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Temperature abuse combined with poor operational practices are the dominant factors in the mishandling of food products which can result in outbreaks of food borne disease. The objective of this work was to determine efficacy of temperature and relative humidity control using recorded data and to assess the food safety management systems in operation in retail outlets in the Republic of Ireland. This study also aims to examine food safety risk to consumers as a result of inadequate temperature control and poor food hygiene practices using microbial analysis and predictive modelling. External air temperature, core temperature and relative humidity of various chilled and frozen food products were recorded at 5 minute intervals over a 7.5 hour period in butcher, delicatessen and supermarket outlets in each county of Ireland, amounting to 85 commercial establishments. A questionnaire was discussed with employees regarding food safety management systems including hygiene protocol and staff training strategies. Microbial analysis was carried out for Staphylococcus aureus and listeria moncyotogenes in three ready-to-eat chilled foods in 10 retail premises in Dublin city centre to investigate food safety practices. Predictive modelling for growth of both pathogens in chilled foods was done using results from the microbial analysis and temperature data recorded during the nationwide survey. Results showed that in 37% of premises surveyed, temperatures in chill cabinets exceeded 5°C. Frozen food was incorrectly stored in 52% of outlets surveyed. Readings for relative humidity were satisfactory in 36% of premises. There was compliance for the 3 elements of HACCP in 51% of outlets surveyed, with temperature control being the element of HACCP with least compliance. Provision of knowledge alone will not lead to changes in attitude and food handling behaviour, and management motivation is critical to the success of hygiene training. Low hygiene standards and poor temperature control detected in retail outlets suggest that there is a potential risk of food borne diseases as a result of consumption of chilled ‘ready-to-eat’ foods.
Garvan, C.:Time-temperature and Relative Humidity Profiles of Chilled and Frozen Foods in Retail Outlets Nationwide, and Evaluation of Related Practices. Masters Thesis. Dublin Institute of Technology, 2007.