Food being served

Food-borne disease outbreaks are on the increase. Globally, thousands of people are affected every year, and 1 in 5 outbreaks implicate the food service industry.

A recent report published by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), confirmed a total of 5,196 food-borne and water-borne outbreaks, 43,183 human cases, 5,946 hospitalisations and 11 deaths in the European Union (EU) alone in 2013.

Among these, 22.2% of outbreaks were associated with restaurants, hotels, cafes, pubs and bars (EFSA Journal 2015; 13(1): 3991).

Despite the different preventative and control measures already in place in the food industry, as well as in catering and food service environments, the number of food-borne disease outbreaks continues to rise, worldwide.

Safety System Failures

Publicly available recall data and the media coverage of outbreaks often point to manufacturers and processors being the primary cause of contaminated foods. However, in many cases food safety system failures are being manifested through breaches of food safety regulations and protocols, post processing e.g. failure to ensure critical procedures (cleaning, separation of raw and cooked meat) are effectively followed, insufficient food safety related records kept, ineffective training, etc.

Human Error

Food handling errors such as inadequate cooking, inappropriate time/temperature controls and cross contamination have also commonly been implicated in food-borne outbreaks. In the USA, the most recently published CDC figures indicate that in the period between 2009-2012, restaurants accounted for almost two-thirds of norovirus outbreaks, and catering or banquet facilities accounted for 17%, implicating food handler intervention in 70% of cases.

The role of infected food handlers in the transmission of food-borne pathogens during food preparation is well established, and is often attributed to a lack of adequate food safety knowledge. The biggest knowledge gaps have been identified in relation to temperature control, sources of food contamination and high-risk foods, making those the basis for further review and improvement in food safety training. However, even when sufficient food safety knowledge has been demonstrated, practices may not be consistent with required standards. Time constraints, lack of resources (e.g. financial, time, supplies, etc.) and behavioural issues, including those related to employee motivation, are often reported as key barriers to ensuring safe food handling practices.

Focus On Safety In Food Service

At the 2016 GFSI Conference, Berlin, on March 3 at 8:00am, SGS will present “Shaping Food Safety Culture in Food Service – Challenges, Opportunities and Key Drivers”. Take the opportunity to hear about the global threat imposed by unsafe practices in both food production and handling by joining the SGS Special Session. We will discuss the key barriers and drivers to compliance behaviours within a food service establishment and explore how a food safety culture can build on the foundations of established food safety management systems and improve performance in the food service industry.

Our speakers will include:

  • Mr Muhammad Ihsanullah, Director of Food Safety & EHS, Rotana, Dubai
  • Dr Angelika Tritscher, Risk Assessment and Management, WHO, Switzerland
  • Dr Joanne Taylor, Training and Research Director, Taylor Shannon International, Dubai

The session will be moderated by Peter Hvidberg, Global Business Manager, Travel & Hospitality, SGS, Switzerland.

Dr Evangelia Komitopoulou, Global Technical Manager for Food, SGS United Kingdom, is an expert food microbiologist. With a career that spans food technical consultancy, trouble-shooting and contract applied research and development, Evangelia is the author and editor of many technical reports and articles.

For further information, please contact:

Dr. Evangelia Komitopoulou
Global Technical Manager for Food
SGS United Kingdom Ltd

Aurélia Resines
Agriculture and Food Marketing Manager
t: +41 22 739 9623

About SGS

SGS is a leading independent third-party service provider offering efficient solutions to help safeguard quality, safety and sustainability throughout all stages of the global food supply chain. SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company and recognised as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 85,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,800 offices and laboratories around the world.