Australia has one of the safest food supplies in the world. However, foodborne illness is an ongoing problem that state, territory and Australian governments are working together to minimise. Each government adopted the national food safety standards as described in the Food Standards Code, The food safety standards focus on measures to reduce the incidence of foodborne illness by specifying the requirements that food businesses need to follow to ensure food sold in Australia is safe to eat.
Food safety standard 3.3.1 “Food Safety Programs for Food Service to Vulnerable Persons” outlines the requirement for food businesses that process or serve food to vulnerable populations to implement a documented and audited food safety program (FSP). In Western Australia this requirement came into force in October 2008.
Vulnerable people are defined within Standard 3.3.1 in terms of the facility in which they are cared for or as clients of a delivered meals organisation.
Child care centres requiring a food safety program include long day care, occasional care and employer-sponsored child care for children up to 4 years of age where the facility is not a private residential dwelling.
What is a food safety program?
The Food Act requires child care centres which prepare and serve food to develop and implement a food safety plan. A food safety plan is defined in Food Safety Standard 3.2.1 as a written document that systematically identifies the risks present in the food handling operations of a food business and provides for the control, monitoring and regular review of those risks in order to ensure food safety.
Your first thought might be that developing a plan may be time consuming, difficult or even just too hard. However there are many free and simple to use guides and templates available on the internet.
As the purpose of a food safety plan is to safeguard children’s health and to protect your centre, utilising a simple plan is well worth the effort. In most instances, a food safety plan comprises three parts and will likely formalise your existing good practices. The first part includes a description of your child care centre and names of the staff that are responsible for food safety.
The second part describes:
- your food handling activities such as food receipt and refrigerator storage,
- what can go wrong and cause injury (biological, chemical incl. allergens, and foreign object food safety hazards)
- how you will prevent or manage the hazards
- what checks and balances you will undertake
- what records you will keep
The third part describes good hygiene practices. These include staff hygiene, training, maintenance and thermometer calibration, cleaning and sanitising programs, pest control procedures, etc.
In other words, your food safety program should document clearly the procedures and practices within your centre (i.e. what you do). Your child care centre will be audited against these procedures and practices.
What you can do to facilitate compliance
- SA Health offers a free food safety plan that you can download and tailor to suit Child Care & Early Learning Centre. The plan is widely used throughout WA.
- Once tailored to suit your business you will need to submit this plan to the local council for a process called verification. This means the council needs to review and approve your food safety plan, however if you have used the above template this process is very straightforward.
- Have your staff complete “I’m alert in Food Safety”. This free training program is available from your local council and is completed online. This training program is widely used and is supported by local government health inspectors throughout Australia.
- Purchase digital thermometers to assist you measure the temperature of food and refrigeration.
- Ensure that food grade sanitiser is available for use.
- Before any audit you will need to commence completing the records outlined in your food safety plan. A reputable auditor will need to see at least 3-6 months of records.
How Food Safety Plus can help
Food Safety Plus provides regulatory food safety auditing services to child care and early learning centres in a positive, engaging approach and seek to build long term professional relationships with our clients. We service over 150 child care centres in metropolitan and regional Western Australia and offer you a great service at very competitive prices.