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10 tips for an Effective Food Safety Audit

Food Safety audit

How To Do An Effective Food Safety Audit

There are many benefits of carrying out regular audits, which include; honest self-assessment, giving feedback to management and identifying whether the systems, processes and procedures in place are working and meet the required objectives.  Audits should be proactive rather than reactive, and can identify potential future problems before they occur. Whether you are responsible for internal audits of your food premises, a third party auditor, or verifying HACCP and Food Safety Management Systems, here are some practical tips for carrying out an effective audit.

  1. Identify and ensure the competency of the auditor. The auditor / inspector should be highly knowledgeable and competent in food safety and HACCP (or the specific area which is to be audited). The auditor must be in full agreement about what is to be covered and the standards and set criteria thereof. This applies to internal as well as external audits.
  1. Before carrying out an audit it is essential to plan ahead! It has been said many times: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. Planning is vital to a successful and effective audit. As well as establishing the clear aims and objectives of the inspection, planning should take into account practical things like; the size and complexity of the business, the amount of travelling involved, site restrictions (such as opening times etc.), level of in-house expertise and any language barriers of staff.
  1. Communication is an integral part of carrying out an audit. It is important that the auditor communicates clearly and concisely. Be polite, affable, and professional. Don’t be overly familiar or effusive, but at the same time do not be too serious or austere. When verbally questioning staff and auditees make use of open, leading, and sympathetic questioning techniques. A good auditor will not just check, but will watch, listen, and ask questions. When talking to employees do not become side-tracked or distracted. While some ‘small talk’ is acceptable and sometimes necessary, always stick to the point.
  1. The auditor should be impartial, fair and objective, and act with integrity.
  1. Be methodical and systematic. Carry out the audit in a coherent manner. For example, the auditor should go through what they are auditing in a logical order from the beginning to the end. It’s more than merely being guided through mechanically by the audit checklist! It’s really about linking things together and checking the process meets the procedure, and the corresponding documentation. Always take notes as you go, whether written or on a smartphone, iPad or tablet.
  1. The auditor should take photographs as and when necessary – but only of what is relevant to the audit. What can’t speak can’t lie! Again, best on a smaller device such as an iPad or smartphone, rather than a large camera. We tend to use the iPhone 6s, which are discreet and have a good built in camera.
  1. If an audit is carried out at a busy time – don’t get in the way and definitely do not spend time interviewing people. Most of the time should be spent observing working practices. Also, do not stay longer than necessary. As soon as the objectives have been met you should depart. On the other hand, never leave until you have made sufficient judgement and your outcomes have been achieved.
  1. It is fundamental that auditors keep up to date with latest industry trends, scientific and epidemiological research and information. For example, within the context of a food business, the threat of Campylobacter in raw chicken is a greater problem today than salmonella. Advice may change as understanding increases.
  1. Always write up the audit report in a timely manner. This should be as close to the event as possible. Ensure that you write concisely and clearly. Avoid emotive or ‘flowery’ language. Write as dispassionately as possible. Opinions are fine, as long as they can be substantiated and are pertinent; however, reports should be written on fact and backed up by quantifiable and empirical evidence. Give clear recommendations and prioritised timescales which are practical, measurable, and achievable. Actions which need addressing immediately or within a few days should be dealt with and remedied at the time of visit, following verbal advice. However, it’s still good practice to record this in your report.
  1. When giving recommendations, it is very important that the auditor clearly distinguishes between recommendations based on best practice and legal requirements. Inexperienced auditors often get the two confused!

To learn more about being an effective auditor, contact us , and we’ll also let you have details of the next Level 3 Auditing and Inspection Skills training course that we are running in your area.


Seven Safety Tips for Defrosting Your Turkey this Christmas

thawing the christmas turkey

How To Safely Defrost A Turkey

The build-up to the festive period has begun once more, and with it comes the prospect of lots of good food, family fun, and social gatherings with friends.

Christmas is definitely one of the most wonderful times of the year – so don’t ruin it by giving your guests or yourself food poisoning! Cases of food poisoning tend to significantly rise over the festive period. During this period it is more likely you will be cooking for several generations of people, many of whom would fall into the ‘risk group’ of people who are more susceptible to food poisoning and more likely to die as a result. We must be particularly careful when preparing food for young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and all those people who are immunocompromised.

For the majority of us, turkey will feature heavily on our Christmas menu; but improper or inadequate defrosting of frozen poultry provides a way for pathogenic bacteria to spread, leaving you with a turkey dinner that may look and taste delightful, but containing an invisible risk that can’t be detected by your senses.

There is nothing wrong in using frozen turkey, however, if you are, then it’s essential that you follow these 7 safety guidelines:

  1. Always purchase your turkey from a reputable retailer or supplier.
  1. Always follow the specific defrosting instructions on the label.
  1. Never wash your turkey, either when still frozen or when defrosted, as this can spread harmful bacteria around your kitchen by splashing!
  1. Always plan ahead! When defrosting raw turkey it is always best to thaw in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before it is to be cooked. It’s worth noting that large turkeys (around 25lbs) can take up to 48 hours to defrost. During thawing, ensure that the turkey is covered and placed in a deep container in the bottom of the refrigerator completely separated from other food, particularly ready to eat food. This will prevent blood or juices dripping down onto other food stored in the same fridge. If you don’t have the fridge space to defrost, then find some other very cool but hygienic place. Remember: Cold temperatures slow down the multiplication of pathogens on food.
  1. Always make sure that your turkey is defrosted thoroughly prior to cooking. If not, it will probably lead to uneven cooking which in turn will cause harmful bacteria to survive the cooking process.
  1. Once defrosted, keep the turkey stored in the bottom of your fridge until it is ready to cook. Leaving in the kitchen at room temperature may significantly increase the risk of food poisoning!
  1. You must always wash your hands thoroughly both before and immediately after handling the turkey, ensuring that all surfaces that have come into contact with the raw meat are thoroughly cleaned using a propriety sanitizer.


In recent years, goose has made a comeback on the Christmas menu. If you are using goose instead of turkey this Christmas, the above rules would still apply.


Merry Christmas!

What the Dates Mean on Food

best before date

We frequently receive questions regarding the difference between a ‘use-by’ date and a ‘best-before’ date. Here’s what you need to know:


Use-by dates are predominately found on those perishable foods which usually require chilled storage; this includes fresh meat and fish, dairy products, and ready prepared salads.

Foods which carry a Use-by date must be used (consumed) by the actual date specified on the packaging. Some products can be frozen to extend the life of the product, however, if you are freezing, you must freeze the product within its Use- by date. If you are not freezing, you must never eat a product once the Use-by date has expired. Serving food beyond its Use-by date puts your customers at risk of food poisoning – and you at risk of criminal prosecution!

One very important thing to note: You should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions with regards to the storage, preparation, cooking, or reheating of the product.


Best-before dates are usually found on lower risk products such as those in tins and jars, or foods that have been dried or desiccated. Confectionary with high sugar content, or crisps and savoury snacks which have a high salt content, would be included within this category.

Best-before dates principally apply to the actual quality of the product, rather than to any health risk associated with consuming it. The Best-before date enables the manufacturer of the product to inform the consumer when their product is best eaten. Eating food beyond a Best-before date doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get food poisoning, but rather, the quality of the product may have diminished in terms of its texture, flavour and mouth-feel.

One caveat worth noting is that storage conditions will affect the accuracy of the Best-before date. Therefore it is essential that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding storage conditions.

Use By Once Opened

Certain products that carry a Use-by or Best-before date, may also specify a ‘use by once opened’ date. This means that the product must be consumed once the packaging has been opened, even if the Use-by or Best-before date hasn’t expired.  For example: the label on a jar of mayonnaise may instruct you to store in a refrigerator when opened and use within three weeks. It is imperative that use by when opened dates are strictly adhered to in order to avoid food poisoning.


Listeria Monocytogenes

Illustration depicting a sign with a Listeria concept.

Why is Listeria Monocytogenes Such a Big Deal?

Listeria is a bacterium found in soil, plants, and water, and causes a serious infection known as Listeriosis – a disease that has severe complications that often requires hospitalization. The bacteria can be found in animals like cattle, sheep and goats, and contact with an infected animal, or consumption of contaminated meat, can cause a serious infection in humans.

The Listeria bacteria is common in foods such as smoked fish, meats and cheeses and can also be found in in raw vegetables. Whilst the bacteria can be destroyed by cooking raw meat at temperatures higher than 65 °C., unlike some other types of bacteria, Listeria tend to multiply in cooler temperatures, with the potential for contamination of cooked food that has been packaged – which is why safe food handling should be taken very seriously.

Once the Listeria Monocytogenes bacteria enter the human body it can cause symptoms such as mild flu, fever and gastroenteritis. Most reported cases have been due to consumption of contaminated foods.

Food Handlers need to understand that there is a risk of infection when foods, especially meats, are not cooked properly. High risk food sectors must fully adhere to Food Standards Agency guidelines when processing food that is prone to Listeria contamination and ensure that workers receive rigorous food safety training with constant qualified supervision.

By ensuring very high standards of food hygiene the potential hazard posed by Listeria can be significantly reduced, and this means ensuring there is a properly documented HACCP policy in place with trained and supervised staff.

Prevention is always better than cure so high risk foods should always be avoided by pregnant women, young children, the sick and elderly, and especially those with weakened immune systems as Listeria spreads from cell to cell, attacking the host’s immune system. It has been treated successfully with antibiotics such as penicillin.



The Difference Between a Food Allergy and Food Intolerance

food allergy

Food Allergens: What’s the Difference between an Allergy and Intolerance?Food Intolerance

Some people react negatively to certain foods but does a dichotomy exist between an allergy and intolerance? If you have a food intolerance, it means that once you eat that food, your body cannot properly digest it. Or rather, your digestive system is irritated by that particular food or ingredient. If this is the case, eating that food will usually result in nausea, diarrhoea, cramps, abdominal pain, among other symptoms. Usually, even if you are intolerant to a certain food, you may be able to eat it without much trouble. You can do this by consuming only small amounts of the food, or substituting certain components, such as drinking lactose-free milk, for example, if you have lactose intolerance.

There are various reasons why one might develop an intolerance to a certain food. These include:

  • An absence of the enzyme required to digest a particular food, for instance in the case of lactose intolerance.
  • Toxins that may be present in contaminated food leading to food poisoning.
  • Some food additives that are used in preservation of foods may trigger attacks in sensitive people.
  • There are times when the thought of a particular food may make one feel sick. This psychological factor has however not been fully understood.
  • People with celiac disease react to foods containing gluten in the same way that people with food allergies do.

A food allergy, on the other hand, is a more serious condition. When one is allergic to a particular food or ingredient, their body’s immune system reacts to the presence of that food in the body as it would to an invader. An allergic reaction involving the release of histamine in the body results, leading to breathing problems, tightening of the throat, vomiting, a drop in blood pressure, swelling and even abdominal pain, among others. An allergic reaction can be life-threatening (anaphylaxis) and can be triggered by something as simple as eating microscopic amounts of the food or even inhaling it.

Food intolerance and food allergies usually exhibit similar symptoms, which is why many people confuse the two. If you have a severe food allergy, you should always carry an emergency injectable epinephrine, as well as totally avoid the problem foods at all times.

If you are not sure whether you are allergic or intolerant to particular foods, you should speak to your doctor who will help you clearly determine which of the two categories you belong to. This way, you will always be prepared because if you are truly allergic to a certain food, you should take steps to ensure you do not place yourself in a life-threatening situation.

Louis Pasteur and Food Safety


Louis PasteurWho was Louis Pasteur, and what was his contribution to Food Safety?

When most people hear the name Louis Pasteur mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the pasteurization process that is named after him. The truth is pasteurization is just one of the many things Pasteur gifted the world with. Born in 1822 in France, Pasteur received his early education in Arbois before moving to Paris where he received his doctorate in chemistry in 1847.

At the age of 27, Pasteur was a chemistry professor in Strasbourg, and at the same time he embarked on a study to understand fermentation. Fermentation, a process which involves break down of organic materials, had long been used in the brewing industry even before it was fully understood scientifically.  Pasteur specialized in bacteriology and studied the growth and reproduction in microorganisms. Through his studies, Pasteur further disputed the theory of spontaneous generation which had put forth the theory that living things could develop directly from non-living things.

Pasteur became the first scientist to show that microorganisms were capable of growing in sterilized broth, but only if this broth had been exposed to the reproductive cells of the said microorganisms, leading to the development of the cell theory of the origin of living matter. Pasteur further put forward the theory that although bacteria could grow almost everywhere, their growth and spread could be controlled.

It is from this knowledge that the pasteurization process was born. While continuing his scientific studies in the 1860’s, Pasteur discovered that the reason wine could turn bitter was because certain microbes are able to enter the wine while it was being made. The solution to this was to apply a controlled amount of heat which killed the microbes without tampering with the flavor of the wine. This use of heat to kill microbes and consequently, preserve food, came to be known as pasteurization. Its use extended to milk, beer and food as well.

Pasteur’s discovery of the roots of food and beverage spoilage was revolutionary in contributing to modern day food safety. It is only by correctly identifying the cause of the problem that steps can be taken to ensure elimination of those threats. Indeed, some have referred to Pasteur as the foundation stone of the food safety industry. Currently, all milk sold in stores today is pasteurized, and consumers no longer have to worry about bitter wine.

Many years after Pasteur’s death in 1895, his contributions to the scientific world continue to be felt and appreciated. And for every safe food product that can be attributed to him, we, as consumers, should be extremely grateful.

Genomics and Food Safety


The Future role of Genomics within Food Safety

There is a growing demand for food that is both fresh tasting and quick and easy to prepare; something that is demanded by today’s fast-paced lifestyles. Unfortunately, this type of food carries with it the potential for food poisoning if certain safety procedures are not followed.   Measures must be put in place to ensure that any potentially dangerous bacteria present in food are easily and quickly identified, and then eliminated. Currently, the process of identifying such bacteria is relatively slow and cumbersome, which means that in the event of a food poisoning outbreak it can take some time to identify its source. Thankfully, there is a new technology available to address this particular problem

Genomics will allow scientists to quickly identify the microorganisms present in food products, and observe how these microorganisms respond to the preservation methods applied. Microbial genomics involves comparing the raw product against chips that contain information of thousands of genes belonging to the microorganisms that cause food spoilage. Genomics will in future make it so much easier to prevent food poisoning and quickly identify treatment measures, without using as much energy as is currently needed.

Understanding the genetic make-up of the microorganisms that may be present in food will also help scientists discover how they can use these microorganisms to the advantage of the consumer. In fact, genomics has been identified as one of the top strategic priorities as far as combating food safety issues is concerned; and it is expected that genomic technology will be highly transformational as far as public health microbiology is concerned. Foodborne disease tracking will become much easier once genomics are applied.

Many of the laboratory methods used to test and detect foodborne illnesses are effective, but take too much time and require so many resources, so that by the time the cause is detected, and the treatment offered, it is usually too late. The single fast method offered by whole genome sequencing will simplify this process, and help curtail outbreaks before they become full blown.

What’s more, genomic technology will not only be used in food preservation. Rather, application will extend to all processes where living microorganisms are present. Metabolic engineering, development of risk assessment procedures and even tailoring of novel preservation methods will be facilitated by genomic technology. It will also be possible to use genomics to trace the path travelled by food from the farm to the table, which will ensure there is greater accountability in food supply chain  logistics.


Food Fraud

food fraud

What is Food Fraud?

With the ever widening global food supply chain, food fraud is becoming an increasing problem that is of major concern to suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, and, of course, consumers.

So what exactly is food fraud and why should the public be worried about it? Food fraud refers to any situation where food is tampered with or misrepresented with an intention of deceiving the consumer, with the main goal being to gain financially from such acts. There are many different types of food fraud, and these have been explored at length in scientific journals by various scholars. However, the two main types of food fraud are:

Sale of food that is unfit and has the potential to harm

This type of food fraud includes sale of beef and poultry with unknown origins, recycling of animal by-products with an intention of getting them back into the food chain, and even knowingly selling food products which have exceeded recommended use by, or safe to eat, dates.

Deliberate misrepresentation of food

Substituting products with cheaper alternatives and making false statements about where the food products originated from are some examples of this type of food fraud.

If animals have been stolen and illegally slaughtered, the sale of such meat constitutes food fraud, the same being true for wild game that has been poached.

The deliberate contamination of food for financial gain is worrisome in that it poses serious health risks to the consumer. With chemicals such as melamine and heparin making their way into the food chain there are serious implications for the long-term health of consumers.

Indeed, it will take a lot of vigilance to ensure that tampering of food products is curtailed. With the increasing fragmentation of global food supply chains, it has become much harder to trace the sources of food, which makes it difficult to detect tampering when it occurs. In the recent horse meat scandal for instance, the meat product travelled across several networks in several European countries, undetected.

Considering that the horse meat scandal is just a tip of the iceberg, it is no surprise therefore that consumers, investigators and regulators are anxious to identify any suspicious products that may be passed off as legitimate food products.

Consumers are entitled to the highest standards of food safety and manufacturers need to be completely transparent in disclosing details of where exactly they source their food, and what safeguards they have in place to prevent food fraud.


Safe Low-Temperature and Sous Vide Cooking

optimal cooking temperature

Safe Low-Temperature and Sous Vide Cookingsous vide cooking

Mention “sous vide” and most people will think of food that has been cooked at a very low temperature.  Sous vide cooking involves sealing ingredients in a vacuum pack bag and cooking in a water bath, a combination oven, or indeed any other cooker that can set and hold a target temperature. Essentially, sous vide cooking is about preparing dishes at an optimal cooking temperature; the temperature being sufficiently high enough to eradicate thermo-tolerant pathogens, whilst still being low enough to maximize flavour. Once cooked, the product is usually served immediately, or it can be seared and / or served or stored in a refrigerator (preferably below 3 degrees Celsius). This makes sous vide a flexible option for the busy caterer, as it enables high quality dishes to be prepared and stored in advance of busy service times.

Sous vide cooking has caught the imagination of chefs from all over the world because it is considered one of the best forms of cooking for enhancing the flavour and texture of food. When food is cooked at low temperatures there is minimal moisture loss. Foods, especially meats, become tender and more succulent when prepared at lower temperatures. This style of cooking also has a reputation for enhancing the visual appearance of food as well as its texture.

However, food cooked at low temperatures has the potential to cause food poisoning because there is a risk that pathogens may be able to survive the cooking process; therefore only those chefs who fully understand the risks associated with sous vide, and have received the appropriate food safety training, should engage in it.

Chefs must ensure they take all necessary steps to mitigate the risk of food poisoning, and that includes only using the freshest of ingredients from a reputable and traceable source. They must also be totally familiar with the equipment, temperatures and times to be used in the cooking process, and to have received the correct and sufficient training.

Personal and environmental hygiene is also extremely important in sous vide cooking; food handlers must make sure that they personally are scrupulously clean, as well as the kitchen in which it the food is to be prepared.

To summarise: Sous vide cooking should only be carried out by professionally trained chefs who fully understand this particular cooking technique and the potential food poisoning hazards  associated with it.

If you would like to have your staff professionally trained in sous vide cooking and the food safety training necessary, please contact us today.


The Benefits of the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme

CaterSafe Auditing

The Benefits of the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme

Have you checked the hygiene rating of your favourite restaurant or food outlet lately? You may be in for an unpleasant surprise when you do!

Most consumers will judge the hygiene standards of a restaurant merely based on appearances; if the premises and staff appear to be clean they will assume the food is safe to eat. However, the National Food Hygiene Rating gives the consumer a much more accurate picture of how well the business meets the required standards by checking-out those areas of the business that the customer can’t see. By knowing the rating of a restaurant in advance of reserving a table you may decide to switch to one that has higher standards.

By maintaining good food hygiene standards, and consequently achieving a high rating, businesses are able to offer the best to their consumers and also remain competitive. The rating scheme is run by local authorities who conduct inspections to ensure that the businesses operating in the food industry have met all the requirements. The information they obtain is then published on the Food Standards Agency website.

The rating is normally applicable to those places where people eat out, e.g. restaurants, cafes, hotels, pubs, as well as institutions like hospitals and schools. You may also find some shops and supermarkets that sell certain types of foodstuffs included within the food hygiene rating scheme.

Before a rating is given, a food safety officer visits the businesses premises to conduct an inspection. The officer will check not just how the food is served to customers, but the entire process from delivery of the food from the wholesaler right through storage, preparation, cooking and disposal of waste. An inspection will also be done to assess the structure and suitability of the building in which food is stored, prepared, and cooked. The officer will pay particular attention to provision of hand washing facilities for staff, fridges and freezers for storing food, as well as lighting and ventilation in food preparation areas. The officer will also want to see evidence of a well-documented food safety management system specific to that particular business.

When the food safety officer’s visit is completed, and they are satisfied the business is in compliance with the law, and standards are being maintained to protect the consumer from deadly foodborne illnesses, they will be given an appropriate rating. The business will then be subject to further regular inspections to ensure standards are not only being maintained, but improved upon.

The food hygiene rating scheme not only allows consumers to keep track of their local food businesses, but is a motivating factor for proprietors and managers to maintain high standards of hygiene. The introduction of this scheme has really helped to enhance the provision of safer food for the nation.



Protecting Your Customers from Campylobacter

Campylobacter in chicken

Protecting Your Customers from Campylobacter

Food poisoning is a major cause of concern in the UK.  When bacteria, viruses or parasites are present in food, they cause diarrhoea, vomiting and other serious illnesses that can sometimes turn out to be fatal.  Currently the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK is that of Campylobacter; and is therefore a very real cause for concern. It’s currently estimated that Campylobacter causes around 100 fatalities each year and is believed to cost the UK economy a whopping £900 Million! The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have estimated that around 28,000 people in the UK fell ill to Campylobacter in 2014.

The Campylobacter bacteria is particularly prevalent in raw meat, especially in raw poultry; not surprisingly there have been a number of cases in which poultry farms have been identified as being the source of a food poisoning outbreak. Research shows that almost 65% of chicken sold in UK’s butcheries and supermarkets are contaminated with Campylobacter. This has been such a huge problem that the Food Standards Agency were driven to order new tests to be conducted on UK farms.

Contamination usually occurs when chicken are reared in cramped conditions. Some poultry farmers will do this in order to maximize production, but this intense farming method actually enhances the spread of bacteria from flock to flock. A single infected bird can infect the entire flock, so farmers need to be very diligent and act immediately it is identified.

Whilst the bacteria rarely cause symptoms in animals, it can prove seriously detrimental to human health once consumed; therefore animal health is absolutely foundational to food safety in humans.

There are some measures that can be taken to make chicken less vulnerable to Campylobacter. However, most farmers are unable to conduct a thorough enough cleaning programme because of the associated costs which would inevitably have to be passed on to an increasingly price sensitive consumer, who has become used to cheap chicken.

Who is at risk of Campylobacter? Put simply; all of your customers are! But especially those whose immune systems are weaker, or impaired. These include young children, pregnant women, the elderly, those who are convalescing after an illness.

In the Kitchen: Practical ways to protect your customers from Campylobacter.

One really important control measure is to be sure only to purchase poultry from reputable and approved suppliers. Once Poultry has been delivered, ensure that it is stored correctly; covered and placed in a deep container in the bottom of the refrigerator. By doing this, you will significantly reduce the risk of blood or juices dripping onto high-risk, ready-to-eat foods. However, it is best practice to have a separate fridge solely for the storage of raw meat and poultry. The same levels of segregation apply to frozen poultry.

Prior to cooking, it’s vital that poultry is not washed – as this can spread the bacteria around the kitchen by splashing! When dealing with frozen poultry, always plan ahead, and ensure that it is fully defrosted before cooking. When defrosting poultry, or any raw meat for that matter, it’s always best to thaw in the refrigerator 24 hours before it’s required.

During preparation, it’s essential that you thoroughly clean and disinfect all work surfaces, chopping boards and utensils ‘as you go’. Cleaning is absolutely fundamental to food safety, as is frequent and effective hand washing, but especially after handling raw poultry.

Most of the bacteria present in raw foods, can be eliminated by thorough and effective cooking, the same applies to Campylobacter. Making sure that chicken and other poultry is properly cooked before consumption will help to eliminate Campylobacter in raw meat.


Seven Steps to a Successful Barbecue

how to barbeque safely

How To Have A Successful Barbecue5535263327_90c48b90c6_o

Summer is upon us once again, and with it comes the prospect of family fun and social gatherings around the barbecue; there’s something very special about long lazy summer days and the smoky flavour of barbecued meat eaten in the company of friends.

Whilst barbeque parties are great social occasions, don’t ruin them by giving your guests food poisoning! In the UK, cases of food poisoning rise significantly over the summer months; many of which can be directly attributed to poor food safety practices on the BBQ.

Far too many happy gatherings are spoilt by the unpleasant consequences of food that has been stored at the wrong temperature, handled by people with unwashed hands, and not cooked sufficiently long enough, at a high enough temperate, to eliminate potentially hazardous bacteria. Often the person responsible for cooking at a BBQ has never received any training in food safety; therefore the potential for a serious food poisoning incident to occur is very high.

We recommend you strictly observe the following 7 points if you want to keep your guests safe and happy and yourself stress-free, when you host your next BBQ.

  1. Plan ahead – make sure the BBQ, which has probably not been used for several months, is given a through clean and safety check. Light the BBQ well in advance of the time you will begin cooking. Charcoal should be glowing hot – it can take about an hour from the time of lighting the fire to reach ideal cooking temperature.
  2.  Don’t wash raw meat – all this does is splash bacteria around the sink, taps and work surfaces that need to be kept completely free from contamination.
  3.  Store raw meat covered, in appropriate containers at the bottom of the fridge until needed for cooking.
  4.  Pre-cook the meat in your kitchen oven before finishing off on the BBQ.
  5.  Food waiting to be cooked should be stored in a cool box with a lid to prevent contamination by insects or pets.
  6.  Keep cooked and raw foods separate, and always use separate tongs and utensils to prevent cross contamination.
  7.  Wash hands thoroughly between tasks, but especially after handling raw meat. Keep your food preparation area scrupulously clean and free from discarded food at all times. Keep children well away from the BBQ, as well as those adults not involved with the cooking.

Happy barbecuing!

Learn how to safely prepare, cook, and serve food this summer with a CaterSafe online course: https://catersafeconsultants.co.uk/food-safety-haccp-training/hygiene-online

Seven Common Reasons for a Low Food Hygiene Rating!

CaterSafe Auditing

Seven Common Reasons for a Low Food Hygiene Rating!

hygiene ratingFollowing on from my comments on BBC West Midlands in November and my radio interview with BBC Coventry and Warwickshire on the 17th June 2015; I thought it would be a good idea to remind people of the most common reasons why food businesses fail to achieve a ‘good’ or ‘very good’ food hygiene rating. I was invited onto the breakfast show to give some insight into why a wide range of eateries in the Coventry and Warwickshire area, have only attained a food hygiene rating of “1” from the Local Authority – with some premises awarded “0” out of a possible “5”.

Every food business, whether it be a large supermarket, a branded restaurant chain or a small proprietor run café, have the potential to be awarded the Food Standards Agency maximum food hygiene rating of 5 (very good). The maximum rating demonstrates to your customers that you not only value their custom, but you’re working hard to ensure the highest possible standards of food safety and that food purchased from your premises won’t make them unwell.

The food safety officer inspecting a business will work out and award an overall Food Hygiene Rating based across three different areas, which are:


  1. How hygienically the food is handled – how food is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored.


  1. The condition, layout and structure of the building- including the cleanliness, lighting, ventilation as well as other facilities and amenities.


  1. Confidence in management – how effectively the business manages food safety.

Unfortunately, although many businesses have the potential to be awarded a very good rating, they don’t actually achieve it because of a failure to develop, implement, and adhere to some very straightforward procedures. Based on our experience, these are the seven most common reasons why businesses fail to achieve a very good food hygiene rating:


  1. No documented food safety management system in place. (Whilst the premises may not be dirty, there’s no documented evidence that food safety is being taken seriously. Remember: If it’s not written down, there’s no proof!)


  1. Failure to actively and diligently manage an existing food safety system. (Documentation and monitoring records such as fridge/freezer temperatures etc. must be filled in regularly and in a timely manner. Depending on the type of business, this will require records to be completed several times each day.)


  1. Lack of knowledge. (A failure to keep abreast of current legislation may result in a food safety management system that is no longer “fit for purpose”.)


  1. Business operators viewing food safety as an ‘optional extra’. (During the course of a busy and pressurised day, when customer numbers are high, there may be a temptation to serve food quickly rather than safely.)


  1. Lack of staff training. (Many food service businesses employ additional staff during the summer but fail to provide them with adequate training. Some small business operators working on narrow margins are often tempted to view training for casual or seasonal staff as a waste of money.)


  1. Poor hygiene habits of food handlers. (Even where food safety training has been delivered, management may fail to ensure staff actually adhere to it!)


  1. Poor cleaning practices due to poor structure and layout of the premises. (Food businesses by law should have adequate lighting, ventilation, drainage and a dependable supply of hot and cold potable water, with separate sinks for hand washing and food preparation. Poorly laid out or difficult to access areas, such as behind ovens and freezers, may result in staff failing to clean effectively, which can result in a build-up of dangerous levels of bacteria and an infestation of pests.)


If you would like help implementing a food safety management system for your business, or help in achieving the Food Standards Agency maximum food hygiene rating, contact Sam Turner at CaterSafe Consultants: https://catersafeconsultants.co.uk/contact-us