Food safety newsChoose a topic to find out the latest food safety advice and information.
- E. coli outbreak in France potentially linked to sprouting seeds
- Guidance on avoiding cross-contamination with E. coli O157
- Guidance on handling live oysters at retail and catering outlets
- Water disruption - advice to food business operators
- Salt and pizza project
- Advice for fish and chip shops
- Bean sprouts
- Chicken livers
- Scombrotoxic fish poisoning
Listeriosis a rare, but very serious food borne disease, which can result in death. Listeriosis is caused by the bacterium 'Listeria monocytogenes'.
Listeriosis is commonly linked with chilled ready-to-eat foods and particularly affects the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, including those suffering from cancer, AIDS, alcoholism, cirrhosis, diabetes and pregnant women and newborn infants.
If your business provides food for people in any of these groups, then it is very important that you consider all the risks of listeriosis.
- Download our listeriosis factsheet (Word - 95KB)
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has been notified about an outbreak of E. coli O104 in France potentially linked to sprouting seeds. There is also a potential link to a UK supplier of seeds which the FSA is investigating.
Following further cases of E.coli in France the Food Standards Agency is revising its guidance on the consumption of sprouted seeds such as alfalfa, mung beans (usually known as bean sprouts) and fenugreek. As a precaution the agency is advising that sprouted seeds should only be eaten if they have been cooked thoroughly until steaming hot throughout. They should not be eaten raw.
The FSA also advises that equipment which has been used for sprouting seeds should be cleaned thoroughly after use. You should always wash your hands after handling seeds intended for planting or sprouting.
- Food Standards agency website
- E.coli outbreaks in Germany and France: advice for seed and sprouting seed producers and enforcement officials
- Download the advice on sprouted seeds factsheet (PDF - 110KB)
The Food Standards Agency has issued guidance to clarify the steps that food businesses need to take in order to control the risk of contamination from E. coli O157.
This guidance has been developed in response to the serious outbreaks of E. coli O157 food poisoning in Scotland in 1996 and Wales in 2005 and the recommendations of Professor Hugh Pennington's report into the 2005 outbreak. It's very important that all food businesses are reminded on what they should be doing to protect their customers from E. coli O157 bacteria.
Although E. coli O157 is the key focus of this guidance, the measures outlined will also help in the control of other food poisoning bacteria, such as campylobacter and salmonella.
Your business may already be following the steps contained in the guidance but it is intended to provide reassurance that you're doing everything you can to prevent cross contamination and protect your customers from food poisoning.
The key measures highlighted in the guidance which are required to control E. coli are:
- Identification of separate work areas, surfaces and equipment for raw and ready-to-eat foods.
- Use of separate complex equipment, such as vacuum packing machines, slicers, and mincers for raw and ready-to-eat foods.
- Good personal hygiene by all staff including hand washing carried out using an effective technique. Anti-bacterial gels cannot be used instead of hand washing with soap and water.
- Disinfectants and sanitisers should conform to the British Standards set by BS EN 1276:1997 or BS EN 13697:2001. These products should always be used in accordance with the manufacturers' instructions.
- Download E. coli O157 control of cross-contamination guidance from the Food Standards Agency(PDF - 340 KB)
- Download the Food Standards Agency's E. coli fact sheet (PDF - 140 KB)
- Download question and answers on the Food Standards Agency guidance on controlling the risk of cross-contamination from E.coli O157 (as at 27 May 2011) (PDF - 190KB)
Handling and serving live oysters is different to handling and serving other ready-to-eat foods. So we've provided a short guide to help you to maintain the traceability of your oysters and ensure that they are in the best condition so you can safeguard your customers' health and satisfaction.
- Download our guidance on handling live oysters at retail and catering outlets (Word - 41KB)
An adequate supply of drinkable water is essential to operate a safe food business, particularly if you are preparing or handling open high risk foods. During the recent water shortages, all food businesses must maintain good standards of hygiene, restrict their operations or where necessary, even close.
If there is insufficient running water, it may be possible to put into place temporary measures to alleviate the circumstances:
- It may be possible to bring an alternative source of water into the premises, for examples, containers or bowser or bottled water.
- Use of disposable crockery and cutlery and other utensils may reduce the need for washing up.
- You may need to limit your business to provide only food which you are sure is safe to eat. A retailer with a deli or hot food counter may need to restrict their operation to the supply of pre-packed foods only.
Any food business operator who is unsure or requires specific advice should contact the Food Safety Team on 028 9027 0428.
The Food Standards Agency has carried out a small pilot project with independent and small-chain pizza restaurants to develop a toolkit to help them reduce the amount of salt in their pizzas.
The project worked with 20 restaurants within a small area and looked at the salt content of four popular pizzas: cheese and tomato, pepperoni, ham and pineapple, and meat feast or supreme. The results of this sample led to the development of an information leaflet and a poster to help restaurants reduce salt levels in their pizzas.
- Download the salt in pizza toolkit (PDF - 477KB)
The Food Standards Agency has published an advice leaflet for fish and chip shops as well as any business that fries chips.
It contains simple, practical steps that will help make chips crispier and lower the amount of saturated fat and salt in a portion. These vary from easy ways to look after oil to how to make chips less greasy. Some of the tips might even help your business save money and increase profits.
- Download the tips on chips advice leaflet (PDF - 129KB)
The Food Standards Agency has issued guidance for food businesses handling raw bean sprouts.
They've identified confusion among food businesses on the appropriate handling of raw and cooked bean sprouts. So to promote good food hygiene they've provided guidance on using these products.
There are two types of raw bean sprout:
- 'ready to eat' raw bean sprouts, and
- raw bean sprouts which need to be cooked before eating.
If a business intends to serve raw or lightly cooked bean sprouts they need to make sure that they source and use ready to eat bean sprouts.
Businesses ordering loose raw bean sprouts should always assume they need cooked before consumption, unless they've received instructions from the supplier stating otherwise.
Every delivery of bean sprouts must be checked and 'ready to eat' and 'non-ready to eat' bean sprouts should be marked clearly and stored separately.
'Non-ready to eat' bean sprouts should be stored, handled and processed as raw food to prevent cross-contamination with any 'ready to eat' foods.
Key points to remember
- Don't confuse 'ready to eat' bean sprouts with those that require cooking.
- Bean sprouts categorised as not being 'ready to eat' must be handled as raw foods to prevent cross contamination of ready to eat foods.
- Bean sprouts not labelled 'ready to eat' should be cooked until they're piping hot all the way through. If you're in any doubt as to whether the bean sprouts are 'ready to eat', or in the absence of clear preparation instructions from the supplier, always cook the bean sprouts thoroughly before eating. This includes bean sprouts that are labelled or appear 'pre-washed', but not also described as 'ready to eat'.
- 'Ready to eat' bean sprouts should be handled as such and be protected from cross contamination.
- Where appropriate, the food safety management procedures should identify and address the hazards.
Chicken livers should be handled hygienically and cooked thoroughly when used in products such as pâté or parfait.
This advice follows a number of outbreaks of campylobacter food poisoning linked with chicken liver products where the livers may have been undercooked.
Read more information about chicken livers
Fish should always be refrigerated properly, both in commercial and domestic kitchens.
This advice follows a number of incidents of scombrotoxic fish poisoning over the summer.
Scombrotoxic fish poisoning is linked to eating fish that has not been refrigerated correctly and it occurs in fish from the family that includes tuna, mackerel, and herring.
Read more about scombrotoxic fish poisoning