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Eateries ignoring hygiene standards - Breach notices on the rise

Canberra food businesses are flouting basic food safety laws such as installing a wash basin and cleaning the kitchen, according to the territory's chief health officer.

Canberra food businesses are flouting basic food safety laws such as installing a wash basin and cleaning the kitchen, according to the territory's chief health officer. Photo: Supplied

Canberra food businesses are flouting basic food-safety requirements such as installing a  basin for hand washing, and cleaning the kitchen, says the territory’s chief health officer.

The number of improvement notices issued to restaurants, cafes and food stalls in the second half of last year  was more than double  the number for the same period in 2012.

While some of the 163 notices  were for minor infringements, chief health officer Dr Paul Kelly said “we’re still finding significant problems” with general hygiene standards in some premises.

Among the problems were business owners failing to install a basin for hand washing in food-preparation areas.

Others did not maintain clean kitchens or had been caught out not storing food at correct temperatures.

“It’s pretty standard infrastructure that you’d think would just be second nature,” Dr Kelly said.

“It’s cleanliness of the food preparation area.

 “It’s temperature control – things that should remain cold do remain cold, things that are hot remain hot – and storage of food stuffs.

“They’re the sort of things that we look at, in general terms ... and that we are still unfortunately finding issues with.”

Only one prohibition notice for not complying with food-safety standards was issued in the second half of last year.

But 20 per cent of businesses inspected received  an improvement notice, up from 11 per cent in the same period in 2012.

ACT  data show health officials issued an average of 33improvement notices a month between July and November,  compared with 15 a month in the same period the previous year.

The jump was partly the result of a boom in new businesses in the ACT’s hospitality sector, Dr Kelly said.

Officials were also conducting more inspections as part of their routine work, or in response to complaints from the public.

There were 810 inspections in the second half of last year and, at present, there are 2828 registered food businesses in Canberra.

“What we have done in the last couple of years is work much more closely with industry [to] take an educative approach,” Dr Kelly said.

“We’ve completely revised our guidelines and translated them into 13 languages.

“We’re trying ... to work with industry to get them to fix their act by themselves.”

“I think we’ve got a way to go still.’’ he said.

‘‘People who don’t have somewhere to wash their hands in a food-preparation area,  with running water and soap – that sort of thing is still there,” he said.

“Clean the kitchen.

“It’s pretty basic.”

22 comments

  • Maybe its time to name and shame. I think as customers we have the right to know so we are able to make a decision on the risks.

    Commenter
    Q
    Date and time
    January 23, 2014, 9:18AM
    • Absolutely. Why should the public be put at risk? People have died from food poisoning.

      Commenter
      Catherine
      Date and time
      January 23, 2014, 9:40AM
    • After getting food poisoning on several occasions from dodgy food - I now fix my own. Name & shame? Sushi Express almost killed me! And when I tried to contact the company, there was no one in charge as the stuff is made in warehouses and distributed to franchises.....so no one is responsible & no one in charge of it. I'm afraid that's the story of much of our food today.

      Commenter
      chrissy
      Date and time
      January 23, 2014, 10:00AM
    • On the contrary, people dying of food poisoning is the most market-efficient, regulation-minimising way to expose these eateries and close them down due to lack of custom.

      I mean, if you die of food poisoning you're hardly going to be a return customer are you? And if enough people die, the negative publicity will be sufficient to see the business fail.

      Free market efficiency: no nanny-state government regulation required.

      Commenter
      Libertarian-Troll
      Date and time
      January 23, 2014, 10:31AM
    • In the US all food establishments must display the most recent health dept report/inspection of their premises on their front window near the entry door.

      Each report has a rating and outlines any breaches/issues.

      Makes for interesting pre-dinner reading material!

      All restaurants should demand this system here - they will all be proud to display their impeccable health dept reports! Customers will love it!

      Commenter
      yanky doodle
      Location
      dandyland
      Date and time
      January 23, 2014, 5:46PM
  • I am not surprised by the rise in Breach notices, what I am surprised about is that there has not been more outbreaks of food poisoning.

    Most cafes and eateries in the ACT have little idea about food hygiene. Next time go in for a coffee just pause and look at how and where the meals are prepared while you are waiting for the coffee.

    Overflowing uncovered rubbish bins next to food areas, hands not washed, dirty work areas etc etc,and then we have the wearing of gloves. Some workers put on a set of gloves and must wear the same ones all day as they never seem to take them off. I have seen workers handle the money with them on, then handle the food, take out the rubbish bins, clean tables and continue making meals with the same gloves on.

    Commenter
    Tc
    Date and time
    January 23, 2014, 9:30AM
    • This is a national issue and agree with your observations. Many café and even bakery staff belonging to some of the big franchises just don't understand basic food handling procedures. they wear gloves seemingly to protect their hands, not their customers from contamination. I have seen this so often in a bakery near my office as an example where the staff wear gloves, wipe tables, take out umbrellas, handle money, stock shelves and serve bakery products to their customers - all with the same pair of gloves. I would not buy there and reported it to the local council health dept but little seemed to happen. People should observe what staff do in some of these places - they would be horrified.

      Commenter
      dexxter
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      January 23, 2014, 11:07AM
    • Re using gloves, obviously it's a pain for the workers to take their thin plastic gloves on and off, particularly if they are understaffed and under pressure from the number of customers coming through. It might be a useful idea to devise a steriliser in which easy-to-put-on-and-take-off gloves can be put between jobs. Or even put their hands under for a few seconds with their gloves still on.

      Also, I've never noticed staff/public toilets having their handles or metal push-plates cleaned. What's the point of washing your hands in the bathroom, when the first thing you touch is an uncleaned handle? We all know there are some people who do not wash their hands and their germs will be spread when they touch anything. How about devising a self-sanitising handle? It'd take some research to work out how to make it, but maybe have a little heat unit built in which is pulsed every few minutes or so.

      Commenter
      RobP
      Date and time
      January 23, 2014, 11:47AM
  • Unlike other regulated businesses ANYONE can open an eatery. That's a major part of the problem.
    Unlike other trades where industry training is required, at the minimum is a food handlers certificate.
    Many owners cut corners to reduce wage bills, the industry is flooded with competition all after the consumers dollar.
    No excuses though- Clean up your act!

    Commenter
    A country gal
    Date and time
    January 23, 2014, 9:44AM
    • NAME AND SHAME! Why should we patrons be subjected to filth and potential illness? If they can't follow basic hygiene principles, they don't deserve to trade.

      Commenter
      BJ
      Date and time
      January 23, 2014, 10:23AM

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