According to Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ),between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2017, FSANZ coordinated 626 recalls. The average number of recalls per year for the last 10 years is 63.
During the last 10 years, undeclared dairy (milk) has been the most common allergen related recall, accounting for 31% of all allergen related recalls. Peanut is the second most common type of allergen-related recalls, accounting for 20% in this category. Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella and E. coli are the three microorganisms most commonly associated with microbial food recalls in Australia.
Dairy products are more commonly recalled due to concerns with process hygiene, indicated through E. coli testing, than other categories of food. Other products commonly recalled for E. coli include fresh sprouts, salads and some processed meat products.
The Food Standards Code specifies limits for Listeria monocytogenes in certain foods in Standard 1.6.1 – Microbiological Limits for Food, including cooked and/or cured meats. Foods that pose the most risk for Listeria infection are ready-to-eat foods that support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes such as meat and dairy products and are stored at refrigeration temperatures for long periods, thereby enabling this Listeria to grow.
With all this information at hand, what should we do to prevent a food recall?
Which foods have to be kept under temperature control?
Potentially hazardous foods must be kept under temperature control.
Which foods are ‘potentially hazardous foods’?
Potentially hazardous foods are foods that might contain food poisoning bacteria and are capable of supporting growth of these bacteria or formation of toxins to levels that are unsafe for consumers, if the foods are not stored at correct temperatures. Toxins are poisonous chemicals produced by some types of bacteria.
The following are examples of potentially hazardous foods:
- raw and cooked meat or foods containing meat, such as casseroles, curries and lasagne;
- dairy products, for example, milk, custard and dairy based desserts;
- seafood (excluding live seafood);
- processed fruits and vegetables, for example, salads;
- cooked rice and pasta;
- foods containing eggs, beans, nuts or other protein rich foods, such as quiche and soy products;
- foods that contain these foods, such as sandwiches and rolls.
When must food be kept under temperature control?
You must ensure that the temperature of potentially hazardous food is either at 5°C or colder or at 60°C or hotter when it is received, displayed, transported or stored. If you want to receive, display, transport or store potentially hazardous food at another temperature, you must be able to show an enforcement officer that you have a safe alternative system in place.
You do not have to keep potentially hazardous food at any specified temperature when you are processing or preparing it because that would be impractical, but you must keep the processing or preparation time as short as possible so that bacteria do not get a chance to multiply to dangerous levels or form toxins.
Above: African Fish Market
Above: British Fish Market
Above: Australian Fish Market
How can a business comply with the temperature control requirements?
The simplest way to meet the requirements is to ensure that potentially hazardous food is received, stored, displayed or transported either very cold (5°C or colder) or very hot (60°C or hotter). Potentially hazardous food should also be cooled and reheated quickly and prepared in as short a time as possible.
If for some reason you do not wish to, or are unable to store, display or transport food at 5°C or colder, or at 60°C or hotter, or meet the cooling and reheating time and temperature requirements, you must be able to show that you have a safe alternative system in place.
The standard specifies the ways in which a food business can demonstrate to an enforcement officer that it is using a safe alternative system. You can use a food safety program, or follow recognised food industry guidelines, or use a system based on sound scientific evidence. More information on requirements here.
Therefore it is crucial for these businesses to go beyond operating an effective cold storage facility, and further into maintaining the temperature for their facility.
The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code - Standard 3.2.3 - Food Premises and Equipment (click here for the full document) outlines that the design and construction of food premises must –
(a) be appropriate for the activities for which the premises are used;
(b) provide adequate space for the activities to be conducted on the food premises and for the fixtures, fittings and equipment used for those activities;
(c) permit the food premises to be effectively cleaned and, if necessary, sanitised; and
(d) to the extent that is practicable –
- exclude dirt, dust, fumes, smoke and other contaminants;
- not permit the entry of pests; and
- not provide harbourage for pests.
The 2013 Australian Food Cold Chain Logistic Guidelines outlines several measures to take in order to control cold store temperatures effectively:
- Minimise air temperature variation by reducing the number of door openings and traffic movement in and out of the cold storage facility
- Install necessary mechanisms to lower temperature as soon as they are increased
- Ensure defrost cycle systems are adequately designed to prevent any product heating up
- Install appropriate trigger alarms to ensure prompt corrective action
- Ensure damaged walls and door seals that could leak cold air out and allow hot ambient air in are promptly repaired
- Ensure optimum stacking patterns and floor layout to facilitate airflow
- Most importantly, conduct regular checks of the facility including compressor, defrost cycle, thermostat, cooling tower equipment, walls and doors to ensure everything is in good working order.
The Simplest Way to Maintain Cold Store Temperature
One of the key aspects of a cold storage facility is the main entry door, as it is the means by which the cool temperature is locked within the room. In addition, the door is potentially the simplest way to maintain cold store temperature, as compared to complex cooling systems or monitoring tools.
Aside from taking the appropriate measures such as minimising door openings or the traffic in and out of the facility, you can control the temperature of your cold storage facility more effectively with the right door.
The Ideal Door for Temperature & Air Transfer Control? - The Rapid Roller Door
The ideal Cold Strage Facility door should have the capability to seal a room properly to maintain the internal cool temperature. When it comes to freezer doorways, where multiple openings per hour reduce effectiveness of insulated doors, yet necessitate exceptional air-tightness; it is necessary to have a door with insulated and heated guides and frames to ensure the room is sealed properly when the door is closed.
It is also crucial for this door to have high-speed operation to close as soon as traffic has entered or left the room. Slow-closing doors allow warm air 'spikes' to enter the cold storage facility and will adversely impact temperature stability, energy costs, and quality of the food stored.
Combining these two features is achieved in what is commonly known as a rapid roller door. It comes with a tight seal and high-speed mechanism to ensure quality is maintained without further maintenance costs. Suitably specified high speed doors will prevent air infiltration to your cold store, freezer or temperature zoned facility to maintain and improve the shelf-life of stored products, ultimately protecting your business from costly temperature loss or gain.
To learn about the rapid door that best suits your cold storage facility, refer to our blog on the key considerations for selecting high-speed doors. Or, to determine the effectiveness of your current warehouse doors, refer to the following checklist.
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