You need a Food Safety Plan. I know. More paperwork. I can almost hear you muttering under your breath now. Don’t I already have enough paperwork to worry about? You probably do. And, just as likely, you probably already have a Food Safety Plan. Many establishments just don’t realise it. It tends to be hiding under all the other piles of paperwork!
What is a food safety plan? It is a document which describes how an organisation which produces food ensures that it maintains the safety of that food. Areas covered include food handling, approved suppliers, staff health, hygiene and training, waste management, cleaning and pest control. Along with all this are the forms and log sheets, such as those for monitoring fridge and freezer temperatures.
Any business in Australia that handles food is under an obligation to produce food that is safe and suitable to eat. Charities, commercial businesses, community activities – under the Australian food safety standards, they all need to ensure that their food is safe.
Why is it so important? Here are the top 5 reasons we could think of:
- Food-bourne illnesses – probably the biggest reason of them all. Nobody likes getting food poisoning. It’s extremely uncomfortable and can be fatal, especially for elderly people and very young children. A food safety plan will outline ‘risky foods’ and the precautions you should take when preparing or storing them. For example, keeping meats between 1-4 degrees Celsius to prevent bacteria growing.
- Cross–contamination – closely related to preventing food-bourne illnesses, cross-contamination refers to the introduction of germs to food. There are three major avenues:
- Other foods – raw meat is the biggest issue here. Bacteria that has grown on the surface of raw meat can transfer itself to other food products if you don’t thoroughly wash your utensils, chopping boards and hands and use the correct (coloured) chopping board.
- Chemicals – this includes anything, from the cleaning chemical you use on the floors, to the pesticides used on fruit and veg. Proper storage of chemicals in your kitchen is important, as is carefully washing fruit and veg before you use it.
- Humans – yes, us. Look at your hands now. How many door handles have you touched today? What money has crossed your palm since this morning? Sneezed or coughed much today? Scratched your nose? We use our hands for pretty much everything in our day-to-day lives and inevitably pick up germs. It is incredibly easy to spread germs to food, especially if you are sick or have small scratches on your hands where bacteria love to hide.
- Waste reduction– understanding the correct ways to store and prepare foods will lead to less waste. Have you ever stored defrosting meat on the shelf above that box of fruit and vegetables, only to find that the next morning the fruit and vegetables had to be thrown out because they were covered in meat juice that had dripped down onto them? Good practice ensures you won’t have to throw away contaminated food that is unsafe to use.
- Accountability – health inspectors these days like to see that a food safety plan is in place. In all likelihood, if one is available, staff will have been trained in the proper handling of food and the kitchen is likely to be a safer food preparation environment.
- Legal evidence – If your organisation is taken to court over a food poisoning incident your food safety plan, the record sheets you have been maintaining and staff training logs can be produced as evidence of your commitment to food safety.
Keep a copy of your food safety plan where staff can access it and refer to it regularly in staff meetings, this can assist in making everyone aware of their responsibilities towards food safety. I know you don’t want to give anyone food poisoning – your staff certainly won’t want to be responsible for it either – and I’m not saying that having a food safety plan is a magic book that will automatically shield your business from all aspects of bad food management.
It won’t. Accidents can, and do, happen.
But the food safety plan will help your staff understand the risks and prevent most food-related accidents. They will be happier and more confident in their work, able to focus on producing delicious, safe food for everyone! That must be reason number 6!
Take a quick look around your workplace and locate your Food Safety Plan. If you can’t find it, follow up with your manager to check if your centre has one and ask if you can get a copy of it. If all else fails, there are some templates on-line which you could use as the basis of developing your own Food Safety Plan, just type in Food Safety Plan template into your search engine and you’ll find them.
If you are having trouble finding a suitable version we can offer tailor-made plans for regions in Australia. So don’t hesitate to contact us if you need any more information on Food Safety Plans. We will be more than happy to help!
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