims to reduce the number of Australians getting sick from food poisoning by providing simple, easy to follow consumer information on the handling, storage and preparation of food.
When the Power Goes Out, What should I do?
Modern refrigeration systems maintain food at safe temperatures. This helps reduce the growth of bacteria on your food which can lead to food poisoning. When there is a power outage you need to take extra measures to reduce the risk of food-related illness.
It is important to record the time the power went off. When a power cut is ongoing (that is, it lasts for more than 4 hours and there is no immediate likelihood of reconnection) food safety becomes an important issue.
Unless cols storage is available within 2 hours of a power cut, all potentially hazardous foods such as meat, poultry, seafood and ready-to-eat perishable food) that are stored in refrigerators or chillers need to be:
- placed in alternative cold storage, for example coolers with ice or ice bricks, or into the fridges of family and friends
- eaten immediately
- if you have a fridge thermometer and have recorded the time the power went off, eaten immediately or thrown away if the temperature rises to above 5 degrees for over 2 hours
- If you don't have a fridge thermometer and another cold storage area is not immediately available after 2 hours
Time and temperature are the most important measurements used to determine whether food needs to be regarded as potentially unsafe.
The ‘4 hour/2 hour rule’ for safe storage of food
The following actions are recommended for any potentially hazardous food that has been at temperatures between 5 °C and 60 °C for a total of:
- less than 2 hours – refrigerate or use immediately
- longer than 2 hours but less than 4 hours – use immediately
- 4 hours or longer – must be thrown out.
Make a note of the time the power went off. If available, use a watch and a thermometer to follow these time and temperature recommendations. Eat perishable foods first and save the dried and canned food until last.
The advice offered here refers to any or all potentially hazardous food except those normally kept at room temperature or jams, pickles and other acid foods.
Important note: If you are unsure about the time that has passed or the temperature your food has been stored at then throwing the food out is the safest option.
Planned power cuts
The day or night before power is cut off, prepare in advance to store your food safely:
- If possible, try to organise alternative refrigerated storage in advance, for example with relatives, friends or neighbours.
- Avoid buying food that needs to be frozen or refrigerated until after the power is restored
- Adjust the refrigerator to its coldest setting and remove fresh fruit and vegetables to prevent them being damaged. These items can be stored at room temperature
- Set your freezer to its coldest setting
- Place ice bricks, or freeze large blocks of ice, in the freezer for later use
- If you can, freeze some of the items from your fridge for later use. This is a very safe option and is best done well before the power cut
Sudden or unplanned power cuts
A sudden or unplanned power cut will not allow much time for you to safely store your foods. Your food will remain safe in your refrigerator for 2 hours, but there are some steps you can take:
- If you have sufficient space in the freezer, after 2 hours you should remove foods from the fridge. Place them in the freezer or esky with ice bricks.
- Do not open the freezer door unless necessary, as this will reduce the time the contents will remain frozen.
- If your freezer is efficient, and its door seals are in good condition, it can maintain foods in a frozen state for between 1 and 2 and a half days.
- Relatives, friends or neighbours may be able to provide alternative storage.
During power cuts
Food stored in refrigerators
Your food will remain safe in your refrigerator for 2 hours. If it has been more than 4 hours, throw the food out. Don’t open the fridge door during the power cut, unless necessary.
The best option is to keep the refrigerated foods as cold as possible by not opening the door unless necessary to remove food to eat or check the temperature after 2 hours. or place items in the freezer. If this is not possible:
- Remove ice bricks from the freezer and place in an esky.
- Remove all meats, poultry, dairy and potentially hazardous food (for example dips, pâté, ham, prepared and cooked food) from the refrigerator and place in an cooler with frozen bricks or gel packs.
- Salted butter, margarine and hard cheeses will remain safe at room temperature.
- Place the ice or ice bricks throughout the stored food to ensure an even temperature. Make sure the lid of the cooler has a good seal.
- If the temperature of the food stored in an cooler or refrigerator reaches more than 5 °C for less than 2 hours you should find alternative refrigeration at less than 5 °C or, if possible, freeze or use immediately.
- Food stored in a refrigerator or esky at more than 5 °C for 4 hours or more should be thrown out.
Food stored in freezers
- Freezers that are in good condition and operate at minus 15 °C or below can keep foods at safe temperatures for between 1 and 2 days. If the freezer door is kept shut, a full freezer can keep food chilled for up to 48 hours, while a half full freezer can be kept food chilled for 24 hours.
- It is important that the doors of freezers are not opened unless necessary. Opening and closing the doors will reduce the time the contents will remain at safe temperatures.
- Foods that have partly defrosted or defrosted but remain very cold (5 °C or less) can be refrozen. Remember that some food types, for example ice cream which will thaw other foods defrost. Although there is no safety issue, some foods become icy or their texture will be damaged when refrozen and may not be usable after defrosting and refreezing.
Note that while there will not be a food safety issue in refreezing defrosted foods, the quality of the food may be slighted deteriorated.
You have 2 options for food that has been stored in a freezer where the temperature has reached more than 5 °C for up to 2 hours:
- Find alternative refrigeration at less than 5 °C or refreeze
- Consume immediately.
If your food has been in a freezer where the temperature has reached more than 5 °C for more than 2 hours, but less than 4 hours, it should be consumed immediately.
Food stored in a freezer for more than 4 hours at more than 5 °C should be thrown out.
Food in the process of being cooked
Throw out food that was being cooked when the power failed if cooking cannot be completed properly within 2 hours. If food is already properly cooked, eat it within 2 hours or throw it out.
For more information about Food Safety in emergencies, have a look at the Food Safety Information Council website https://foodsafety.asn.au/food-safety-in-emergencies/
Information on food safety from the South Australian Department of Health
There are numerous fact sheets that can be found on the website relating to all things food safety related.
Simple and clear information on food safety provided by Safefood.net.au. - Meat and Livestock Australia
For Additional information in relation to Food Safety pleae contact Council's Environmental Health Officer on 1300 785 277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org