Food poison risk from a third of sandwiches
Published 30/09/2010 | 05:00
NEARLY a third of pre-packed sandwiches are stored at the wrong temperature -- but 99pc got a clean bill of health for dangerous bacteria.
Storing foodstuffs at temperatures which are too high can provide a fertile breeding ground for potentially lethal bugs.
A new survey by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) tested 948 sandwiches from retailers and caterers across the country.
While 99pc of sandwiches tested were found to be satisfactory -- that is, they were clear of any harmful amount of listeria and other bacteria -- some 29pc were kept at unsuitable temperatures above 5C.
This can lead to food poisoning as higher temperatures can give even tiny amounts of bacteria the opportunity to multiply to dangerous levels.
The FSAI found that four out of every five sandwiches deemed to be unsatisfactory or potentially hazardous were stored above 8C. And one was even displayed unrefrigerated at a balmy 17.9C.
And it noted that some of these sandwiches had at least one day remaining until their use-by-date expired -- allowing even more time for bacteria to grow.
The FSAI said that while cases of listeria infection were rare in Ireland, they had a high mortality rate of up to 40pc. Only small amounts of the bacteria need to be consumed to cause serious infection.
Sandwiches eaten in hospitals have been linked to seven serious outbreaks of listeria poisoning in the UK since 1998, with the most recent of these in Belfast in 2008 when three people died.
In the past, listeria outbreaks have been associated with the types of fillings used in sandwiches, such as deli meats, smoked salmon, coleslaw and soft cheese.
FSAI chief executive Alan Reilly said the survey highlighted an unacceptable disregard for temperature control. "Storing pre-packaged sandwiches at the incorrect temperature can lead to food poisoning.
"The onus is on retailers and caterers to ensure pre-packaged sandwiches are refrigerated at the recommended temperature of 5C or cooler," he said.
"Hospitals and other establishments which cater for vulnerable patients and the elderly should be vigilant in monitoring temperature control and use-by dates."
Manufacturers should also ensure accurate use-by dates are applied, he added.
The survey found that 1pc of sandwiches collected had passed their use-by date, while the shelf-life given for some may also have been too long.