Many Canberra food businesses seem to have little concern for food safety standards; with more than twice the number of improvement notices issued in the last half of 2013 as there were at the end of 2012.
Significant Problems in Many Restaurants
Some of these 163 notices were for minor infringements, but the local chief health officer Dr. Paul Kelly said there were “significant problems” in many of the restaurants, cafes, and food stalls he inspected. He noted that basins for hand washing were not installed in several food preparation areas. He added that many kitchens also failed to meet basic cleanliness standards and follow correct storage procedures.
“It’s pretty standard infrastructure that you’d think would just be second nature,” Dr. Kelly said. “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.”
It’s encouraging that just one Canberra business received a prohibition notice, but 20 percent received an improvement notice, with an average of 33 issued every month between July and November 2013. That’s up from just 15 monthly notices issued on average during the same period in 2012.
Lack of Experience no Excuse for Breaking the Rules
Dr. Kelly says that the influx of infringements may be because many new businesses have recently entered the Australian Capital Territory’s hospitality industry. However, a lack of experience is no excuse for breaking the rules. Dr. Kelly said his department is also conducting more inspections as part of their routine and in response to public complaints, so there are more opportunities for local businesses to be caught out. Starting and operating a food business involves meeting various requirements in order to keep customers safe.
Dr. Kelly said his department is working hard to educate local eateries, but conceded they also need to help themselves.
“We’ve completely revised our guidelines and translated them into 13 languages,” he said. “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.”