“Groundbreaking” food safety data released in NSW

Posted by James Ferre on 13th July 2009

Around two in every five NSW food retailers routinely inspected by councils in the last six months of last year failed to comply with all critical food handling practices, according to the most comprehensive food safety data ever published in the state.

The report, tabled by the NSW Food Authority, established that the 150 councils in the state combined to initiate 23,352 inspections in the six months to December, 2008.

The report comes after new laws were introduced from July 1, 2008 requiring councils to report half-yearly to the Food Authority on their food regulatory activities such as inspections, complaints investigated and enforcement action. The laws also allowed the naming and shaming of food businesses that breach food safety regulations.

Manly (2%), Bathurst (4%) and Ashfield (5%) were the worst performed regions according to the statistics, with these three the only to record less than ten per cent of businesses with no breaches (of those with over 150 inspections).

It should be noted, however, that many of the breaches do not pose a direct food safety risk, which explains why the number of fines is considerably lower than the number of breaches.

The Food Authority’s Director of Enforcement, Peter Day, said the “groundbreaking” findings should not cause great concern for consumers.

“Consumers should not be alarmed . . . when problems are identified, they are rectified,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “This is the first time we have seen the results of these inspections so we are waiting for the next lot to see how they stack up.”

A spokeswoman for Manly Council suggested that the 2 per cent initial compliance rate was “the result of the very high standards that Manly Council sets” and not an indictment on food retailers in the region.

The complete resuts can be found here.