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Food safety and allergies

Food poisoning can be caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, chemicals or poisonous metals. Food that has become contaminated with harmful bacteria does not always taste bad, so it may not be clear that you are consuming tainted food.

Some people have an allergic reaction to certain foods, which can even be triggered by the scent of the food.

Tips

  • Wash your hands before handling food.
  • Wash dishes thoroughly.
  • Advise of any food allergies.

Potential harm

  • Allergies
  • Poisoning

Identified hazards and controls

Eating utensils

Cause

  • Spread of bacteria through food residue on dishes, food and drink containers, cooking pots and microwaves, which have been inadequately washed or cleaned after use.

What workers can do

  • Use a dishwasher if available.
  • If there is no dishwasher, wash dishes thoroughly with dishwashing liquid and warm water.
  • Use clean tea towels and cloths for wiping utensils.

What employers can do

  • Have the dishwasher cleaned, including filters, on a regular basis following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Where there is no dishwasher installed, provide clean washing brushes or cloths and tea towels.
  • Wash tea towels regularly.
  • Carry out regular inspections of the kitchen to check that staff are practising sound hygienic practice.

Dish clothes and tea towels

Cause

  • Using unclean dish cloths and tea towels.

What workers can do

  • Always use clean tea towels and cloths or disposable paper towel when washing or wiping utensils.

What employers can do

  • Wash tea towels regularly.
  • Provide enough dish cloths and tea towels so they can be rotated when laundering becomes necessary.
  • Dispose of dishcloths as necessary.

Food contamination

Cause

  • Contamination by mould and bacteria from food left uncovered or in the refrigerator too long.
  • People failing to wash their hands before preparing food.
  • Incorrect storage of foods in the fridge.

What workers can do

  • Wash your hands before handling food.
  • Be responsible for food that you place in the fridge.
  • Cover food appropriately.
  • Clean up any spillages you make and report any potential hygiene issues.

What employers can do

  • Organise for the refrigerator to be emptied at regular intervals and cleaned.
  • Provide hand cleaner or sanitiser in kitchens.
  • Place signs in kitchen areas and in the toilets to remind workers to wash their hands.

Allergies

Cause

  • People have sensitivities to a variety of triggers. In the kitchen this may be foods such as nuts, shellfish or milk.

What workers can do

  • Advise your employer of any allergy you have that may be triggered in the work environment.
  • Keep any relevant medication with you.
  • Be aware of any allergy other workers may have disclosed to you and avoid bringing those food products into the office.

What employers can do

  • Encourage workers with food allergies, like anaphylaxis, to make the employer and other workers aware of their condition.
  • Implement appropriate exposure prevention measures, like a nut free policy or nut awareness policy, and response procedures, like first aid officers trained to deliver an EpiPen.
  • Make workers aware if they have colleagues with allergies and what precautions or policies are in place, such as placing appropriate signs in kitchens.

Refrigerators

Cause

  • Refrigerator temperature is consistently higher than the recommended temperature for safe food storage.
  • Food is left in refrigerator until mouldy or past its safe ‘use by’ date.

What workers can do

  • Throw out old food or drink in the fridge or report it to the appropriate person or area.
  • Report any defects in the refrigerator to your employer.
  • Ensure that the fridge door closes and seals properly after you use it.

What employers can do

  • Check periodically that the refrigerator temperature complies with requirements for safe storage and, if required, place a thermometer in the fridge.
  • Arrange for refrigerators to be periodically emptied and the inside washed and cleaned in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
Page last reviewed: 09 May 2021

Comcare (Office Safety tool)
GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 29 Jun 2022

https://www.comcare.gov.au/office-safety-tool/spaces/kitchens/food-safety-and-allergies