By Dr Lisa Ackerley, BHA Food Safety Adviser
The food industry is constantly coming up with exciting new trends, from mason jars to charcoal coloured food. But these innovations aren’t always safe or comply with food safety standards.
Whilst a meal may look more exciting or presentable, do you really want a mouthful of someone else’s meal mixed with their saliva, and maybe some bacteria or viruses thrown in, with your dinner? Deciding to serve food on items such as wooden boards may require a re-think and some extra steps to consider in your Food Safety Management System (FHMS). For instance, if boards can’t go in the dishwasher to get disinfected, then how can you make sure they are clean and hygienic for the next customer? This needs careful thought, or you could be breaking the law if your boards are not fit for purpose. A bowl of dirty washing up water is not going to do the job – and when boards start to deteriorate and crack, softened food debris can get stuck in the cracks of a broken board – ready for the next person. That’s what I got when I had my pizza served on a board recently!
Restaurants have a legal duty to serve safe, uncontaminated food, from utensils which have been washed hygienically. Recently, a restaurant was prosecuted and fined £50,000 for ignoring EHOs who wanted them to stop serving food on wooden boards, which they said were incapable of being effectively cleaned. Of course it is not just the microbiological aspect that could cause trouble, but splinters of wood, chemical contamination and all manner of hazards could come from unhygienic serving dishes or utensils.
There are now many types of artificial boards, slates and slabs that actually clean up just as well as a plate, so if restaurants want to go off piste, then they can without putting their customers at risk. I’m all for innovation and great presentation of food, but I am put off eating if the means of presentation is dirty and contaminated, and I am sure many customers would feel the same. Further more, the last thing you want is for enforcement action to be taken, or for your food hygiene rating to go down.
Following a recent trip to a Devon restaurant I waited in anticipation – the chef didn’t have a menu – he cooked what he wanted to from what was in the kitchen that day – local ingredients (no food waste)! I thought – this is all going to go horribly wrong when I get the food – it will come on something weird such as a pig’s trough, when lo and behold, my fabulous meal appeared on a…nice clean PLATE!
As for those enamel dishes with chipped edges, don’t get me started!