New Zealand's vibrant and fast-growing food industry is one of the most critical industries in the country. It is responsible for employing hundreds of thousands of people and generates a huge amount of money for our local economy.
If you operate within this sector, it’s important that you take the time to understand your legal and ethical obligations when it comes to preparing, serving or transporting potentially hazardous food.
When consumers purchase food products, whether directly from the supplier, commercial retailer or restaurant/cafe, they do so under the assurance that the goods they are buying are safe and ready for human consumption.
If that assurance is not present, the entire relationship breaks down and the success of your organisation can be compromised. Because of this, it is important that you take the time to read up on food safety legislation and best practice to avoid any unfortunate incidents.
Standard 3.2.2 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (Food Safety Practices and General Requirements) outlines the mandatory requirements that all New Zealand food businesses must comply with when it comes to receiving, storing, processing, handling, and transporting food.
A limited number of food organisations are exempt from these requirements, such as charities and community groups. However, for the most part, any party that sells or handles food in any way is legally obligated to adhere to the practices outlined by the standard.
One of the most important rulings in Standard 3.2.2 is that food organisations need to be aware of potentially hazardous foods and the safe temperature levels at which these goods must be stored.
Potentially hazardous foods
The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) defines “potentially hazardous foods” as foods that “might contain the types of food-poisoning bacteria that need to multiply to large numbers to cause food poisoning” and “will allow the food-poisoning bacteria to multiply” if stored or prepared in certain conditions.
There are many popular food items that fall under this description, such as meat (both raw and cooked), dairy products, seafood, processed fruits and vegetables, cooked eggs and beans, and cooked pasta and rice.
If any food is classified as potentially hazardous it must meet several strict regulations that are designed to ensure the goods remain safe for consumption.
Safe temperature levels
Under Standard 3.2.2, if an organisation is responsible for hazardous food, they must ensure that the food is stored at a temperature either below 5 degrees Celsius or above 60 degrees Celsius.
It is important to keep in mind that the definition of “store” does not only include the transportation or long-term containment of food. A hazardous food product being kept in a container on a benchtop is also considered as being in storage, and therefore must be kept at a safe temperature.
ANZFA also notes that it would be impractical to keep food at this temperature during the actual preparation phase. However, it does stress that food should only be kept at room temperature (between 5-60 degrees Celsius) when necessary. Because of this, preparation time should be minimised as much as possible.
Measuring food temperatures
In order to ensure that hazardous food is kept at a safe temperature, food organisations need specialised tools. The exact tools required will be dependent on where their organisation sits on the overall supply chain.
At the very least, organisations will need to ensure they have access to a reliable and accurate probe thermometer that is able to accurately measure the internal temperature of food. Because food often reaches different external and internal temperatures, taking a surface reading may not always be enough.
Food organisations can also take advantage of data loggers to measure and record the temperature of a room in which food is stored. These records can then be checked to ensure temperatures never reach outside of safe levels.
For more information about measuring and recording food temperatures, get in contact with the team at Testo New Zealand today!