According to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), there are more than a million cases of food poisoning every year in the UK. Many of these cases are the result of eating food prepared in a professional kitchen, while Salmonella causes the most hospital admissions – about 2,500 per year.
What is the Food Safety Act?
The Government’s Food Safety Act of 1990 makes it an offence to “render food injurious to health” or to sell food that doesn’t meet safety requirements – with severe penalties – including unlimited fines, or even imprisonment for failure to comply.
“The Food Safety Act 1990 (as amended) provides the framework for all food legislation in the England, Wales and Scotland. The main responsibilities for all food businesses under the Act are to ensure that food businesses serve or sell is of the nature, substance or quality which consumers would expect.”
The Food Standards Authority
Why is the Food Safety Act important?
Working in line with the Food Safety Act can dramatically reduce your exposure to risk; helping to protect your customers, and your hard earned reputation.
Focus on food poisoning
Of course, the best way to stop your customers getting food poisoning is to maintain the highest standards of personal and food hygiene. To help do this, the FSA has prepared a helpful food safety management pack.
Where hygiene standards are not met, the court may forbid you from using certain processes, premises, or equipment. You could also be banned from managing a food business and face fines or even prison.
It goes without saying that correctly cleaning and cooking food is essential to meeting food safety regulations. However, it is just as important to adopt the upmost care when it comes to chilling and avoiding cross-contamination. And to do this, you need commercial catering appliances that are up to the job, and regularly maintained.
Chilling food in line with the Food Safety Act
All commercial kitchen operators know the importance of keeping food at the correct temperature to prevent harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. However, to help avoid food poisoning it’s also essential that cooked food is cooled as quickly as possible. Indeed, if you’re chilling cooked food, you’re required by law to meet the requirements of the Food Safety Act.
This means that, whenever cooked food is chilled or frozen, it must be in the ‘Danger Zone’ – where bacteria multiply fastest – for as little time as possible.
Current food safety guidelines recommend that cooked food should pass through the Danger Zone in no more than 90 minutes, and, subsequently be stored at 8°C or less. A temperature of below 5°C will further reduce the likelihood of bacteria multiplying and should be achieved wherever possible.
However, standard refrigeration equipment is incapable of extracting heat fast enough to comply with these guidelines. As such, specially designed rapid chilling apparatus such as a blast chiller is required by law to ensure the necessary rapid reduction of temperature is achieved.
Designed to give caterers complete control over the chilling process, JLA’s blast chillers deliver performance that exceeds food safety legislation, is HACCP compliant, and meets guidelines for cook-chill catering systems worldwide.
The food and catering industry in the UK has changed dramatically over the last few years in the face of changing dietary requirements, allergies, and food intolerances. Today’s commercial kitchens MUST be structured in a way to avoid cross contamination.
Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria are transferred from one food (usually raw) to another. Catering equipment such as fryers carry a particularly high risk of allergen cross contamination. It only takes a minuscule amount of a food substance to cause an allergic reaction, so in many cases, separate or twin tank fryers are recommended.
Another way to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading is to store raw and ready-to-eat food in separate fridges, freezers, and display units.
As well as the right catering equipment, it’s vital that commercial kitchens use specially designed catering detergents. Not only do these result in a consistently high quality of finish – but they also maximise the performance of your dishwasher and prevent cross-contamination.
Maintenance = compliance
Effective maintenance is essential to meeting the requirements of the Food Safety Act, and to ensure your cooking, hot holding, and chilling equipment is working correctly and doesn’t let you down.
It’s a false economy to wait until something goes wrong, with the expense of calling out an engineer every time you have a problem (not to mention the risk to your reputation), far exceeding the costs of regular planned maintenance.
When it comes to the health of your customers, ignorance is not an adequate defence. And to ensure a conviction, the prosecution only has to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that food safety requirements have not been met.
Are you considering upgrading your catering equipment to help improve hygiene standards and protect your valuable reputation? Get in touch to find out how JLA can help.