The recent incidents of food contamination with needles in strawberries and other food highlights the importance of safe food handling, particularly for the most vulnerable members of our community.
As we age the efficiency of our immune system, organs and other body systems declines, leaving us increasingly vulnerable to food-borne illnesses or contamination. Some of the main reasons for this include:
• The gastrointestinal tract retains food for a longer period of time, allowing bacteria to grow.
• The liver and kidneys may not properly rid our bodies of foreign bacteria and toxins.
• The stomach may not produce enough acid to reduce the number of bacteria in our intestinal tract, which results in an increased risk of bacterial growth.
• Underlying chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cancer, may also increase a person’s risk of foodborne illness.
Food poisoning in the elderly often results in far more serious consequences including dehydration, improper functioning on the neuromuscular system and death. It also takes more time for elderly people to recover from food poisoning when compared to younger members of the population.
If your organisation provides food to elderly people, you owe it to them to make sure that you are doing everything possible to keep them safe from food-borne illnesses. Your staff need to understand the proper techniques and methods of food procurement, storage, preparation and how and when to serve it correctly so that it is always safe to eat.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is an independent statutory government agency established by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 (FSANZ Act). It is part of the Australian Government’s Health portfolio.
The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code places obligations on Australian businesses to produce food that is safe and suitable to eat. Failure to comply with these standards puts your organisation at risk of sickening or even killing the elderly people you are caring for.
FSANZ’s Standard 3.3.1
FSANZ’s Standard 3.3.1 is a specific part of the Food Standards Code that places additional food safety requirements on businesses that provide food for the most vulnerable members of our society, which includes people receiving care in nursing homes, low care aged care facilities, respite care and same day aged care facilities.
Training Requirements and Types of Food Safety Training
In Australia, the Food Standards Code requires that anyone who works with food must be trained in food safety and most states and territories also require that any business which handles food has a Food Safety Supervisor contactable at all times.
Food Safety Supervisor Training. Food Safety Supervisor certification is nationally recognised and accredited training that must be provided by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO). It is usually delivered as a short course comprising several units of competency. These courses can often be completed online, providing an inexpensive, convenient and effective solution for business owners.
Food Handler Training. Training must be provided for all staff who handle food. Whilst they must be trained in basic food safety, this level of training does not need to be delivered by an RTO and does not need to be accredited. Online courses that cover the basic requirements of food safety provide a very cost-effective way of ensuring that your business is protecting its clients and meeting all legal obligations.
Frontline Care Solutions offer two online courses which enable you to meet the training requirements for basic food handlers or annual refresher training for qualified Food Safety Supervisors.
The Dangers of Noncompliance
Noncompliance can have very serious consequences for your business. If you are found to be noncompliant with any food safety laws you could be fined and/or immediately shut down, either temporarily or permanently, for serious cases of non-compliance. Some states also list offenders on a “Name and Shame” register.
In addition to these serious consequences, if anyone suffers from food poisoning due to negligence in your business, you could also face legal action that could be extremely costly.
Why Aged Care Organisations Need a Food Safety Supervisor
Because elderly people are at increased risk of food-borne illnesses, all aged care providers should have a qualified Food Safety Supervisor on hand to ensure that the facility provides safe and healthy food which has been prepared, stored and served properly, and in accordance with food safety regulations.
With proper training delivered regularly (think annually), your staff will better understand food safety principles and regulations, ensuring that their participation in the food preparation and delivery process results in the lowest possible risk to the vulnerable people they care for.