FSA the questions you asked
Earlier this year we asked the FSA a list of questions compiled from Our FB forum, It was quite a debate with some surprising answers and many chefs wanting further advice and info. It also gave us a great insight into how the FSA works and a chance to form a lasting relationship with them. Here are the questions and answers in their entirety.
1. Chopping Boards
Q.Several issues here. We know of a major events company that only issues white Cutting boards at all of its events. The company has its own Hygiene Officer (ex EHO) and each event is visited by a local EHO before and during each event. The boards are used equally for all types of food except raw meat, yet white cutting boards remain an issue for chefs and this has never been explained. Is there any occasion where multi-use of a single coloured board can be acceptable?
A.There is no requirement in the food hygiene regulations for food businesses to have a colour coding system. It is optional in the catering business to avoid cross-contamination between high risk and lower risk food.
It is important that businesses ensure chopping boards are well maintained, cleaned between use and disinfected between tasks with raw and ready-to-eat food to avoid cross-contamination. Ideally, separate boards should be used when handling raw and ready-to-eat food. In Northern Ireland, we have produced a Q and A for frequently asked questions, which covers chopping boards can be used and how to clean them. Here is the link for your information.
We would always advise and encourage food business operators to work closely with their Local Authority - Environmental Health Department (EHD), who will need to be satisfied with food safety procedures in place.
2. Chopping Boards
Q.Which cutting Boards should always be used for cured meats and fish Information above in question 1 applies. Should black pudding be classified as a “cooked or ready to eat product” and therefore be cut on a yellow board?
A.Black pudding has undergone processing, so strictly it is not a ‘raw’ food.
We recommend food businesses (and consumers) check the manufacturer’s instructions on the packaging for advice on storage, freezing, cooking etc. If there are no storage instructions for black pudding regard it as a raw product.
3. Egg Storage
Q. Is it true that UK eggs are “unwashed” and protected by its own Embryonic membrane and are therefore airtight and do not require refrigeration in professional kitchens, (as in the case of supermarkets)?
A.Eggs should be stored in a cool, dry place, ideally in the fridge, and the storage area should be cleaned regularly. The key safety point is to avoid extreme temperature changes that could lead to condensation on the surface. We would also advise following the manufacturer’s advice on the label/package. UK eggs are unwashed, so any that are too dirty can’t be sold as table eggs, they go off for processing (e.g. liquid egg).
4. Tinned Tuna
Q.Have there been any recent guidelines on the shelf life of opened tinned tuna? Many companies now insist on a 1-day shelf life solely for this product.
A.We would advise following the manufacturer’s advice on the ‘open life’ provided on the labelling/ package of the product. This is because the manufacturers would have carried out their own testing on their food products.
5. Metal scourers
Q.Have Metal scourers been “banned” as some suggest, but are suggested as not being used as part of best practice?
A.We are not aware that metal scourers have been prohibited or that their use is not recommended in best practice. In the food industry, there is no specific reference to the use of metal scourers in food hygiene regulations. The use of scourers is a decision for each individual food business. The food hygiene regulations require all fittings and equipment to be in good order. This includes being repaired and conditioned to minimise any risk of contamination. Therefore, scourers should be properly washed/disinfected after each use. In addition, scourers should be replaced where necessary to minimise any risk of contamination.
6. Fridge Temp checks
Q.Is it statute law that refrigeration checks are written twice daily or is this again part of the Best Practice guidelines?
A.Refrigeration checks are not specifically required by law, but food businesses must hold food at safe temperatures compliant with the law and keep records as necessary. We recommend checking the temperature of chilling equipment at least once a day. We also recommend carrying out opening and closing checks of fridges and freezers at the beginning and at the end of the day. Ultimately the frequency of checks is left to the discretion of each individual catering establishment.
Some equipment will have a digital or display dial to show what temperature it is set at. You can use this to check the temperature of your equipment. If you do this, you should check regularly that the temperature shown on the display/dial is accurate using a fridge thermometer.
Find out more information about chilling food here:
7. Cardboard storage in Fridges
Q.When and where is it acceptable to store cardboard with a refrigerator or freezer. Most companies insist on decantation but
Relent on subjects that are difficult to decant, such as eggs?
A.Some food products are retailed in cardboard packaging and this should be suitable for its intended use, including refrigeration or freezing of the food. This packaging should not contaminate the food or degrade its quality. We would advise following any instructions provided by the manufacturer.
However, food handlers should not place food in cardboard packages if they are not suitable for food use and could contaminate or damage the food. Card or cardboard could stick to a food product if it became wet.
Q.Many employers have not issued guidelines on decanting and storage of products and many local EHO’s seem to be lax on this matter. Are there guidelines in place for the decanting of dried products such as rice, flour, custard etc?
A.There are no specific requirements for decanting food. However, if food businesses decant food we strongly advise them to keep all the key information either on a label or stored on file. This would include durability markings, allergy information and traceability information such as health marks and batch numbers. This would enable the food business to identify the product if there was a problem, for example, if a recall needed to be actioned.
9. Open Condiments
Q.Can there be acceptable conditions for not refrigerating open condiments and pickles or should they always be refrigerated after opening?
A.We advise consumers to follow manufacturers’ instructions on the product’s ‘open life’ when storing products.
Q.Are there any plans to extend the current 14 listed Allergens, if so what may that be?
A.We can confirm there are no current plans to extend the 14 listed allergens.
On the “may contain” Allergen issue. We were led to believe that the guidelines issued in 2016 prevented anyone from using this phrase. However, we still get suppliers and products continuing to label some products like this and Chefs are confused. Can you clarify, please?
The phrase “may contain” is still permitted. May contain is only permitted after a thorough risk assessment and where the risk and presence of allergen contamination cannot be reduced to a safe level. The FSA recommends that “may contain” or “not suitable for” should only be used where the risk of harm is real and probable.
If you are using ingredients with a may contain in a recipe, then consider using a “?” in a menu matrix to mark the unintentional presence of the allergen to provide necessary information for the consumer. They can then make their own decision about whether the food is suitable for them based on their own level of sensitivity to the allergen.