All canteens have a responsibility to provide safe food. Safe food means that it is prepared, cooked, transported and served in such a way as to retain nutrients, and to minimise bacterial contamination and growth. Handling food poorly can cause food poisoning. It can also reduce the quality of the food being served. In this section you will find everything you need to know on food safety and hygiene in the school canteen. Why is Food Safety so important?
We are surrounded by food every day so it’s easy to forget food can also be potentially very dangerous if it’s not handled, prepared and stored correctly. Bacteria can multiply in food and make us extremely ill for example, more than 5 million Australians are estimated to suffer from food borne illness, better known as food poisoning each year. Children are particularly vulnerable so it’s essential that school canteen staff practice safe food handling and preparation. To ensure the safety of your children, the canteen managers should take some training before starting up their business.
It is the canteen manager who is responsible for ensuring that all food handlers (whether staff or volunteers) are confident and competent to undertake the task required of them. Managers should show food handlers what to do and supervise them until they are comfortable doing the task. Don’t assume they will know what to do. Check first! Canteen managers would benefit from attending an accredited food hygiene training course. Most local colleges will offer courses in food hygiene and safety.
They should look that cover: temperature control, understanding bacteria and how to prevent their growth, cross contamination, personal hygiene and handling chemicals. Many canteens offer induction evenings or training sessions for staff and volunteers at the beginning of each term. While handling potentially hazardous food, school canteens must be particularly careful when handling potentially hazardous foods. Foods to watch out for include raw and cooked meats, dairy products, seafood, unpasteurised juices, ready packed salads and vegetables, cooked rice, pasta and products containing raw eggs.
This does not mean you can’t use them, only that you must be extra careful when preparing, cooking, serving and storing these foods. Schools need to be aware of students who are allergic to certain foods, such as peanuts and peanut products. These foods should be kept separate or even excluded from the menu. Lastly, bench tops and other items should be sanitized. Although cleaning an item removes the dirt and grease from it, but it does not kill the bacteria hiding underneath!
Lastly, we can use either hot water or a bottled chemical sanitiser to santinise the items. The steps that should be taken are, scraping waste off equipment and surfaces into the garbage, washing bench top/item with warm, soapy water (the water should be hot enough for you to need to wear gloves). We can also soak item for at least a minute in very hot water or spray the bench top with a sanitising solution (following the instructions on the label) and lastly, leave to drain, air dry or wipe with paper towels.