ACT News


Home-made dishes off menu at school events

NOT content with interfering in fund-raising barbecues, the ACT government's food safety bureaucrats have turned their attention to school fetes, telling parents they cannot sell their homemade quiches any more.

The government has this month enforced bans on a list of popular home-made dishes, telling parents they cannot sell foods it has labelled ''high risk''. That list includes spring rolls, casseroles or any other dishes containing meat or dairy, such as cakes containing custard or cream.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher is yet to announce whether she will adjust regulations on community barbecues after an outpouring of community anger over rules forcing community groups to appoint food safety officers if holding barbecues or food stalls more than five times a year.

ACT Health also has no data on food poisonings at school fund-raising events but earlier this month surprised parents running two stalls at one of the capital's most popular fetes when it blocked them from selling certain dishes they planned to make at home.

It can be revealed a humble quiche lorraine almost undid the well-meaning plans of one of the French stalls at the fete held by French-speaking Telopea Park School because it contained cream.


Health officials can grant or deny temporary food stall applications after asking for a description of menus from stallholders but volunteers say the rules are confusing.

Mother Brigitte Athimon said she was told about the prohibition on homemade quiche - which she said was one of the most popular foods at last year's event - just days before the fete.

After eleventh-hour negotiations the mums were told they could make the quiche in the school canteen but in the end a leash was put on the quiche because they did not have enough time to reorganise their schedule.

''We could have made more money if we'd sold the quiche,'' she said.

''Some Australian people told me it was weird because quiche is famous.''

An ACT Health spokeswoman said dishes that might contain food poisoning bacteria were considered potentially hazardous and included casseroles, rice dishes, quiches, spring rolls and any foods containing meat, dairy or moist cereal products or ingredients.

''ACT Health has never had a strict policing policy on school fetes,'' the spokeswoman said.

''High-risk foods are best left to other occasions where more suitable equipment is available.

''Products that are shelf stable and do not require temperature control are considered low-risk foods.

''Examples of low-risk foods at fetes are cakes, slices, muffins and biscuits that do not contain high-risk food products, such as cream and custard.''

Fete organiser Nicola Smith said

the confusing rules had caused a decline in the number of stalls and added numbers may continue to drop if busy volunteers could no longer cook dishes at home.

''Gone are the days when parents could make a curry and bring it in,'' she said.

''I personally think the way the guidelines were written were a bit lame.

''We were petrified we'd have ACT Health around on the day of the fete after we'd had two stalls declined and it was touch and go three days before the fete.''

Another classic French dish found itself in the crosshairs of food safety regulators when they knocked back a rillette - a French-style pate made with pork or duck and made up of 50 per cent fat - because it contained meat.

Eventually the rillette had to be cooked in the school's kitchen to avoid controversy.

Since the Telopea fete a new document with guidelines for food stalls has been issued, called Food Safety Requirements for Temporary Food Stalls which omits a reference to dishes high in fats, oils and alcohol as being low risk.

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