The Food Inspector's Busman’s Holiday 

My wife panics every time I comment on a food safety concern when we dine out, “am I going to get ill, will the kids get ill, how will we manage if we are all ill?”
In recent years to create marital harmony when we eat out I now keep quite when I peak into a restaurant kitchen and see a chef lick his finger, see a dirty rag used to polish a plate or a waiter huff on a glass. All will be fine I think to myself with fingers crossed.  

The savaging media, Twitter, Facebook and TripAdvisor have made customer comments very powerful and potentially damaging to hospitality business. One wonders why many high end establishment are still very complacent with simple every day hygiene practices. Our summer holiday highlighted these complacencies  on two different occasions.

Washroom woe - We stayed in a lovely country house hotel and spa in the West Country for a couple of nights, beautiful design, fantastic facilities, excellent food however my enjoyment was interrupted by a personal bug bare of mine. Picture the gent’s toilets in question. Marble, mahogany, linen hand towels, piped jazz music, hand moisturiser….. but NO soap!

I am sure you are thinking, soap runs out, the house keeper visits every hour, this happens.....

WAIT....I reported he lack of soap to the hotel reception first at 7.30pm, again at 10pm and astonishingly a third time after breakfast the following day at 10.30am. No male guests ( or staff members) spending a penny or even more had been able to wash their hands properly with soap. I hate to think what the consequences could have been if one or more of the 100+ male guests had diarrhoea symptoms, a potential for spreading bacteria around the hotel like wild fire. We returned home unscathed thankfully but who knows if there were any other guest memories spoilt by the consequences of a lack of proper hand washing facilities?  

Ironically, the hotel in question has a well-known spa brand and sells soap around the world by the lorry load!!

BBQ bandits - The sultry summer has made alfresco dining such a pleasure in recent weeks and caterers of all sizes are capitalising on the popularity of outside eating. The pleasure associated with cooking alfresco outweighs the risks when simple, common sense precautions are made. Detailed and well intentioned HACCP food safety principles however often fly out the window (if there is one!) when the orders start stacking up and the staff pressures begin to rise.

Picture the scene, the sun is setting, cold beer glasses running with condensation, the smell of caramelised meat is in the air.... very tempting. The serenity of the country house garden masks the adrenaline pumping behind the charcoal grill, service was in full swing.  On the face of it the external makeshift kitchen looked practical but for someone in my shoes the facilities were no better than you would expect at Glastonbury (but with a high end meal price attached) and in my opinion a nightmare waiting to happen, and happen it did right in front of my eyes.....

Raw chicken on the same chopping board as cooked, hands moulding raw kofte and then unwashed delicately placing salad garnishes, sticky hands wiped on oven cloths tucked into aprons, filthy oven cloths used to clean smears off serving plates......

To the untrained eye service may have looked presentable and very professional, chefs in whites with striped aprons, kitchen French commands, hands in blue vinyl gloves.  Gloves were however unchanged, hands unwashed, a melange of raw and ready to eat ingredients…… a trail of bacterial contamination from start to finish.

Needless to say we passed on the alfresco option and moved into the main restaurant where food hygiene calm was restored.

Can’t wait until our next food safety experience; why not arrange your own food safety audit inspection with Nansen Green Catering Consultancy to ensure your catering establishment is on track for food hygiene excellence and 5 star ratings and reviews.

Achieving a “6 Star Food Hygiene Rating”

Achieving the unachievable, the ultimate food safety prize, the Holy Grail.

Back to reality!

The maximum Food Hygiene Rating currently available is ‘5’ however aiming for the coveted ‘6’ should always be the aim of catering businesses to ensure a ‘5’ Hygiene Rating is achieved and maintained at every inspection.

At Nansen Green we strive for the top score possible, a ‘5’ Hygiene Rating with no deductions, this is our coveted ‘6’ rating.

The Food Hygiene scoring system allocates points for failures during the Environmental Health Practitioners inspection, scoring between 0-15 points results in a ‘5’ Hygiene rating and scoring 50 or more results in a ‘0’ Food Hygiene Rating. Our aim at Nansen Green is to always ensure our clients achieve the highest scores possible with no points deducted across the three inspection categories, Food Hygiene Procedures, Structural Compliance and Confidence in Management.

A recent re-inspection at one of our clients achieved just that, Excellent in Every Respect - the Holy Grail.

 Nansen Green's '6' Food Hygiene Rating

Nansen Green's '6' Food Hygiene Rating

How to get a five star food hygiene rating

 5 Star Food Hygiene Rating Advice

5 Star Food Hygiene Rating Advice

5 Star Food Hygiene Ratings Insider Guide

Nansen Green Catering Consultancy’s Food Safety Guru has issued five top tips on how to 'guarantee' a five-star rating.

Now more than ever it is time to review your catering business' Food Safety practices to achieve and maintain a "5 Food Hygiene Rating. The government has said it will soon be a legal requirement for all UK food businesses to display and make their Food Hygiene Rating sticker visible to customers. Those businesses with a low rating will be be forced to communicate to their clientele that their food safety is not as good as their competition. The highest 5 rating is achievable by all business with some simple changes to practices, training and guidance from either the local authority environmental health or our approachable and extremely knowledgeable Food Safety Guru at Nansen Green Catering Consultancy.  

1.      Storage

The most common mistake is storing raw foods with ready-to-eat foods. Remember raw foods does not mean just raw meat and fish, it also includes unwashed and raw vegetables as they can be contaminated with E. coli and many other bacteria. A storage system in the kitchen can eliminate any potential cross contamination of raw with ready- to-eat.

2.      Preparation

Washing raw foods (including meat) in the kitchen can result in cross contamination which can cause catastrophic problems. Having separate sinks for different uses is one option but if this isn’t feasible, plan the day so ready-to-eat foods are washed first, then raw vegetables next and then thoroughly sanitise surfaces and sinks before washing dishes.

Have separate time slots for dish-washing and food prep and stick to them and ensure cleaning and sanitising procedures are documented. If the kitchen is large enough, split it into separate work areas such as raw meat, raw fish, raw veg and ready-to-eat preparation. Using the same preparation space for raw and ready-to-eat foods can also cause cross-contamination.

3.      Cooling

A successful catering operation is an organised one and there are occasions when preparing mise-en-place ingredients need to be cooked in advance and then cooled until required. Cooling food too slowly can result in bacteria multiplying to dangerous levels potentially resulting in a food poisoning incident. The secret for compliance is cooling ingredients quickly to below 8°C within 90 minutes; using a blast chiller is the preferred method or alternatively separating cooked foods into smaller portions and cool in a bath of ice.

Most importantly documenting this process demonstrates your understand and that you have controlled the hazards.

4.      Cleaning

Keeping a clean hand wash basin with antibacterial soap, hot and cold water and a disposable paper towel to dry hands is vital in keeping the kitchen clean. If using disposable food preparation gloves be sure to observe hygiene rules, these gloves still get dirty and can harbour bacteria. Hands with or without gloves need washing regularly especially after handling raw foods and before handling foods that are ready to eat. It is a misconception that gloved hands are more hygienic than without, it is a fact catering staff wearing gloves wash their hands less frequently than those not wearing gloves.   

Dish cloths can harbour six times more bacteria than toilet handles and six out of 10 dishcloths harbour life-threatening bacteria such as E. coli.

Use blue roll and sanitiser to clean work surfaces as cloths that are used more than once can spread bacteria causing cross-contamination. Disposing and/or washing cleaning cloths, tea towels and oven cloths at 90°C is essential to kill these bacteria. Keeping a cleaning schedule in place is an easy way to make sure routine cleaning jobs take place and the standard of cleaning in your kitchen is consistent.

5.      Staff training and record keeping

Training staff how to prepare food safely through an accredited training provider is essential. A class room based certificated training course with an examination will be far more effective than an on-line (box ticking) course, especially when it comes to protecting your customers and business reputation from harm.

Food Safety Guru says Environmental Health Inspectors awarding a 5 Hygiene Rating are looking for catering staff with a comprehensive understanding of food safety and a business which demonstrates confidence in food safety management.  

Catering operators will not get a Level 5 Food Hygiene Rating unless catering staff can demonstrate a good understanding of the process associated with HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) which include:

  • understanding the food safety hazards

  • knowing how to control and monitor food safety hazards

  • understanding and following critical temperature limits for cooking and chilling

  • keeping written records to provide your business with a “Due Diligence Defence”

 

For further free advice on how to guarantee a "5 Food Hygiene Rating" contact us now:

Nansen Green Catering Consultancy

(t)   020 3633 5229

(w)  www.nansengreen.com

 

 

 

Russell Hume Catering Butchers Under Suspicion of Serious Food Safety Offences

Russell Hume Crisis.jpg

Environmental Health News report Russell Hume a major supplier of meat to schools, care homes and retail chains including Wetherspoon’s and the Jamie Oliver Group is under suspicion of serious food safety offences after all its meat supplies were recalled earlier this week.

Suspected breaches of hygiene and labelling regulations were initially discovered on 12 January following an unannounced inspection of Russell Hume’s Birmingham plant. 

Russell Hume is a Derby-based meat supplier with seven sites across the UK describing itself as ‘one of the UK’s leading meat specialists providing’. The company had a turnover £129 million in 2015.

In a statement the FSA said: ‘Following an unannounced inspection of Russell Hume’s Birmingham site on 12 January, we became aware of instances of serious non-compliance with food hygiene regulations.

‘This has led us and Food Standards Scotland to investigate all Russell Hume sites, and other locations where their product is stored, in England, Scotland and Wales. Russell Hume were unable to demonstrate compliance with food hygiene rules at its locations, so we have stopped any product from leaving their sites until the business can provide assurances that they are complying with the relevant legislation.’  

The FSA statement also confirms that ‘there is no indication that people have become ill from eating meat supplied by Russell Hume’.

The FSA goes on to say: ‘However, we are concerned about the poor practices in place at their premises so that is why we have taken proportionate action to ensure no meat can leave their sites at present. We are continuing to assess the situation.’

Outlets impacted by the effective shut down of Russell Hume have found new suppliers. The firms supplied by the firm include: Wetherspoon’s, Jamie’s Italian, Tiger Tiger, Marston’s pubs, and Butlins. 

British supermarket chicken show record levels of antibiotic resistant superbugs.

Food Standards Agency reports ‘significant increase’ of harmful pathogen campylobacter in British-farmed chickens

 Factory farmed chicken

Factory farmed chicken

Chickens for sale in Britain’s supermarkets are showing record levels of superbugs resistant to some of the strongest antibiotics, new research from the government has found.

The results are concerning because resistance to antibiotics among livestock can easily affect resistance among humans, rendering vital medicines ineffective against serious diseases.

The Food Standards Agency, which tested a large sample of fresh whole chickens from retailers, reported “significantly higher proportions” in the last 10 years in instances of campylobacter, a harmful pathogen, that were found to be resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat it.

The agency warned: “This survey provides evidence that campylobacter are to be found on whole fresh chickens sold at retail in the UK. It is therefore important to handle chicken hygienically and cook thoroughly to reduce the risk to public health.”

The FSA has also noted that the proportion of campylobacter-infected chickens which showed resistance to key antibiotics, in this case ciprofloxacin, “has increased significantly” compared with a previous survey of chickens sold at retail 10 years ago. More than 4,000 samples were tested, then samples of smaller numbers exhibiting campylobacter infections retested to detect whether they carried bacteria resistant to the key antibiotics.

While proper hygiene practices and thorough cooking can kill the bugs, any lapses can result in serious infection.