If you’re thinking of emulating Jamie Oliver and serving up your food ‘on a board’ you may want to think again!
Unfortunately there are risks associated with jazzing up the décor. Ibrahim’s Grill & Steakhouse in Birmingham experienced this when a food borne illness allegedly contaminated the food served up on wooden boards to 14 customers. This resulted in improvement notices and fines of £50,000 ($86,000) being imposed for failing to comply with food safety requirements.
The wooden boards were incapable of being hygienically cleaned due to charcoal stains and surface cracks where debris could possibly accumulate.
Clause 20 of Standard 3.2.2. – Food Safety Practices and General Requirements of the Food Standards Code, requires all food businesses in Australia to ensure that equipment, such as eating and drinking utensils and food contact surfaces of equipment, are clean and sanitised whenever in contact with food or immediately before use.
A clean and sanitary condition means that the surface or utensil is clean and has had heat or chemicals applied to it, or other processes, so that the number of micro‑organisms on the surface or utensil has been reduced to a level that:
- does not compromise the safety of the food with which it may come into contact; and
- does not permit the transmission of infectious diseases.
All food businesses are required to ensure that any utensils or equipment used to prepare and serve food are able to be easily and effectively cleaned and, if necessary, sanitised if there is a likelihood they will cause food contamination.
Where possible, food contact surfaces should be impervious, smooth and free of cracks, chips, ridges or grooves that could impair cleaning (and impose a risk of harbouring pathogenic micro‑organisms and transferring them to food). Some factors to consider are listed below.
- It is recognised that some surfaces will not be able to be completely smooth, free from ridges and grooves because of their required function.
- Unsealed surfaces of timber, earthenware and stone may not be able to be easily and effectively cleaned and sanitised, and so generally are not recommended for purposes such as preparing or serving food. However, food contact surfaces made of hard, closed‑grained wood that is well maintained is generally suitable. Any surfaces could be used for display purposes if the food on display is not for consumption (in this case there is no likelihood of surface causing food contamination).
- Food packaging and storage containers should not be reused unless they have surfaces that are designed for, and capable of, being cleaned and, if necessary, sanitised to prevent cross‑contamination between uses.
It is an offence not to comply with the Food Standards Act under food safety legislation in all states and territories in Australia. The penalties are significant for non-compliance. For example in NSW a breach of 21(1) of the Food Act 2003 can result in fines of up to $275,000 for corporations and up to $55,000 for individuals.
This case is therefore a timely reminder to all businesses to ensure that the utensils and other equipment being used to serve food, no matter how stylish or fashionable still needs to comply with the requirements of the Food Standards Code to avoid food borne illness outbreaks, enforcement action and significant fines.