So are my parents: disappointment at spoiled food being sold in Adelaide

Michael Livori, the chief executive of the Eastern Health Authority in South Australia – that includes Adelaide – would fit in well on the Real Housewives of Vancouver.

Like many Canadians, he doesn’t get angry, he’s just disappointed.

reiko-rhovDisappointed that almost 40 eastern suburbs restaurants and cafes tried to sell food which might have gone off after a severe storm cut power for up to two days in the Adelaide area.

In a report to the Eastern Health Authority’s May meeting, acting senior environmental health officer Nadia Conci says inspectors visited 55 premises in the wake of the February 4 storm.

Ms Conci said many of the businesses failed to throw out food that could have been contaminated after being unrefrigerated for up to 48 hours.

She said most of the inspected businesses were not insured for power outages because of high premium costs.

“Astoundingly, 70 per cent of these businesses were willing to risk selling food that was out of temperature control for a significant amount of time to recover costs,” Ms Conci said in her report.

The storms resulted in power being cut to 84,000 homes around the state — and about 525 businesses across the eastern suburbs.

More than 10,000 households were eligible to share in more than $6 million in compensation for the prolonged blackout.

Restaurants, cafes, delicatessens and supermarkets selling high-risk food — such as seafood and meat — and those with a history of unsafe food practices were prioritised for inspection.

The authority had to do follow-up inspections at 14 premises and one business had four follow-ups and a written warning because it refused to throw out food.

Mr Livori told the Eastern Courier Messenger, “For a large establishment like that to have that sort of attitude was very disappointing,”

He was not able to name the business.

 “The big issue was that businesses were willing to take the risk.”

He said inspectors had limited powers under the Food Act to immediately seize food that had not been refrigerated because officers had to prepare a written notice before taking any action.

And consumers should be disappointed – or angry – that health types have limited powers. Good food safety is good for business.

Outrage over the outage

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill, writes:

Winter storm Pax pelted North Carolina with an initial dose of snow and freezing rain, and is now traveling north on I-95. Although I’ve been fortunate so far, power outages are already affecting hundreds of thousands of Southerners. Losing electricity can be a nightmare — especially if it is for more than a couple of hours.1920543_10152192564303431_259801825_n
Alongside 4,500 of our neighbors, we spent four nights in a row without power in DC in the summer of 2013. It was  hot and humid, with temperatures in the 90s F not C). Our attempts to cook without electricity in the dark felt very much like a modern version of Little House on the Prairie. All I could think was that, if this was hurricane or a snowstorm, we would have had time to prepare (but maybe not).
There are currently 800,000 people without power from the snowstorm, leaving many with a food safety situation — a refrigerator with most of last week’s vegetables, defrosting chicken, jars of jams, peanut butter, and tomato sauce, cartons of eggs, chunks of cheese, quarts of milk, and once-canned goods stored in Tupperware. I know I would not be ready to toss all those vegetables into the compost, but depending on the time and temperature, some fridge contents will have to go.
According to USDA FSIS’s estimates, a closed fridge will keep its contents at refrigeration temperatures for about four hours and a closed freezer will keep food close to freezing for about 48 hours after the power goes out. If food temperatures rise above 41°F for more than four hours, pathogens within any meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products (as well as many cooked foods) can grow to problematic levels. There is an increased risk in pastatemperature-abused leftovers made with high-protein foods (meat and meat substitutes); soft cheeses; milk and cream-based products; sliced tomatoes and cut leafy greens; and cooked pasta or rice. In the freezer, if meat, poultry, seafood or dairy products still have ice crystals, you can refreeze them when the power returns. If they are thawed for more than a couple of hours, they can be risky.
Making the risk management decision without a fridge/freezer thermometer and a food thermometer is tough and losing a bunch of food can be an expensive lesson. It isn’t a fantastic idea to guess temperatures without a thermometer, either; a guesstimate can increase risk of illness or lead to more waste.