Jose Bolanos of the UK Food Standards Agency writes in Organizations, culture and food safety, 2020that FSA has a longstanding interest in organisational culture and its impact on the capability of a food business to provide food that is safe and what it says it is.
However, while there has been some work carried out on assessing organisational culture in some regulatory areas, there has been limited progress in the development of a regulatory approach specifically for food safety culture.
And on it goes in bureau-speak.
Can’t take an agency seriously when they still recommend that meat be cooked until piping hot.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have released their biannual findings from the general public attitudes tracker. This tracker highlights the behaviour, thoughts and reputation of food safety aspects throughout the year. Whenever there’s a scandal, a legislation change or a news piece surrounding the FSA’s points of interest, it’s going to have a public reaction. Whether good or bad, these reactions will shape and alter the way in which the public perceives food safety.
The FSA’s findings are based on 2,150 interviews from a representative sample of adults aged 16 and over across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Fieldwork was carried out between 8th and 26th May 2019, as part of the regular TNS Kantar face-to-face-omnibus survey.
Questions cover several topics of interest for the Agency, including:
concern about food safety issues
awareness of food hygiene standards
awareness of the FSA and its responsibilities
trust in the FSA and the food industry
confidence in food labelling.
At wave 18, a new set of questions were added to monitor the public’s trust in the FSA as well as the wider food system.
One of the FSA’s strategic objectives is to ensure consumers have the information and understanding to make informed choices about where and what they eat. To help monitor performance against this objective, respondents were asked about their awareness of hygiene standards when buying food or eating out. At wave 18, 52% of respondents reported always being aware of the hygiene standards in places they eat out at or buy food from, and a further 33% said they were sometimes aware.
It’s fair to say that the public is now taking a greater interest in UK food safety standards, meaning there is less margin for error in the food industry. With nearly 80% of the UK public being aware of food hygiene standards when eating out, it’s imperative that you get your standards right first time. Partnering with a food safety company like ourselves is one of the best ways of ensuring you meet your legal obligations as a food business. Our experts are some of the best in the business are available around the clock to coach, advise, audit and help your business reach the highest level of food hygiene.
The UK Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland have published details of a major review into the sites where meat products are processed and stored in the UK.
Food Standards Scotland and Food Standards Agency announced:
Launch of comprehensive review of hygiene controls • Review includes unannounced inspections and audit regimes
Food Standards Agency announced:
Work with industry to implement CCTV across cutting plants • Increased intelligence gathering through audit data sharing pilots across industry • Improved insight into circumstances and factors leading to non-compliances and ability to anticipate them
Jason Feeney and Geoff Ogle, Chief Executives of the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland respectively, jointly commented:
“We are concerned about recent instances of companies breaching hygiene rules. People rightly expect food businesses to keep to the rules, rules designed to keep consumers safe and to sustain public trust in food – and food businesses have a duty to follow the regulations. Our review will be far reaching and thorough and we will announce our initial findings in June.”
The review will aim to:
Increase public and stakeholder confidence in the meat industry and its regulation • Improve the ability to identify non-compliance and take prompt action to minimise the risk to public health and food safety • Assess how the industry currently operates across the whole supply chain. • Increase awareness of circumstances and factors which can lead to non-compliance
Assurance bodies, 2 Sisters Food Group and the FSA have also responded to recommendations made by the Parliamentary inquiry into poultry cutting plants. We have also published the outcome of FSA’s investigation into allegations of food hygiene and standards breaches at 2 Sisters.
In response to the inquiry the FSA will work with industry on a voluntary protocol for adoption of CCTV in meat processing plants and will consult on legislating to implement them if necessary.
FSA will also be running pilots to improve data and intelligence sharing across the industry and is pursuing increased investigatory powers for the National Food Crime Unit.
The investigation into 2 Sisters Food Group has been extensive and thorough and looked across their poultry sites.
500 hours of CCTV from the site were examined along with audit information from major retailers. The company voluntarily ceased production at one site whilst changes were made and staff re-trained. The FSA have had a permanent presence at their cutting plants for the last four months.
Jason Feeney, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency said:
“Our investigation found some areas for improvement but the issues were resolved promptly by the company, who co-operated fully, and at no point did we find it necessary to take formal enforcement action.”
“The business has made a wide range of improvements across all their sites to improve processes. They are already publishing the outcomes of all their audits and are in the process of installing high quality CCTV across their estate that we will have full access to. These are measures we would like the whole industry to adopt.”
On the same day that Australia celebrated national egg day with vid-clips of schoolchildren pronouncing their love of eggs, the UK Food Standards Authority says it’s OK for pregnant women to eat raw eggs.
These are both so wrong on so many levels.
The UK’s contribution to international cuisine has been mushy peas and mad cow disease.
The UK Food Standards Authority’s contribution to food policy has been cook your food until it is piping hot, and now, it’s OK for pregnant women to eat raw eggs.
With five daughters, I’ve spent a lot of time around pregnant women, they may feel like Rocky Balboa, but biology don’t work that way.
The Food Standards Agency has announced a change to its advice about eating eggs – infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked eggs that are produced under the British Lion Code of Practice.
The revised advice, based on the latest scientific evidence, means that people vulnerable to infection or who are likely to suffer serious symptoms from food poisoning (such as infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people) can now safely eat raw or lightly cooked hen eggs or foods containing them.
We had previously advised that vulnerable groups should not consume raw or lightly cooked eggs, because eggs may contain salmonella bacteria which can cause serious illness.
The decision to change the advice is a result of the findings from an expert group that was set up by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF) in February 2015 to look at egg safety. Its report, published in July 2016, highlighted that the presence of salmonella in UK eggs has been dramatically reduced in recent years, and the risks are very low for eggs which have been produced according to food safety controls applied by the British Lion Code of Practice. More than 90% of UK eggs are produced under this scheme.
Heather Hancock, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said: “It’s good news that now even vulnerable groups can safely eat UK eggs without needing to hardboil them, so long as they bear the British Lion mark. The FSA has thoroughly reviewed the scientific evidence about the safety of these eggs, and we’re confident that we can now change our advice to consumers.
“The major reduction in the risk of salmonella in Lion eggs is testament to the work carried out by egg producers. The measures they’ve taken, from vaccination of hens through to improving hygiene on farms and better transportation, have dramatically reduced salmonella levels in UK hens.”
A range of interventions have been put in place across the food chain as part of the Lion scheme including: vaccinating hens, enhanced testing for salmonella, improved farm hygiene, effective rodent control, independent auditing and traceability, and keeping the eggs cool while transporting them from farm to shop.
Great. Show us mere mortals the numbers.
And any science-based body that recommends cooking food until it is piping hot is seriously suspect.
Adam Halal Foods Ltd of Nechelles, Birmingham has been ordered to pay more than £68,000 after being convicted of five charges relating to failures of hygiene controls at their premises.
Following inspections of the company’s cutting plant and cold store in Birmingham by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on 31 May and 8 September 2016, Adam Halal Foods Ltd were summoned to appear before Birmingham Magistrates Court on 2 August 2017 on five charges. These charges related to their failure to ensure that meat was kept at the correct temperature on their premises.
The Court fined the company £60,000, ordered it to pay the FSA’s costs of £8,043.74 plus an additional £120 victim surcharge making a total of £68,163.74.
FSA Chairman, Heather Hancock, said: ‘The FSA takes these breaches of food safety regulations very seriously. We welcome this substantial fine for these totally unacceptable hygiene breaches. This sends a clear message to other plants that fail to uphold the required standards of food safety: we will investigate and we will look to prosecute.’
safefood Ireland has joined the UK Food Standards Agency in providing terrible advice about how to cook burgers.
A recipe for summer beef burgers (may a fine solstice greet our Northern and Southern friends) endorsed by safefood says:
“Before serving, ensure that the burgers are cooked thoroughly. Cut into them with a clean knife and check that they are piping hot all the way through, there is no pink meat remaining and that the juices run clear.”
Meanwhile, FSA issued a Safe Summer Food guide as UK picnickers head out in the sun (there’s sun in the UK?). The guidelines were in part based results of a self-reported survey, which is largely meaningless but something FSA likes to do.
sourcing the meat only from establishments which have specific controls in place to minimise the risk of contamination of meat intended to be eaten raw or lightly cooked;
ensuring that the supplier carries out appropriate testing of raw meat to check that their procedures for minimising contamination are working;
Strict temperature control to prevent growth of any bugs and appropriate preparation and cooking procedures;
notifying their local authority that burgers that aren’t thoroughly cooked are being served by the business; and,
providing advice to consumers, for example on menus, regarding the additional risk.
The advice from these self-proclaimed science-based agencies is at odds with, uh, science.
It has been known for over two decades that color is a lousy indicator of safety in hamburger.
The latest addition to this work comes from Djimsa et al. in the Dept. of Animal Science at Oklahoma State Univ., who wrote in the Journal of Food Science earlier this year that:
Premature browning is a condition wherein ground beef exhibits a well-done appearance before reaching the USDA recommended internal cooked meat temperature of 71.1 °C; however, the mechanism is unclear.
The objectives of this study were: (1) to determine the effects of packaging and temperature on metmyoglobin reducing activity (MRA) of cooked ground beef patties and (2) to assess the effects of temperature and pH on thermal stability of NADH-dependent reductase, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), and oxymyoglobin (OxyMb) in-vitro.
Beef patties (lean: fat = 85:15) were packaged in high-oxygen modified atmosphere (HiOX-MAP) or vacuum (VP) and cooked to either 65 or 71 °C. Internal meat color and MRA of both raw and cooked patties were determined. Purified NADH-dependent reductase and LDH were used to determine the effects of pH and temperature on enzyme activity. MRA of cooked patties was temperature and packaging dependent (P < 0.05). Vacuum packaged patties cooked to 71 °C had greater (P < 0.05) MRA than HiOX-MAP counterparts.
Thermal stability of OxyMb, NADH-dependent reductase, and LDH were different and pH-dependent. LDH was able to generate NADH at 84 °C; whereas NADH-dependent reductase was least stable to heat.
The results suggest that patties have MRA at cooking temperatures, which can influence cooked meat color.
Effects of metmyoglobin reducing activity and thermal stability of NADH-dependent reductase and lactate dehydrogenase on premature browning in ground beef
Journal of Food Science, 2017 Feb, 82(2):304-313, doi: 10.1111/1750-3841.13606. Epub 2017 Jan 18.
Two diners suffered food poisoning and others suffered symptoms after eating a dish containing the meat at the restaurant.
Luscombe was fined £4,434, ordered to pay £5,284 costs and a victim surcharge of £120.
Luscombe admitted serving food on the premises that was unsafe as it had been inadequately cooked and failing to implement and maintain legally required food safety procedures, including those for the safe cooking of high risk foods.
Magistrates heard South Oxfordshire District Council, the environmental health authority, was asked to investigate after a member of the public suffered campylobacter food poisoning after eating at the restaurant.
Environmental health officers carried out an immediate unannounced inspection and found that the diners had been offered a set menu including calves’ liver for the main course.
They found the calves’ liver had been cooked at too low a temperature.
The restaurant was found to have no protocol to ensure high risk items, such as liver, were cooked according to recommendations from the Food Standards Agency.
It also failed to complete required monitoring records for almost three months, meaning it was failing to meet its legal requirements for food safety.
This is what is infuriating about food safety government types: they have the budgets, they have the knowledge, but they don’t have the wherewithal to confront an issue on a public scale.
They can say, oooohhh, we use social media to track when people are barfing but they do no evaluation of their alleged interventions.
Telling people to wash their hands doesn’t mean people will wash their hands.
Elizabeth Cassin of BBC writes if you’re suffering with projectile vomiting and watery diarrhea, reach for your phone and post an update.
While it won’t ease your suffering, a tweet or two could help researchers track the spread of the winter vomiting bug (which the rest of the world calls Norovirus).
The UK Food Standards Agency has been using social media to track levels of norovirus, a highly contagious illness which spreads via food and through person-to-person contact. The symptoms usually last for one to two days, with the person remaining infectious for a further two days.
If you’ve ever had, it you know what it means: vomiting, diarrhea, pain, and the general feeling of having been run over by a car.
In 2013, the Foods Standards Agency started looking at new ways to track the virus. They analysed Google searches but found that social media was a better source of data. “It’s more about the immediacy… what’s happening in their lives right now,” says Dr Sian Thomas.
On the other hand, “if you’re in hospital or a nursing home and you’re sick, then they might take a sample and send it to a laboratory for analysis,” she says.
The FSA compared this official sample data with the volume of relevant tweets and concluded that “there’s a really good correlation between the number of mentions on Twitter of ‘sick’ and a range of search terms, with the incidents of illness as defined by laboratory reports.”
“Our current estimate is that between 70-80% of the time, we are able to accurately predict an increase the next week.”
If the team predict a national outbreak, they plan to run a digital campaign explaining how to look after yourself.
“The intervention is really quite basic,” she notes. “It’s about washing your hands, it’s about looking after yourself, and not coming in to contact with other people while you’re sick.”
Norovirus can be dangerous for children or the elderly. Fortunately for healthy adults though, the illness is usually a minor, if messy, inconvenience.
It’s sorta sad when the PhD boffins at the UK Food Standards Agency get stood up by Cooks Illustrated.
Worse when they fail to acknowledge the error of their ways, but still earn the big bucks.
Cooking a chicken until its “juices run clear when pricked” is pretty standard poultry advice but, according to Cook’s Illustrated, it’s not a very dependable way to tell if your chicken is properly cooked.
As reported by Claire Lower of Skillet, though myoglobin (the molecule that gives meat its pink or red hue) does lose its color when heated, the temperature at which the color change occurs can vary depending on a whole bunch of factors. In fact, when Cook’s Illustrated tested this theory, they found the color of the juice had very little to do with the temperature of the meat:
But when we cooked whole chickens, in one case the juices ran clear when the breast registered 145 degrees and the thigh 155 degrees—long before the chicken was done. And when we pierced another chicken that we’d overcooked (the breast registered 170 degrees and the thigh 180 degrees), it still oozed pink juices.
The takeaway? Get a thermometer, use it, and never under-cook or overcook your chicken again.