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Sous Vide Food Risks In Aged Care

by Andrew Thomson on March 16, 2021

Expecting unskilled employees to perform high-risk tasks in any business is risky business!

Yet, the practice continues in aged care Kitchen operations.

Here are recent examples:

  • Extending the shelf-life of texture modified food without completing the required safety and systems checks and paperwork. We know food-borne illness related to campylobacter infections persist. These matters were discussed last year in blogs and in several forums.
  • A skills shortage of chefs in aged care has prompted many operations to explore food production alternatives to meet the demands of better meal quality through the purchase of pre-prepared sous vide food products. The untrained cook is expected to ‘finish-off’ the cooking process and present a quality and nutritious plated meal to residents. Box ticked.

The risks….

Sous vide production is full of risk and requires skilled employees following higher standards of food safety.

Anyone who provides food for sale is responsible for its safety says Dr. Douglas Powell a former professor of food safety for 17 years at the universities of Guelph and Kansas State.

Sous vide is French for ‘under vacuum’. It is a processing technique whereby freshly prepared foods are vacuum sealed in individual packages and heated in a temperature-controlled bath for a defined length of time. After cooking, the products are chilled, stored refrigerated, and reheated before consumption. This technique can present some food safety risks which should be identified and controlled. These include the potential for survival and growth of bacteria that can grow under the anaerobic (absence of oxygen) conditions created by the vacuum packaging, e.g., Clostridium botulinum. Proper storage and handling is critical. Potential problems can occur if the food is stored for later eating. When the food is in cold storage, listeria monocytogenes can grow at a temperature well below 5°c degrees.
Source: (NSW Food Authority, Queensland Health, Eija Hyytia-Trees et al) .

Risk management…..

The focus on food safety remains insufficient among senior leaders at aged care facilities engaging in sous vide production says Dr. Powell.

Dr. Powell adds, where is the evidence and risk-based thinking required here and so widely discussed at the royal commission hearings?

Boards of residential aged care and chief executives must ask the hard questions.

Compliance…..

Leaders at all levels need to understand their food law responsibilities.

Food Safety Standard 3.2.1 requires aged care organisations to have an up-to-date food safety management system – a living, breathing document that identifies the food safety hazards associated with the business’s food handling activities and indicates how the business will monitor and control these hazards. It does require regularly reviewing the food safety system to ensure its suitability and adequacy; it must reflect current food production activities and when changes are made.

To manage the food safety hazards with sous vide production methods, it is important to follow validated sous vide time and temperature methods, sourced from up-to-date guidelines and resources as well as using strict hygiene procedures. These standards may challenge food suppliers and aged care operations to achieve full compliance.

The questions remain: Have you received regulatory approval for the sous vide production activities you are engaging in? Did you verify the standards of food safety of food purchased from your food distributor? What other factors influenced your decision to proceed with this activity and was this based on a risk-based approach?

Employee learning…..

When it comes to managing food safety-related risks, it requires a skilled workforce. It is time to allocate financial resources for employee learning programs to provide food handling employees with the skills they urgently need now and in the future.

Learning about food safety concepts and practices should develop an employees’ knowledge and understanding and behaviours with the required critical thinking which enables them to react and make appropriate decisions to food safety issues and executing corrective measures when necessary – a great protection measure for an organisation.

We understand that the success and good reputation of your food operation requires the input of many different components. One of the most important of those is the implementation of sound practices which includes having access to up-to-date information from industry experts.

Final word…..

The safety of your customers must be of paramount importance. So too is brand protection and reputation.

Contact me today to discuss how we can assist your Kitchen operation lift its food safety training to the next level.  

Contact Andrew Thomson on 0422285720 or info@thinkstsolutions.com.au

Image: Sydney Chef John McFadden

Think ST Solutions helps protect and grow new and established foodservice business through innovation and risk reduction strategies.