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Lunden J.,University of Helsinki | Vanhanen V.,Food and Environmental Health Unit | Myllymaki T.,Food and Environmental Health Unit | Laamanen E.,Food and Environmental Health Unit | And 2 more authors.
Food Control | Year: 2014

Temperature control of food products in retail food stores (food stores) is essential for food safety. The food business operator (FBO) must ensure that the product temperatures comply with food regulations. This study investigated the temperatures of products in 32 food stores and the relationship between the product temperature with the temperature of the refrigeration equipment (open front) and the temperature settings. The FBOs awareness of the equipment and product temperatures and the equipment temperature settings (temperature setpoint, alarm setpoint, timing for alarm to go off) were also investigated. The food stores represented four nationwide chain-store groups in Finland. The study included four categories of food products namely: fresh fish, minced meat, vacuum packed ready-to-eat processed fish and other ready-to-eat products, all of which are easily perishable products. Vacuum packed fish products and other ready-to-eat products are also sensitive to Listeria monocytogenes contamination. The temperatures of the products (. n=84) and refrigeration equipment (. n=86) were measured by a temperature data logger by the health inspector for 24h.Temperature violations were observed in 50% of the products and 17.9% of the products exceeded the temperature limit by over 3°C for more than 30min. Products that were most often in noncompliance were fresh fish and vacuum packed processed fish products. Temperature violations were observed in food stores in all four chain-store groups and no significant difference between the chain-store groups was observed. The temperature of the equipment as measured by the refrigeration equipment's fixed thermometers differed significantly from the temperatures of the products. Moreover, no significant correlation was found between the equipment temperatures (fixed thermometer) and the products with the exception of minced meat. These results highlight, that the product temperature could not be reliably determined by the equipment's fixed thermometer.There was a lack of awareness of temperature settings in all chain-store groups. Only three stores (9.4%) were aware of all the settings of the inspected equipment. The results show that the FBOs own-check of equipment and product temperatures is not functioning correctly in food stores. This can have serious consequences for food safety. FBOs, equipment manufacturers, monitoring system providers and official food control authorities should take active measures to improve the situation. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. Source

Lunden J.,University of Helsinki | Vanhanen V.,Food and Environmental Health Unit | Kotilainen K.,Food and Environmental Health Unit | Hemminki K.,Food and Environmental Health Unit
Food Control | Year: 2013

Official food control inspects retail food stores (food stores) regularly for compliance with food safety regulations. The health officer (inspector) inspects the food store's own-check (self-verification) and facilities and operations. The own-check inspection is usually performed on-site and includes the examination of own-check documentation. The chain-store groups (grocery multiple retailers) studied have developed an internet based own-check databank for documentation of own-check data for their own use, and also to enable official food control to make inspections via the internet. The chain-stores aim to speed up and possibly decrease the number of on-site inspections made by the official control in food stores. The purpose of this study was to investigate the accuracy and reliability of the own-check databank from the view of official food control.Fourteen food stores that represented three different national chain-store groups in a local municipality in Finland were included in the study. The own-check documentation from a 3-month period with regard to the receiving of products, cleanliness and temperatures of the refrigeration equipment was inspected by the official control via the internet based own-check databank. This was followed by an on-site inspection for comparison. The frequency of non-compliance for cleanliness recorded by the inspector on-site was significantly higher than the frequency of non-compliance recorded in the databank (Fisher's exact test, p<0.05). On-site inspection observed non-compliance in temperatures (aberration >3°C for at least 30min) of refrigeration equipment for minced meat and processed fish products, determined by temperature data logger (24h measurement), in 57.1% (8/14) of the stores. In contrast, no non-compliance regarding those same refrigeration equipment was recorded in the databank during a 3-month period. Discrepancies between the inspection results of cold holding and cleanliness in the databank and the on-site inspections were observed in food stores representing all three chain-store groups.The observed differences between the databank data and the on-site inspections, suggest that the frequency of on-site inspections should not be decreased or substituted by off-site databank inspections. Issues of on-site inspection and off-site databank inspection are discussed. Further, the study revealed serious problems in maintaining and monitoring of the temperature in refrigeration equipment in food stores. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. Source

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