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Ice-Cream Vendors Warned of Food Poisoning Risks

Thursday, 25 May 2006

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today launched a new information booklet targeting those involved in the sale of soft serve ice-cream (i.e. whipped and scoop ice-cream), to highlight the risk of food poisoning that can result from poor hygiene practices in the handling and serving of the product. The booklet, ‘Safe Handling and Serving of Soft Serve Ice-Cream’, will assist retailers to comply with their legal obligations to implement adequate food safety management practices, and therefore, improve the microbiological quality of soft serve ice-cream being consumed. According to the FSAI, poor hygiene practices can increase the risk of food poisoning bacteria in soft serve ice-cream*. Its warning comes at an important time of the year as the summer season begins and retailers prepare for high volume sales of soft serve ice-cream.

While most bacteria are harmless, some can cause foodborne illnesses. The bacteria can be found on and in people’s bodies, on dirty food preparation equipment, in dirty food premises, and in contaminated water. Food handlers with poor hygiene and handling practices can contaminate and spread bacteria to soft serve ice-cream through inadequate hand washing, using dirty machines and equipment, using utensils which have not been cleaned properly before use and using unclean dish cloths or serving cloths. Those particularly at risk of food poisoning are young children, pregnant women, the elderly and the sick. Typical symptoms include nausea/vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pains and headaches.

Dr. Wayne Anderson, Chief Specialist Food Science, FSAI, warned that the dangers of food poisoning and the effects it can have on those high risk groups cannot be underestimated.

"With the summer season fast approaching, consumption levels of soft serve ice-cream will be at their annual peak. It is therefore vital that we advise food handlers and food business owners/managers nationwide to ensure that the necessary food hygiene practices are in place when serving soft serve ice–cream, in order to protect consumer health. We are asking owners and operators of such outlets to abide by the simple and easy to follow information contained in the FSAI booklet and to distribute it to staff so that all recommendations are applied to the business operations".

According to the FSAI, all food businesses have a legal obligation to produce food in a hygienic manner, implement a food safety management system based on the principles of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point), implement a traceability and recall system, and ensure that staff are supervised and instructed in food hygiene matters.

In a bid to improve the microbiological quality and safety of soft serve ice-cream, the FSAI information booklet outlines the following guidelines to those involved in its’ handling or serving:

1) Personal Hygiene – personal hygiene is important in preventing the spread of bacteria. The FSAI recommends that handlers are clean and tidy, wear clean protective clothing, wear hair net/hat to keep hair neat and tidy, keep finger nails short and clean, keep all cuts, sores or grazes covered, do not cough or sneeze around food products, wash hands regularly, wear gloves where necessary, and do not serve ice-cream if they are ill.

2) Good Hygiene Practices – good hygiene practices begin with the positioning of the ice-cream machine and cabinet which should be sited indoors away from direct sunlight, heat and draughts. The food handler must store all ingredients and supplies in the correct location and at the correct temperature. In addition, food handlers must adhere to hygienic guidelines for the preparation and serving of soft ice-cream including following suppliers’ advice on preparing the ice-cream mix, discarding any unused product, not re-freezing ice-cream and not refilling containers.

3) Cleaning – cleaning is a vital activity, as it removes the dirt and food particles which allow bacteria to grow. Cleaning should be carried out at regular intervals and a designated bucket or sink used. In addition to general cleaning, ice-cream machines and all utensils must be sanitised fully and regularly.

The FSAI information booklet ‘Safe Handling and Serving of Soft Serve Ice-Cream’ will be distributed to ice-cream vendors and retailers throughout the country. A copy of the booklet can also can be obtained by contacting the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on 1890 336677 and is available online.

Click here for a copy of ‘Safe Handling and Serving of Soft Serve Ice-Cream’.

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