New plan to keep us safe

By John Maslin

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FOOD FORMULA: Red Eye Cafe owner Doug Brett has his food safety plan ready to go.PHOTO/STUART MUNRO
FOOD FORMULA: Red Eye Cafe owner Doug Brett has his food safety plan ready to go.PHOTO/STUART MUNRO

Whanganui food operators are starting to take on new food safety regulations tailored to their specific business.

The changes have been included in the Food Act (2014) and according to Whanganui District Council environmental health officer, Bruce Butters, they represent an "180-degree turn" from the previous inspection regime.

The changes to the new Act focus on making the owner of the food business responsible for educating staff about how to use the food plan and to keep a daily diary to monitor food safety.

"Before inspectors would go to food premises and tell the owners to do this or that and they would have to comply. Now the operators will be responsible for signing off an approved food safety plan that fits their particular operation," he said.

Mr Butters said this meant that the safety plan for a store selling cooked chicken would differ from a corner dairy that didn't.

It does not signal an end to council inspections and these would still happen anywhere from 18 months to three yearly intervals rather than annually.

However, all premises selling food will still have to clearly display their food grading because that was a requirement of the council's bylaws.

Mr Butters said the food plan templates are being provided by the Ministry of Primary Industry and came into effect from March 1 although they will be rolled out during the next three years.

"Each business's plan will be vetted to make sure it's sound and then it will be audited down the track as the Act requires. So there is an programmed regime in place and there will be ongoing audits," he said.

The Whanganui District Council is responsible for about 240 food outlets.

"We're starting with restaurants that have liquor licences and will then move on to the other outlets," Mr Butters said.

The new legislation applies to anyone involved in the selling, making or transportation of food.

Those involved in higher risk activities, like making cheese or preparing meals, will operate under a food control plan, whereas those involved in lower risk activities, such as selling pre-packaged goods or growing vegetables, will operate under a national programme.

The legislation provides an exemption to allow Kiwi traditions such as sausage sizzles, home baking at school fairs and raffles to take place. But people will need to ensure that the food is safe and suitable to eat.

Depending on the business, its food plan will include information such as fridge and cooking temperatures, hygiene, cleaning schedules and training.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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