Australia: Report exposes dirty kitchens putting customers at risk

Source of Article:,21985,24999597-662,00.html

Karen Collier

February 03, 2009 12:00am

DINERS are regularly dished up old leftovers mixed with fresh food despite poisoning risks.

A national report on the health of cafes, restaurants and other food outlets has exposed dirty kitchens and disregard for the safety of customers.

Mass checks ordered by the nation's food authority found one in five businesses displaying self-serve fare gambled with consumer health by adding dregs from the previous day to new batches of food.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand's National Food Handling Survey of hundreds of sites branded one in 10 premises unclean.

Preparation and cooking areas were the key problems.

Businesses where English was not the main language were more likely to cut food safety corners.

About 5.4 million Australians suffer food poisoning each year.

The Food Safety Information Council says most cases are caused by dirty or sloppy practices outside the home.

But FSANZ has kept the identity of suspect operators secret. It says the research was to detect trends and gaps in knowledge.

State authorities then discussed whether action or further education was needed.

The report revealed some bakeries, an industry singled out for special attention because of past poisoning scares, were considered potential health hazards because they directly touched bread, used cracked eggs and didn't properly clean piping bags.

The study noted standards had improved since a similar study six years earlier.

But FSANZ spokeswoman Lydia Buchtmann warned too many venues were still placing customers at potential risk.

"For the minority of businesses who aren't complying, none of the things they need to do are rocket science," Ms Buchtmann said.

She said correctly stored leftovers could be safely served separately. But they should not be combined with fresh food because this raised contamination risks.

Inspectors from many local councils observed 916 food businesses for the study. A further 2340 companies completed a telephone survey.

The survey revealed one in 10 places had no policy for sick workers handling food, and no warm running water to ensure staff washed hands properly.

Four in 10 that sold displayed food had slack supervision of self-service areas.

Victoria is the only state that requires compulsory written food safety plans.



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