Do Local and Prepared Foods Pose Food-Safety Risk?


VERONA, N.Y. — The growing use of local foods in foodservice — including the revival of traditional cooking recipes and methods — is creating a new risk in food safety.

Other changes in the kitchen are also creating safety challenges, including the development of prepared foods for take-away; new cook/holding methods such as sous vide and cook-chill; and an operator-driven effort to extend the local-food season by using various storage techniques. Use of farmer’s market products and ingredients can also pose food-safety challenges.

This news comes from four one-hour workshops held at the American Culinary Federation’s (ACF) 2013 Northeast Regional Conference as part of its Educational Development Series entitled “Food Safety Aspects for Specialized Processes.” ACF members who participated earned credits to various special designations. Presented by Susan M Wallace, executive director of Food Safety, University Office of Culinary Education, Johnson & Wales University, the sessions were sponsored by Pickering, Ont.-based Canada Cutlery Inc. Peter Huebner, Canada Cutlery president, and his daughter, Natalie, hosted the sessions.

The sessions showed that food safety remains a concern in foodservice. “Specialized processes require a variance from the regulatory authorities,” Wallace said. “These include smoking for food preservation rather than flavour enhancement, curing foods, using food additives such as vinegar for food preservation or to render the food non-PHF/TCS (aka potentially hazardous food/time or temperature control for safety). She continued with other areas of concern: “reduced oxygen packaging [ROP]; sous vide and cook-chill.” These food-prep changes require a revised HACCP plan to avoid creating problems in food safety. For example, ROP could attract bacteria that grows in an anaerobic environment such as: clostridium botulinum spores that produce a powerful Neurotozin that can be fatal or Listeria monocytogenes that can grow in prepared foods held at 32˚F (0˚C). Wallace cited examples of food-borne outbreaks caused by chopped garlic in oil, canned on-site cheese sauce opened and left unrefrigerated and on-site carrot juice left unrefrigerated.

ROP (including modified atmosphere packaging or MAP) is used in the packaging of whole and fresh-cut produce, raw meat and poultry for wholesale purposes in foodservice and retail. It helps create a better display and provides portion control but may involve the replacement of oxygen or an increase in the proportion of other gases such as carbon dioxide or nitrogen. As with sous vide and cook-chill, MAP primary food-safety controls are temperature, type of food packaging, shelf life and sanitation.

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