Following some serious outbreaks of E.coli 0157 food poisoning, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has developed new guidance detailing the measures that food businesses must take to control the risk of contamination. Bacteria, such as E. coli 0157 cannot be seen by the naked eye and can easily be spread to food without you realising. These bacteria could make customers seriously ill, and can even kill. If your business handles raw food, which could
be contaminated with E. coli 0157, as well as ready to eat food, there will be a greater risk. Raw food, such as meat, fruit and vegetables, that have been in contact with the soil and are not supplied as ready-to-eat, should be handled as
if they are contaminated by E. coli 0157.
This new guidance provides more detail on how food businesses can ensure that they protect their customers from E.coli 0157 bacteria. As with any such guidance, if you follow the steps outlined, they will help in the control of other food poisoning bacteria such as campylobacter and salmonella. It is highly likely that you are already following the steps needed to manage food safety within your business, however this briefing note is designed to re-affirm those key steps needed to prevent cross-contamination and protect customers from food poisoning.
The new guidance will also be used by local authorities when carrying out routine food safety inspections and if businesses are found to not be following the necessary steps, further action could be taken by them.
The management of cross contamination also plays a part in the scoring system used to determine your Food Hygiene Rating (Scores on the Doors). Following the simple measures outlined in this document, along with all the other aspects of managing food safety will provide you with the necessary due diligence.
Who it applies to
The guidance is for any size food business within the UK where both raw food and ready to eat foods are handled, prepared and served.
If followed, the guidance provides compliance with applicable food hygiene legislation contained in Regulation (EC) No 852/2004.
A full copy of the guidance along with the factsheet for businesses, which summarises the guidance are available from the Food Standards Agency website at:-
Summary of steps to take
All food businesses are required to put in place food safety procedures based on the principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point), which include controls to manage cross contamination and the risk associated with E.coli 0157. As a food business operator it is likely that the majority of the following steps are implemented and being followed within your food operation. If there are any steps which are not, ensure that they are incorporated into your day to day food safety operation as soon as possible.
Stop E.coli 0157 spreading
Identification of separate work areas, surfaces and equipment for raw and ready to eat foods is the only certain way of preventing E. coli 0157 contamination.
· Use separate storage and display facilities, including refrigerators and freezers. Where separate units are not provided, the clean areas should be sufficiently separated and clearly identifiable, with raw food stored below ready to eat foods.
· Use separate machinery and equipment, such as vacuum packing machines, slicers and mincers, for raw and ready-to-eat foods. Where this equipment is used for ready to eat food, it should be kept in the designated clean area.
· Separate chopping boards and utensils must be used for raw and ready to eat foods unless cleaned anddisinfected, ideally in a commercial dishwasher between use.
· Packaging materials for ready-to-eat food should be stored in a designated clean area and the outside surfaces of any wrapping materials for ready-to-eat food brought into a clean area must be free from contamination. It may be possible to establish an assurance of cleanliness with your supplier.
· Cash registers and other non-food equipment should not be shared by staff handling ready-to-eat food and staff working in other areas. A single cash register can be used, but staff must ensure their hands and clothing are clean when moving into the designated clean area. Cleaning and disinfection
· If using a dishwasher, water reservoirs should be kept above 80°C for at least 15 seconds. Dishwashers should be cleaned regularly, including the removal of food debris, plastic wrapping and limescale from the water jets, filters and drains.
· Work surfaces and equipment should be cleaned regularly and disinfected between tasks. Single-use, disposable cloths should be used wherever possible. ·
The two-stage process for effective disinfection should be followed:
1. Use a cleaning product to remove visible dirt, food particles and debris, and rinse to remove any residue.
2. Apply disinfectant using the correct dilution and contact time, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and rinse with clean water.
· Sanitisers have both cleaning and disinfection properties in a single product, but the two-stage cleaning and disinfecting process must still be carried out as above to ensure the sanitiser works effectively, that is, to first provide a clean surface and then again to disinfect.
Detergents are products used for general cleaning. These do not have disinfectant properties and, if used on their own, are not capable of destroying harmful bacteria such as E. coli 0157.
Disinfectants are products that are capable of destroying harmful bacteria when applied to visibly clean surfaces at a specified dilution and contact time.
Sanitisers are products that combine a disinfectant and a detergent in a single product. This means that the same product can be used to provide a visibly clean surface and it must be used a second time in order to disinfect the surface.
· Adequate facilities are provided for hand washing and that staff are training in hand washing techniques. It is particularly important to wash hands before touching ready-to-eat food, after going to the toilet, after touching raw meat or surfaces that might have come into contact with staff handling raw food.
· Separate hand washing basins with hot water, liquid soap and drying facilities must be made available.
· Anti-bacterial hand gels should not be used instead of thorough hand washing.
· Keep hands clean to prevent contamination of handles.
· Use tongs and other utensils to handle food