The huge cost of hygiene issues in Australian restaurants has been laid bare in a new report.
Hygiene problems in the restaurant industry cost the Australian economy $1.5 billion a year.
Seventy-seven percent of the 1,257 reported foodborne illnesses and up to 3.2 million cases are linked to prepared foods in foodservices and related retail businesses, according to a report from Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
Restaurants were the main source of outbreaks, 45%, followed by aged care, 8%, commercial catering, 7%, takeaways, 7% and bakeries, 3%.
“Catering businesses have been linked to a large proportion of foodborne illness in Australia and continue to be a significant source of illness,” says FSANZ’s call for submissions document for proposal P1053, released on Monday. .
“This indicates failures in key food handling activities for potentially hazardous foods.”
The cases are estimated to cost the national economy $1.5 billion a year, according to the report.
The revelations come as FSANZ seeks public comment on proposed new food safety management standards for the restaurant sector.
Three specific food safety measures are planned: having a food safety supervisor on staff, training food handlers and ensuring companies can provide evidence to support food safety management.
Businesses will fall into one of three categories, those with high food safety risks will need to apply more food safety measures than those with lower risks.
The measures would be supported by an education campaign for businesses and environmental health workers.
FSANZ Acting CEO Dr Sandra Cuthbert said the proposed changes to the Australia-New Zealand Food Standards Code will help food businesses strengthen safety practices and introduce nationally consistent standards.
“FSANZ considers these requirements to be appropriate and practical, can be easily implemented in the relevant industry and can be sustained over time,” she said.
The approach aims to have the greatest impact on reducing foodborne illness in Australian food settings without unnecessary regulatory burden, she added.
“The majority of companies are doing an excellent job of providing Australians with safe food, but our assessment of food safety management practices in the sector revealed the need for enhanced standards to ensure greater consistency and reduce disease rates. food-borne,” Dr. Cuthbert said.
“The proposed changes will help food companies improve their food safety management practices, deliver safer food to consumers, and build business and consumer confidence.
The FSANZ report noted difficulties in identifying and attributing illness to a particular food, adding that “this is not always achieved”.
But where a specific food could be attributed to an outbreak, raw eggs would be the most responsible for foodborne illness in foodservice and related retail businesses.
Other sources of contamination identified in outbreaks from restaurants, commercial catering or take-out included consumption of contaminated raw produce, improper cleaning of equipment, cross-contamination from raw ingredients, undercooking , food left at room temperature and inadequate refrigeration.
Foodborne illness outbreaks linked to foodservice and retail settings resulted in 9,497 illnesses, 1,914 hospitalizations and 56 reported deaths between 2010 and 2017, according to the report.
FSANZ is calling for public comment on the proposed changes until April 11.