Food safety should apply everywhere: Community food, fundraisers and markets in NZ

I’ve listened to about all I can stand from the parents at the kid’s tuck shop and their food porn views of safety.

hank.hill.bbqI’ve said, I will help with any food safety issues, but otherwise I’m out.

It’s like coaching hockey: data is never going to convince any parent of their evangelical role, so I choose to avoid it and focus on the kids.

New Zealand has a new food act, that is apparently ruffling feathers among well-meaning parents.

So the ministry decided it had to say something.

What they didn’t say is that food safety is our first and foremost priority.


The Act provides a clear exemption to allow Kiwi traditions like sausage sizzles, home baking at school fairs, raffles and charity fundraisers to take place. 

People selling food once a year, for example, at an annual cultural festival, are also exempt from operating under a Food Control Plan or a National Programme.

There is another exemption that applies to clubs, organisations and societies that would mean for example, members of a cricket club selling food for a match tea, would not have to operate under a Food Control Plan or a National Programme.

The Act allows a person who trades in food solely for fundraisers or to support a charity or cultural or community events to do so up to 20 times in a calendar year without the need to be registered or undergo checks, but people will need to ensure  that the food is safe and suitable to eat.

Food safety loses; Australian sausage sizzle laws wound back for community and non-profit groups raising funds

A sausage sizzle is a sausage with all the crap cooked out of it, served on a piece of white bread, sometimes with onions.

sausageNo idea why they can’t use a tip-sensitive digital thermometer, or whole grain rolls, but it’s a different country.

Changes to ACT law will see fund-raising activities by community and non-profit groups exempted from onerous food safety regulations and a new category created for large events with a higher health risks for consumers.

Laws introduced in September 2013 sparked a community backlash, including over requirements that organisations holding more than five food sales each year appoint a trained food safety officer to prevent hygiene problems and food poisoning.

Organisers of sausage sizzles and other food sales in Canberra said expensive training and compliance threatened their viability.

Microorganisms don’t care a lot about politics.

Parents should care a lot about microorganisms.

Leftover food sharing in Germany leaves a bad taste in my mouth

My role as dad and food dude has morphed in the past year –  I now do most of our food shopping and cooking. Two or three days a week I make meals with the plan that they will also be used for a couple of lunches. I get that this isn’t revolutionary (note the large market for Tupperware) but is new for me.2008_12_4-Leftovers2

There is apparently a subgroup of leftover-avoiding folks out there who are also concerned with food waste, leading to the development of a leftover sharing ap in the U.S. LeftoverSwap and now it’s German counterpart

According to NPR, child psychiatrist Vero Buschmann was looking for a way to get rid of leftovers without having to throw them away. And she was looking to create a community around similar food waste values.

She found a nonprofit website in Germany that allows her to do both. On a recent evening, her doorbell rings and she buzzes Franzi Zimmerman in to her fifth-floor apartment.

“I have a whole bunch of baked goods I just picked up from the baker,” Buschmann tells her 29-year-old guest. “You can take as much as you want!” She also offers some soup and chutney, made from her leftover produce.

Zimmerman laughs and replies: “Wow, that’s really great. Homemade soup? It doesn’t get better than that!”

Such exchanges between strangers are happening in more than 240 cities across Germany through (for English, click on the tiny British flag on the top left), a website that connects people who have free food to give away with people seeking those items.

Some 40 tons of food have been given away via the network since it began online 18 months ago. More than 41,000 people have signed up. The nonprofit website’s creators say their goal is to prevent large amounts of produce, bread and other perishable food from being thrown away.

Food waste is not just a German problem, says website co-founder Valentin Thurin. He’s a Cologne-based filmmaker whose documentary, Taste the Waste, lays out in jolting terms just how much food Europeans throw away each year – 90 million tons worth, to be exact. It’s a phenomenon that costs the European economy more than $130 billion every year — up to half of fruits and vegetables picked at harvest time, he says.

“With food, obviously there is a health risk associated, so we needed to establish some rules,” Thurin says. He says the Web team worked with lawyers to ensure the network didn’t violate any German or European regulations governing food.

As a result, it doesn’t offer meats or other products that have “sell by” dates, concentrating instead on food items with “best before” labels.

There are no inspectors checking on food offered through the network, but consumers are encouraged to go online and rate the food they’ve received, Thurin says.

After a quick review of the food safety guidance at  there might be some stuff that is lost in translation. There is a listing of types of high risk foods (or extra delicate foods) and suggestions on transportation, refrigeration and cleaning and sanitation. The lack of safe endpoint temperatures and proper cooling guidance is a glaring omission.


Possible food poisoning at Chattanooga Community Kitchen

At least 15 people have been diagnosed with what appears to be food poisoning after eating at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen. The County Health Department is investigating.

Officials are interviewing people who have eaten there and supervising a clean-up of the food preparation area.

Until more is known about what made these people sick, the kitchen will only be serving broth and dry toast.

Infosheet: E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Nebraska linked to Roast Beef Dinner

This week’s iFSN infosheet is focused on community dinners, inspired by a roast beef dinner gone wrong in Nebraska.

Infosheet highlights:

State health officials are continuing to investigate an E. coli O157:H7 outbreak in Sarpy County that sickened 14 people — including a 7-year-old — and sent  four people to the hospital.
What you need to worry about in a kitchen when preparing a large dinner:
-Temperature control
-Personal Hygiene
E.coli O157:H7 is usually found in human and animal poop. Keep the poop out of the food you serve.

Click here to download the sheet.

Community dinner outbreaks and temporary events

This week’s infosheet focuses on a two recent outbreaks at community dinners and highlights some of the problems that can be associated with these events and how to control them.  For more information on community events check out a post from last week. You can use these infosheets as a training supplement or post them above handwashing sinks, by the schedule or other high traffic areas in a food production area.

Infosheet highlights:

Roping Roundup" in Arizona and "Beast Feast" in Alabama linked to over 100 cases of foodborne illness
Community dinners can provide great fun and food experiences but because they may be at temporary sites, food
preparation, storage and transport can be problematic.
What you need to worry about in a kitchen at a group dinner:
-Temperature control
-Personal Hygiene

Download the infosheet here.

Community dinner food safety: it’s what the volunteers do, not where they do it

Here’s a letter to the editor I just sent in response to today’s editorial in the South Coast Standard-Times. The editorial deals with the denial of a permit for the Men Who Cook fundraiser due to inadequate kitchens.

Community gatherings around food awaken nostalgic feelings of the rural past — times when an entire town would get together monthly, eat, enjoy company and work together. The Men Who Cook fundraiser seems like it’s just that, an event created 20 years ago to promote community building, not spread foodborne illness (OUR VIEW: Taking food safety too far, February 22, 2008).
Despite the sense of kinship and best intentions, there have been at least 37 reported outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with homecooked products and community dinners in North America since 1973 (
In 1997, two elderly people died, more than 100 made a trip to the emergency room, and 700 more reported feeling ill after an annual church dinner of stuffed ham, turkey and fried oysters at Our Lady of the Wayside Parish in Chaptico, Md., population 100.
Tests showed that salmonella in the ham likely caused the illnesses. The nasty bugs that cause foodborne illness don’t distinguish between commercial and charitable food operations.
In September 2004, near Buffalo, N.Y., 28 confirmed cases of salmonella infection were reported following an annual community roast-beef dinner. Volunteers were not trained in food service and "didn’t quite understand the importance of maintaining a hot or cold temperature," investigators said. The beef was roasted on spits. The juices, collecting in a 5-gallon bucket at room temperature over the course of the day, was poured over the surface of ready-to-eat beef sandwiches. Scrumptious — except that the sandwiches were being drenched with salmonella bacteria. Interviews with attendees indicated about 1,500 of the 3,000 present were ill.
Community potluck dinners, where food is prepared behind the closed doors of private homes and church kitchens, can be hazardous. Unlike a restaurant kitchen, which is visited and approved by health inspectors, there’s little control over how the food is prepared, stored, handled or transported.
It’s possible to produce food safely in homes and non-commercial kitchens to continue these important community-building functions, but a strong (not adversarial) relationship between event organizers, home chefs and the health department is necessary. What is more important than the location of food preparation is knowing that the dedicated volunteers play by the rules when it comes to food safety.