With another year learning and adjusting to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem as though changes to restrictions and public health measures dominated industry news stories in 2021. Key reports and insights released this year, however, paint a picture of the state of food safety in the country, with much to be learned and brought into the new year.
Here are some of the top food safety stories of 2021
1. Food Recalls on the Rise in Australia
According to FSANZ’s latest recall data from 2020, food recalls in the country have increased from an average of 71 to 76 per year. The rise of food recalls is actually a good sign, as it means regulatory oversight, precautionary measures by food businesses and consumer knowledge of food safety is working to protect consumers from food safety risks.
2. New Food Safety Advice for Pregnant Women
Pregnant people are advised to avoid drinking fresh, unpasteurised or “cold pressed” juices as they have a higher chance of causing Listeria, a type of food poisoning, that can then spread to the fetus and placenta. The process of pasteurisation helps to kill harmful bacteria and pathogens.
Read more about food safety advice
3. Covid-19 Measures Reducing Food-borne Illness in Australia
Public health measures implemented to help curb the spread of COVID-19, such as strict cleaning and sanitising processes and proper hand washing, also have an effect on reducing the spread of food-borne illness, according to preliminary data. From January 1 to June 30, 2020, there were noticeable declines in reports of Salmonellosis, Listeria, Campylobacter and the Shiga toxin that produces E. coli (STEC) compared to the same period in 2019.
Read more about Covid-19 Measures
4. Report Shows Increase in Diseases Potentially Transferred by Food
This year’s annual report by OzFoodNet network shows that diseases typically transferred by food, such as Salmonellosis, increased between 2013 and 2015. Nearly half (47 percent) of all food-borne illness outbreaks covered in the report were connected to restaurants.
5. Study Confirms Overall Safety of Australian Food Supply
The 26th Australian Total Diet Study conducted by FSANZ reports that exposure to harmful chemicals known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) through food consumed is low across the country. This confirms that regulations put in place to protect the country’s food supply from harmful chemicals are effective.
Read more about this study
Stories show food safety protocols are working
These stories emphasise the effectiveness of food safety protocols. The implementation of public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 may have helped to decrease the amount of food-borne illness outbreaks, due to stricter cleaning and sanitising procedures and the push for more effective and regular hand washing for both employees and the general public.
Room for improvement in restaurant industry
Meanwhile, data from previous years show that food-borne illness outbreaks were actually increasing — with the restaurant industry connected to almost half of reported incidents. This shows that there is room for food safety improvement in the industry, with workers in all industries:
- staying on top of food safety news and recalls, as well as changes to regulations and restrictions. The Australian Institute of Food Safety (AIFS) monitors food safety news and provides updates that affect food businesses, including changes to COVID-19 restrictions.
- actively working with Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) and regulators to improve their businesses. These authority figures are a great resource to learn the latest in food safety regulations, and they are there to help businesses succeed!
- prioritising food safety training for all employees. AIFS’s nationally recognised Food Safety Courses provide food business workers, owners and operators with comprehensive training that will help them to protect customers from serious food safety incidents.
Be prepared for the new year with comprehensive food safety education and resources from AIFS. To learn more, contact the Australian Institute of Food Safety.