ACT News


Charity barbies under fire

CHARITIES and sporting clubs in the ACT are being forced to turn volunteers into food safety supervisors at barbecues because of a controversial new regulation expected to hurt one of the community's best forms of socialising and fund-raising.

Any organisation selling or handling food more than five times a year must appoint at least one of its members a food safety supervisor who can be trained at a cost of up to $150.

They must be contactable while the barbecue is going or the canteen is operating and be able to communicate with public health officials.

The ACT government introduced the regulation on September 1 and it is harsher than NSW and Victorian regulations and will be monitored during routine inspections.

Already sports clubs are saying the requirement will hurt the way they operate and even a peak business group has criticised the regulation.


ACT and Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew Blyth said he hoped it would be changed to protect community groups.

''Sporting clubs are run by people who volunteer time and they don't need someone in a high-vis vest telling them when to turn the sausages,'' he said.

''These people have been running barbecues for years.

''With the Treasurer [and Sport Minister Andrew Barr] as mad about sport as he is, we hope that he can see these new measures place added burden on our volunteers and need to be reviewed, particularly given that the summer season of sport has commenced.''

The regulation applies to cooked food given away for free as well as sold, according to ACT Health.

The president of the Woden Valley Rams rugby league club, James Gildea, said the new regulation would make it more difficult to find volunteers.

His club opens its canteen during home games more than five times a year and most spectators buy hot food, such as sausage sandwiches.

''Outside of sponsorship it's our biggest form of fund-raising,'' Mr Gildea said. ''The other option is we close the canteen on some days so we're not open more than five times.''

He said the ridiculous amount of red tape working against sporting clubs generally was making it harder.

''For example, we've now got grounds keepers who have to tell spectators to stop smoking and it's putting them in a tough position,'' he said.

Canberra-Belconnen Lions Club president Neil Fitzpatrick, who had been aware of government consultation with some community groups for the past year, said he was unsure of the penalty for not complying but assumed it could mean the offending club might be stripped of its licence to run its 10 to 15 barbecues a year.

The NSW Food Authority's website says it exempts not-for-profit community and charitable causes from the need to have food safety supervisors.

Victoria also allows exemptions for community groups if most of the people selling food are volunteers and the food is sold at events running no longer than two days.

An ACT Health spokeswoman said the supervisors would help recognise, prevent and alleviate potential hazards associated with food handling. But when questioned, she could not provide evidence of anyone getting food poisoning at a community or sporting barbecue.

She said the government was considering options to reduce the impact on community organisations but would not be any more specific.

''Compliance with the requirement for food safety supervisors will be assessed during routine inspections conducted by the Health Protection Service,'' she said.

''The Health Protection Service will take an educative approach in relation to this requirement in its first few months.''

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