The March 2020 edition of the Fresh Produce Safety Centre Australia & New Zealand newsletter has just been released!
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Jan Davis writes: Most of us have at some stage come across cheap knock-off copies of expensive brands – Louis Vuitton handbags, Ralph Polo shirts, Rolex watches, Nikes - whatever. Maybe you even succumbed to temptation.
Chinese counterfeiting has been a challenge to many major corporations and fashion houses for decades. However, the copyists have moved on and the latest trend is in faking foods and consumables.
This is proving a nightmare for Australian farmers, agribusinesses and consumers.
Dr Bob Whitaker, PMA: You are probably thinking that is an odd title unless you have been monitoring the Blue Bell ice cream recall in recent weeks. Blue Bell hit the news back in mid-March when they recalled ice cream products from one of their production lines owing to contamination with Listeria monocytogenes (Lm). Flashing forward to the end of April, Blue Bell has recalled all of its products currently in the market made at all of its facilities due to potential contamination with Lm. It turns out that arriving at where this case is today has been the result of a long and complex, multi-state outbreak investigation that may reach back as far as 2010. There are currently 10 people sickened by this incident across four states (Arizona, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas) with three deaths (all in Kansas). All of the victims were elderly and had other underlying health issues and were hospitalized before developing listeriosis.
While this is a tragedy that we can all relate to, you may still be asking, what does this have to do with produce?
The question was posed: Is food safety the weakest link in the foodservice sector? That was the question requiring an answer at the recent PMA A-NZ Fresh Connections Foodservice Forum in May. Is food safety the most critical aspect of foodservice, or are issues like raw material supply, product innovation, packaging, shelf life and logistics, higher priorities?
Sadly, the facts speak for themselves, and food safety has to be right at the top, even if it’s not alone. “From 2007 to 2009, annual OzFoodNet data has consistently indicated that, on average, approximately two-thirds of all reported foodborne illness outbreaks in Australia involved food prepared in retail/food service settings e.g. restaurants, takeaways, commercial caterers, camps, cruise/airline, national franchised fast food restaurants and delicatessens” (Office of Best Practice Regulation 2011). That’s a sobering quote to start with.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has released its risk statement on ready-to-eat (RTE) frozen berries and hepatitis A virus (HAV) following an extensive review of the incident involving Patties Foods. Using an internationally recognised food safety risk assessment approach, FSANZ has concluded that “…hepatitis A virus in RTE berries produced and handled under Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Hygienic Practices (GHP) is not a medium to high risk to public health.”
During grower food safety events we often talk about why having a food safety program is important, how it is critical to have a program to protect your own business, protect your customers and ultimately public health. We talk about emerging science, the importance of foundational food safety programs like sanitation practices and worker hygiene and how to identify and manage potential cross contamination hazards on the farm and packinghouse. After going through this information and basically laying out the why, how and what of food safety; often some brave soul in the audience will raise their hand and ask, “So what score do I need to get in order to pass the audit”? And that’s when the frustration sets in. How did passing an audit become a substitute for actually building a risk-based food safety program?
Richard Bennett: Australia’s grocery buyers have voted food safety as their top factor likely to influence which supermarket retailer they shop at, but only by a very narrow margin. A 2014 survey by Roy Morgan Research of nearly 16,000 shoppers put food safety just ahead of proximity, value, trading hours, even price.