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.

Balance concession food safety, needs of boosters

Whether it’s called a fundraiser, a BBQ, or, in Australia, a sausage sizzle, what is the best way to balance the wishes of well-meaning volunteers with the realities of microbial food safety?

bbq.bse.cross.contaminationWith five daughters, I’ve been to hundreds of these things over the years and seen some terrible food safety practices, even at swanky corporate events.  Whenever I can, I volunteer to help with the cooking and pre-planning. But I’m not going to have much impact, one sausage sizzle at a time. And if I mention anything, other parents get defensive and think I’m an asshole (they may be right).

Michigan’s Lansing State Journal has some decent recommendations, writing that curtailing concessions likely means reducing revenue that boosters raise to help defray costs of equipment, uniforms and, in some cases, pay-to-participate fees for needy students. Yet, how could anyone support looking the other way if food isn’t being handled and prepared safely?

Ingham County officials acknowledged in a recent LSJ report that they had been lenient in enforcing safe food handling requirements at school athletic concessions.

Yet while improving enforcement, they observed such unsafe practices as not tracking the freshness date on raw ground beef. They found well-meaning boosters were cooking food such as chili at home and bringing it to athletic venues for sale. They found food being prepared in locations with no hand-washing equipment, even though portable sinks exist for just such circumstances.

thermometer.powell.bbq.dec.11Cracking down on volunteers who are trying to support student activities may seem harsh, but basic food safety measures such as hand-washing rules and keeping both raw and cooked foods at safe temperatures simply must be followed. For the sake of public health, these things can’t be optional.

Booster groups are volunteer efforts, but don’t face more demanding responsibilities. County officials began requiring licensing on May 1. Those who aren’t licensed can use pre-packaged items. That’s reasonable.

Booster concessions are an effective source of revenue. In some districts, $20,000 or more worth of food and drinks are sold each year.

In Australia, Food Safety Standards include requirements for the handling, storage, transport and display of food. The Standards are in the process of being adopted by each State and Territory and, when adopted, will specify requirements that are consistent across Australia for the first time. A copy of the Food Safety Standards is available from the FSANZ website at and may also be available from local council or health authority.

This definition of a food business includes all food activities involved in fundraising, including preparation of the food before it is sold. The definition of  sale covers fundraising activities. Food has been sold even if you just ask for a donation.

Good intentions and safety can co-exist.

Bad idea: community groups to be exempt from Australian food safety

With five daughters, I figured out a long time ago it was just easier for me to do the cooking at the endless fundraisers than engage in meaningless debates about why thermometers were important.

I bring my own.

This morning at hockey skating I was reminded of all the training and certification required to open doors for 5-year-olds, and all that is not vomit.toiletrequired to serve food.

The Australian Capital Territory has decided to exempt charity and community group sausage sizzles from new food safety regulations.

This in Canberra, the Australian capital, home to endless food safety bureaucrats, and where 140 got sick at a Mother’s Day brunch at a fancy restaurant that had no clue about the risk of raw eggs in mayonnaise.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher announced that community groups running temporary food stalls and barbecues with foods deemed low-risk would be granted an exemption.

“Certainly the feedback we’ve had from the community is that they don’t think that barbecues, sausage sizzles, should be subject to food safety standards.”

ClubsACT chief executive officer Jeff House welcomed the move to exempt sausage sizzles from the legislation.

“Common sense and sanity has prevailed, and I think there’s a number of lessons to be learnt out of this exercise in terms of ensuring that community interest and feedback factors into decision making,” he said.

Speaking to The Sunday Canberra Times earlier this month, ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew Blyth said he hoped the rules would be changed.

”Sporting clubs are run by people who volunteer time and they don’t need someone in a high-vis vest telling them when to turn the sausages,” he said.

On Thursday he welcomed the amendment, calling it a “victory for common sense.”

It’s common sense until a bunch of people get sick.

Mission thermometer: fervent converts, one sausage sizzle at a time

With five daughters, I’ve put in my share of time at the fundraising-BBQ- cookout, or in Aussie-speak, sausage sizzle.

Last night was the Christmas concert for Sorenne’s pre-school, which was somewhat surreal the first time – outdoors, everyone in shorts and flip-flops or dressed up fancy-like. For a sub-tropical climate in summer, they go a little nuts about the Christmas thing, with surfin’ Santa’s and shrimp on the barbie by the beach.

I proudly wore my Kansas State hockey shirt (there is no K-State hockey) and waved around my Comark PDT 300 tip-sensitive digital thermometer – which wasn’t necessary because the staff had precooked the sausages. But as the hundreds of parents and kids poured in (dozens?) me and John Hodgman-lookalike, Clayton, resorted to cooking raw sausage, and the thermometer became a necessary aide.

No children were harmed in this sausage sizzle.