$150,000 fines for Australia noodle bizes

Three Sydney noodle manufacturing businesses have been collectively fined more than $150,000 in relation to various food safety and hygiene failures under the Food Act 2003 and the Food Standards Code following a targeted project by the NSW Food Authority designed to address a high-risk food sector where compliance was less than satisfactory.

The “Fresh Noodle Manufacturers Project” was designed to improve standards in the fresh noodle industry after the Food Authority became aware of compliance issues within the sector.

Over a period of four months NSW Food Authority officers conducted 25 inspections where they considered the use of preservatives, process and hygiene control, product labelling and temperature control.

The resulting enforcement activity included three prosecutions where one company was fined $11,000 and its director fined $2,800, a second company was fined $27,000 and the most recent result saw a Sydney manufacturer plead guilty to 19 charges and fined $113,000.

Dr Lisa Szabo, NSW Food Authority CEO, said while the wider community may not recognise noodles as a high-risk food, the intrinsic properties of fresh noodles mean that if they’re not kept within careful temperature control they become a breeding ground for the growth of microorganisms that can cause food poisoning.

“The NSW Food Authority is committed to ensuring people buying and eating food in NSW can do so with confidence and certainty that what they’re eating is safe,” Dr Szabo said.

“We target our efforts of investigation and risk management to where they are most needed in order to best protect the public and also reduce regulatory burden on those industry sectors who have a proven record of doing the right thing.”

The NSW Government’s Food Safety Strategy 2015-2021 has a goal of reducing foodborne illness by 30% by 2021 and a compliance target of 95% for all food businesses with food safety requirements.


Data says so: Australia does have a raw egg problem

Statistics show that the consumption of foods containing raw or minimally cooked eggs is currently the single largest source of foodborne Salmonella outbreaks in Australia.

garlic_aioliI based a large part of my research career on verifying the soundbite, ‘we have released guidelines’ or, ‘we follow all recommendations’ by arranging to have students see what actually goes on.

In October 2014, the New South Wales Food Authority released Food Safety Guidelines for the Preparation of Raw Egg Products (the Guidelines). Despite this, outbreaks continued to take place, particularly where business hygiene and temperature control issues were apparent. In addition, businesses and councils approached the Food Authority for advice on desserts containing raw eggs and other unusual raw egg dishes. As a result, the Guidelines were recently updated and give specific reference to Standard 3.2.2, Division 3, clause 7 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code to ensure that only safe and suitable food is processed.

To reduce the risk of foodborne illness outbreaks caused by Salmonella, retail businesses are advised to avoid selling food containing raw or minimally cooked eggs. The Guidelines give food businesses that do sell food containing raw egg specific safety steps for its preparation and clear guidance and advice on what they must do to meet food safety regulations. The revised Food Safety Guidelines for the Preparation of Raw Egg Products is available at www. foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/_Documents/ retail/raw_egg_guidelines.pdf.

raw-eggsOr as the Australian Food Safety Information Council now says, buy, don’t make aioli or mayonnaise.

This is nice but of no use to consumers at a restaurant who order fish and chips  with a side of mayo or aioli. I’ve already begun an ad hoc investigation – because I don’t want my family to get sick – and can say that out of the 15 times I’ve asked over the past few years – is the aioli or mayo made at the restaurant or bought commercially – the server invariably returns and proclaims, We only use raw eggs in our aioli or mayo.

Wrong answer.

Only once, so far, has an owner or chef said, we know of the risk, we only use the bought stuff. And they’re ex-pat Canadians.

Giv’r, eh.

A table of Australian egg outbreaks is available at http://barfblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/raw-egg-related-outbreaks-australia-10-9-15.xlsx

Protein Balls recalled in Australia because of nuts

The New South Wales Food Authority advises:

health_food_ballsHealth Lab has recalled its Energise Choc Protein Balls and Refresh Choc Mint Protein Balls sold at Caltex in NSW, QLD and Vic and On The Run stores in SA due to the presence of an undeclared allergen (cashew nut).

Product details are:

* Energise Choc Protein Balls

– Plastic packaging, 40g

– Best Before 09/03/2017, 23/03/2017, 04/04/2017

* Refresh Choc Mint Protein Balls

– Plastic packaging, 40g

– Best Before 13/03/2017, 05/04/2017, 17/04/2017

Consumers who have a cashew nut allergy or intolerance should not consume this product.

Consumers should return the product to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Any consumers concerned about their health should seek medical advice.

For more information contact Health Lab on (03) 9999 8535 or via www.healthlab.com.au 

Australian state regulator defends decision to approve unpasteurized cold-pressed milk

The New South Wales Food Authority has defended its decision to approve the sale of an unpasteurised milk product, saying the company involved was subject to a two year, rigorous approval process.

cold.pressed.milkIt is being marketed as “cold pressed raw milk” and leading experts have expressed concern about a lack of research proving the cold pressure process was as effective as traditional pasteurisation.

But CEO of the New South Wales Food Authority Dr Lisa Szabo said the product had been approved only after two years of rigorous consultation.

“We asked them ‘well what are the hazards that they’re trying to control in the milk’, and this company had a really strong and comprehensive list of the microbiological hazards that they wanted to control,” Dr Szabo said.

Dr Szabo worked as a research scientist with the CSIRO and said “for five years of my time there I spent doing research on high pressure, and in particular its effect on micro-organisms.

“So I have a great deal of confidence that this particular processing technology can inactivate micro-organisms.”

High pressure processing has been used for other products for a long time and Dr Nidhi Bansal from the University of Queensland’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences said it has been quite successful.

“Obviously it hasn’t been commercialised for milk yet. So there could be some concern about it, but as long as the company can prove that it is microbiologically safe then I don’t see an issue with that,” Dr Bansal said.

Saxon Joye, the owner of the company approved to sell unpasteurised milk and said his product was not quite “raw milk,” it had just not gone through the traditional pasteurisation process, where milk is exposed to high temperatures.

“We take our raw milk, and we put it under our cold pressure. If there’s any harmful pathogens or bacteria, we remove it during that process,” he said.

“Good herd management, hygienic milking techniques and the cold pressure method have meant we can put 100 per cent safe, raw milk onto supermarket shelves,” said Mr Joye.

“The bottles of milk are placed under enormous water pressure, squashed in about 15 per cent, to remove the harmful micro-organisms.”

Professor Peter Collignon, a leading infectious disease physician and microbiologist, said he was concerned about the lack of research showing the efficacy of cold pressure.

“I do worry this is a marketing exercise for raw milk but without the science to show the process is anywhere near as good as pasteurisation,” he said.

“The [data and research] that shows [cold-pressure is just as good as pasteurisation] needs to be robust and available for all to see, including the public, and needs independent verification.”

The Food Authority’s spokeswoman did not directly answer questions about releasing data to support its decision to approve the new method.

2 dead, 30 sickened with Salmonella in 2015: Australian bakery fined $63K,

From Jan. to March, 2015, two people died and an additional 30 sickened with Salmonella bovismorbificans.

1462144920322-1New South Wales Health traced the Salmonella to a bakery that supplied aged-care facilities across the Illawarra, Shoalhaven and the ACT.

The defunct bakery, Betta Maid, was fined A$63,000 in Wollongong Court last week, plus A$20,000 in court costs, for selling unsafe food and breaching hygiene standards.

NSW Food Authority CEO Lisa Szabo said, “This court result serves as a reminder to all food businesses why food safety systems are crucial, particularly those businesses serving food to the most vulnerable in our community.”

Charges brought against the company director, Udo Boschan, have been adjourned to May 26.

Betta Maid was ordered to shut temporarily in March last year, but announced in April it would close its doors for good and the company was placed into liquidation.

Want a Spanish Mackerel above 10kg in Australia? Don’t eat it

The NSW Food Authority advises fishers to avoid eating Spanish Mackerel above 10kgs (as advised by NSW industry experts), as there is an increased risk of ciguatera poisoning.

ciguatera poisoningCommercial fishers, recreational fishers and consumers should not eat large Spanish Mackerel, as two recent ciguatera poisoning incidents involving 20kg and 40kg fish that were caught and consumed on the mid north coast have been reported in NSW.

The Food Authority has been advised of an incident of ciguatera poisoning affecting 3 people after consuming a Spanish Mackerel caught off the coast of Crowdy Head late in March, and a second incident last week that affected one person who consumed Spanish Mackerel caught off the coast at Crescent Head. In both cases, the fish consumed were caught by recreational fishermen.

Similar outbreaks were reported 12 months ago on the mid north and far north NSW coast and the Gold Coast in Queensland.

More information on ciguatera poisoning can be found at www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/rp/fish-ciguatera-poisoning

Fancy food ain’t safe food, but neither are favorite cheap eateries

Some of Sydney’s most popular cheap eateries have, according to Daily Mail Australia, been named on the The New South Wales Food Authority’s latest ‘name and shame’ file.

nandos.sydneyIt seems cheap eats are so for a reason as many of the state’s fast food outlets, including a number of Nanods, Domino’s and Subway stores have been shamed for failing to meet hygiene standards. 

Nando’s in Liverpool was fined twice last year for failing to ‘maintain at or near each hand washing facility a supply of single use towels’, and not complying with food safety standards, a total of $1760.

Marrickville’s Minh Vietnamese Restaurant, Jasmin 1 in Bankstown and Petersham’s popular Frango’s Portuguese Charcoal Chicken also feature on the list, some of them on multiple occasions for varying offences. 

The New South Wales Food Authority publishes lists of businesses that have breached or are alleged to have breached the state’s food safety laws. 

Publishing the lists gives consumers more information to make decisions about where they eat or buy food. 

Famed chicken outlet Frango’s was fined $440 in March.

The Petersham favourite failed to ‘maintain at or near each hand washing facility a supply of soap and single use towels.’ 

‘They never disappoint’ Australian bakery reopens after 151 sickened in Salmonella outbreak

Seven weeks after dodgy chicken schnitzel and pork rolls landed 27 people in hospitalSylvania’s popular Box Village Bakery reopened today and the message from locals was a resounding ‘welcome back’.

c.section.sydney.bakeryReturning regulars turned out to offer their support to the family-owned business, shut down by the NSW Food Authority in the wake of the infamous salmonella outbreak in January.

As many as 150 people were struck down with food poisoning, resulting in the owner leaving an apology note on the front door of the business before closing temporarily.

One former regular, Sylvania local Alison Banks, said she chose to return to the shop today to reassure the operators they were accepted among “most” in the area.

“I’m not even here to buy anything I just wanted to tell them that they have our support,” Mrs Banks said.

“I had a friend who ended up in hospital and I can understand why they might not want to come back but think overall this is a business that is really loved.

salm.sorry.uk “The food is great. It’s always looked clean to me. They will certainly have my support.”

Sylvania’s Jack Schilling and Jarrod Dwyer — both 17 — said they had been monitoring the shop since its closure in anticipation of returning for their famous chicken schnitzel roll.

“They never disappoint,” Schilling said.

Clearly not everyone is a fan however, with one man slowing down in his car to shout “salmonella” from his vehicle before speeding off.

Australian mayor pushes for mandatory food safety rankings to be displayed at NSW eateries

There are  many benefits to restaurant inspection disclosure or grades.

Those benefits are negated when the public display is voluntary.

scores_doors_featureGet 2-out-of-5 stars, don’t post the sign.

Toronto, New York, Los Angeles and hundreds of other cities have mandatory disclosure.

Mayor Khal Asfour in the southwest Sydney suburb of Bankstown says food safety ratings should be mandatory.

Scores on Doors, launched by NSW Food Authority in 2010, rates eateries out of five based on their annual food safety audits.

They are then handed a slick certificate to post up in view of customers.

However Bankstown is pushing for the scheme, which is currently voluntary, to be mandated across all eligible food outlets.

A similar push is on by local councils England.

The Food Authority falls under NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair’s portfolio.

However The Express’s request for comment was directed to Food Authority chief executive Dr Lisa Szabo.

When asked whether she would support mandating Scores on Doors state wide, Dr Szabo said the authority preferred to keep it voluntary.

“Displaying a Scores on Doors certificate can be a marketing advantage for businesses that comply with food safety legislation because it can provide a point of difference from competitors,” she said.

Fifty three of 152 councils in NSW have signed up to implement the program.

In south west Sydney only Bankstown and Liverpool are currently members.

The authority’s NSW Food Safety Strategy has set a target of 75 per cent business participation by 2021.

Bankstown Council has signed up 33 retail food businesses out of about 600 this financial year.

The scheme excludes supermarkets, delicatessens or greengrocers, service stations, convenience stores, mobile food vans and temporary markets.

Which further undermines the system.

Chicken Heaven owner Paul Hong, who proudly displays a five star rating in the window of the Chester Hill takeaway, agreed the program should be compulsory.

“Yes. Based on the individual [business] keeping up their cleanliness, hygiene and all that required in the food industry,” he said.

It’s like Australians are marketing food safety: ‘Scores on doors is a fantastic marketing tool’

The New South Wales Food Authority Scores on Doors program (that’s the state that includes Sydney, in Australia) sees shops judged on hygiene and safety.

scores_doors_featureThey then receive a score out of five — five being the best — which is displayed on the shop window.

So far, 40 businesses throughout Wollondilly have signed up including Royal Char-Grill Chickens at The Oaks.

Owner Jim Tzortzis believed the program would help attract customers.

‘‘It’s a no-brainer that the business with a five star safety rating hanging over the front door will be the one most attractive to customers,’’ he said.

‘‘We know how hard we work to have high food hygiene and safety standards and now everyone else does too.’’

Mayor Col Mitchell urged all eligible food businesses in the shire to get on sign up to the program.

‘‘The scoring system is based upon the inspections that are already conducted by council’s environmental health officers,’’ he said.

‘‘This rewards businesses who do the right thing, and encourages others to aspire to do the same.

“The Scores on Doors initiative is a fantastic marketing tool for each of the areas within our shire to promote the standard and quality of the hygiene and food safety of local food businesses.’’