School caterers’ sushi slip-up in NZ

Staff who serve food at an Auckland private girls school are undergoing training after serving sushi to students a day after its use-by date.

St Cuthbert's CollegeA group of about 50 boarders at St Cuthbert’s College were served the packaged sushi, with an expiry date of Friday, for lunch on Saturday.

The error was discovered before any of the students ate the expired food, but a parent of one girl expressed concerns the students could have fallen ill right before their exams if they had eaten it.

College Principal Lynda Reid said the incident had been discussed with catering company Alliance.

When the error was spotted a different lunch was served.

“Alliance serves millions of meals each year across New Zealand and Australia and food safety is its highest priority,” the company said.

31K fine for Australian Coles over out-of-date food

Supermarket giant Coles has been fined $31,500 for displaying food beyond its use-by date at its McLaren Vale store in South Australia.

Lawyers for the company pleaded guilty in Adelaide Magistrates Court to seven counts of breaching the food code and prosecutors dropped another 15 counts.

coles.meat.hormone.tender.curtic.stoneMagistrate David Whittle on Thursday imposed the fine and also ordered Coles to pay $10,000 in legal costs for Onkaparinga Council.

Council inspectors found the out-of-date items, which included salami and shaved ham, in April last year.

In a later statement, Coles said the company took food safety seriously and its SA stores had an outstanding record in that area.

“We set high standards and when we do not meet them we take accountability and fix the problem,” the company said.

Australian supermarket fined $208K over dated food

The operators of an Adelaide supermarket have been fined more than $200,000 after displaying food for sale past its use-by date, some by as much as 40 days.

Seaford 7 Days Ltd and Supermarket Investments, which operated the Foodland Port Noarlunga South store in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, foodland.adelaide.jun.13pleaded guilty in the Adelaide Magistrates Court to a total of 57 counts of breaching the Food Act.

Thirty-four of those related to displaying food past its use-by date, with others relating to the condition of the business including the accumulation of food waste, dirt and grease.

In sentencing on Thursday Magistrate Luke Davis said the breaches were serious and continued over an extended period last year despite the supermarket being put on notice by health inspectors.

“It is clear that these offences are the result of a systemic, widespread and negligent failure by those responsible,” Mr Davis said.

The magistrate said it was “perhaps surprising” no member of the public had complained about the supermarket.

But he accepted that management had since dealt with the cleanliness issues and had introduced strict new procedures to prevent any further problems.

He imposed fines totalling $208,750 but did not record convictions against the defendants noting they had already suffered through bad publicity and a loss of income.

Stick a thermometer in cheap, stinky meat

The quest for discounted groceries has hit the news again with South Carolina news reporter Larry Collins asking,

“Stores slash prices about 50% – 60% on meat when it is nearing the date on the packaging. But, is that food safe to eat?”

According to registered dietitian Charlotte Caperton-Kilburn, such meat is typically safe to consume as long as you cook or freeze it as soon as you bring it home… and it smells okay.

“If the meat smells even remotely strange it should be returned to the store or thrown away,” Caperton-Kilburn told the news station.

In Ireland, Darina Allen wrote in an opinion piece for the Irish Examiner that, just the other night, she found a vac-packed duck in the back of her fridge that smelled “good and high.” Rather than throw it out, she “gave it a good wash inside and out and rubbed a bit of salt into the skin and roasted it.”

Her guests said it was delicious.

Allen reminisced about life before modern conveniences like electric refrigeration and explained, “We learned from our mothers how to judge with our senses whether food was safe.” She asserted that, “in just a few years, many people have lost the ability to judge for themselves when food is safe to eat.”

While most groceries sold in the US have a date consumers can read and use, the USDA only requires manufacturers of infant formula and baby food to determine and display a “Use by” date on their products—and this is mainly for the sake of ensuring nutrient quality. The others are voluntary and only describe when the food will probably taste best. Assessing safety is still up to the consumer.

Modern technologies like stamped dates and color-changing barcodes can help consumers with that assessment, as can the senses of sight and smell. The most reliable safeguard, though, is cooking to a temperature that studies have found will effectively kill pathogens. For poultry, this is 165F.

Chefs may tell you to use your senses to figure temperature, too, but only by using a tip-sensitive digital thermometer can you know for sure.  It’s the consumer’s choice, as always, but I’d rather be sure than be positive for salmonella.