Food safety officers’ worst NZ finds

Bay of Plenty food safety officers share what's behind eateries doors. Photo/Carolyn Robertson.

Tummy bugs, foreign objects and poor food-handling hygiene - the results of bad food safety can quite literally turn the stomach.

To avoid this, those serving food in the Bay of Plenty must work to food safety regulations and rules. It is up to local councils to make sure they follow the Food Act.

Inspections have only two outcomes - acceptable or unacceptable.

Timeframes for inspections vary on the type of business and previous inspections.

Corrective action may be needed, and a food safety officer will check, but where several issues are found or unresolved, an “unacceptable” outcome may be given. A corrective plan is put in place and checked after the given time to complete it is over.

When food safety or suitability is threatened, premises can be closed or restricted. Officers have the power to give fines and improvement notices and compliance orders can be issued by a district court to compel business operators to take action.

Local Democracy Reporting asked, under an official information request, what local councils found at eateries for the year ending October 17.

Whakatāne District Council

There are 226 registered sites in the Whakatāne council's patch, and it visited 149 of them to check compliance with food rules.
Forty resulted in an unacceptable outcome. All were since resolved.

Reasons came under five categories: Confidence in management; food safety behaviour; process control; environmental control and compliance history.

If issues are found, verification of the site is paused until they are corrected. When the site is checked again, officers can issue an improvement notice. If the problems are not fixed after this, a body corporate can be fined up to $300,000 and an individual $50,000.

Whakatāne District Council found 40 of its 149 verifications were unacceptable. Photo / Laura Smith.

Notices can be lifted after corrective changes are made and confirmed.

All food safety complaints are investigated and range from foreign objects in food, undercooked food and poor food handling. Eight were investigated and resolved.

Rotorua Lakes Council

Rotorua’s council investigated seven food complaints which covered foreign bodies in food and gastrointestinal complaints.

It gave 13 unacceptable outcomes and visited 150 places of a total 503 needing inspection in the area, which varied in frequency.

Rotorua Lakes Council shares what food safety officers have investigated. Photo / Felix Desmarais.

Most of the unacceptable outcomes for template food control plans were given because of a lack of record-keeping.

Others were for unacceptable cleaning and sanitising, storage and stock rotation, and time and temperature control.

Each of the 13 businesses was given corrective action requests and needed to show evidence the issue was corrected.

No businesses had registrations suspended or cancelled.

Tauranga City Council

There are 969 food businesses registered with the Tauranga City Council, most needing inspections.

Of the 601 verifications undertaken, 31 were assigned an unacceptable outcome.

There was a range of food businesses, most of them cafes, restaurants and takeaways serving ready-to-eat food.

A lack of good cleaning and sanitising practices was the most common reason for non-compliance or non-conforming results, followed by training of staff.

The council followed up on 52 food complaints. Six resulted in referrals to other agencies and 46 in food safety investigations.

Of the 46 investigations, 18 complaints were unable to be proven or substantiated.

Twenty-eight resulted in enforcement action, which involved education, warning letters, one improvement notice and one voluntary disposal of food.

Complaints generally included alleged food poisonings, cleanliness, covering food, dirty toilets or yards, hand washing, allergens, food handling and pests.

Twenty-two of the businesses given an unacceptable outcome resolved the issues, three have new operators, two are ongoing and four businesses closed.

* This response covered the last financial year and up to October 17, 2023.

Kawerau District Council

The Kawerau council has 35 places to visit and 21 were investigated over the period requested.

Five received an unacceptable outcome.

Issues ranged from kitchens needing a deep clean, missing cooking temperature records, no hot water, and incorrect temperatures in coolers.

Kawerau District Council staff made 21 food safety inspections. Photo / Mike Scott.

In one case, one item in a fridge at one inspection was 27C, another 35C and other items 7C.

Of the five, one is still being resolved.

Ōpōtiki District Council

There were 57 inspections in Ōpōtiki, out of a total 75 requiring them in various timeframes.

Nine received an unacceptable outcome. All were resolved.

Issues contributing to these included mouse droppings at several premises, as well as similar issues as listed by other councils.

One worksite had a child with fish allergens, yet seafood was stored on the fridge’s top shelf and dripped on to vegetables below.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council

There are 323 premises needing visits in the Western Bay of Plenty district in different timeframes and its council completed 227.

Of these, 37 received unacceptable verification outcomes.

Some of these issues were raised due to a lack of documentation and record keeping, managing unsafe and unsuitable food, and cleaning and sanitising.

All issues have since been resolved.

Officers received and investigated 18 complaints.

Most of these were for concerns raised by members of the public about premises’ hygiene.

* This response covered the last financial year and up to October 17, 2023.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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