Hospitals and care facilities across the UK are being warned to up their game when it comes to kitchen hygiene standards, as more pre-prepared food items test positive for deadly bacteria. Watchdogs have issued a nationwide warning to care facilities of all types, regarding pre-packed sandwiches and other snacks that may contain Listeria monocytogenes. When consumed by the sick or elderly, the bacteria can prove fatal.
New guidance has been issued by the Food Standard Agency, targeting all caterers that serve vulnerable individuals with pre-prepared foods and snacks. Foods tainted with Listeria monocytogenes can cause listeriosis, which is one of the biggest killers in the UK in terms of illnesses caused by contaminated foodstuffs.
Worse still, both the bacteria and the disease are known to be on the rise.
"The purpose of the guidance is to provide advice on the legal requirements and includes examples of good practice. It is aimed as those organisations providing ready-to-eat food for vulnerable people, as this group are dis-proportionally affected by listeriosis,” an FSA spokesman explained.
The FSA warned that any pre-prepared foods or snacks are at a particularly high risk of contamination, as they continue to allow the bacteria to grow and develop while stored in the fridge or elsewhere. When food items are stored incorrectly, the risk increases exponentially. It is estimated that somewhere in the region of 15% of all pre-packed sandwiches may contain the listeria bacteria, which can quickly skyrocket to dangerous levels if not stored properly.
In order to minimise the risk of contamination and resulting illness, caterers are being strongly advised to become more proactive and mindful of key food preparation and storage processes. This includes thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables, storing foods only in clean and dry fridges, chilling plates before serving chilled foods and generally pushing hygiene standards to a higher level.
In addition, is has been advised that institutions avoid buying pre-packed foods from general stores and supermarkets in general, given the uncertainty as to how they have been prepared and stored prior to purchase.
Over the past decade, official figures show a 23% spike in the number of listeriosis cases treated annually in the UK.
At KDC, we can help assess your kitchen’s current hygiene standards and set in place an action plan where improvements are required. With our help, you’ll find yourself better able to look after the best interests of both your business and those you serve.