CFS announces risk assessment study results on microbiological quality of sandwiches
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (September 16) announced the results of a recently completed risk assessment study on the microbiological quality of sandwiches. All samples were compliant with the CFS's microbiological food safety criteria for pathogenic bacteria (i.e. Salmonella spp. and Listeria monocytogenes and Staphylococcus aureus). The overall result was satisfactory.
A spokesman for the CFS said, "Sandwiches are considered potentially hazardous foods because pathogenic bacteria may be present in some common ingredients such as eggs, salad dressing, sliced deli meats and raw vegetables. Moreover, sandwiches may be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria from human skin because sandwich preparation often involves manual handling of ready-to-eat ingredients. The CFS therefore conducted a study and collected from different retail outlets 100 sandwich samples containing high-risk ingredients (eggs, cheeses, hams, fresh produce, etc). The microbiological quality of the sandwich samples was assessed against the criteria stipulated in Microbiological Guidelines for Food."
The study results showed that all samples were compliant with the microbiological food safety criteria for pathogenic bacteria. Only one scrambled egg sandwich sample was found to have an excessive total bacterial count (TBC), which might be the result of improper practices. The CFS has provided advice on hygiene to the food premises concerned, and instructed it to implement improvement measures. A follow-up sample was taken later on and the TBC result was satisfactory. The spokesman explained that TBC is not a food safety indicator, but a quality indicator, and excessive TBC will not cause food safety concerns.
The spokesman reminded food businesses to implement proper time and temperature controls when manufacturing sandwiches to prevent the growth of bacteria and to ensure food safety. Food handlers should observe good personal and environmental hygienic practices to minimise the chance of cross contaminations and the growth of bacteria. Moreover, food businesses should also provide sufficient ongoing food safety/hygiene training to their food handlers, as well as correct and appropriate information about their products to consumers for the safe handling of sandwiches.
The CFS has issued "Sandwiches - Food Safety Guidelines for Food Businesses" (www.cfs.gov.hk/english/multimedia/multimedia_pub/files/sandwiches.pdf) for the reference of the trade.
Members of the public are also reminded to take heed of the following recommendations to ensure the food safety of sandwiches:
- Consume sandwiches as soon as possible after purchase;
- For pre-packaged sandwiches, follow the storage instructions on the packaging carefully and consume them before the use-by date; and
- High-risk groups, including pregnant women, young children, the elderly, immunocompromised persons, and persons taking antibiotics and antacids, are advised not to consume sandwiches with raw or undercooked ingredients, including undercooked scrambled eggs.
The study is available on the CFS's website at www.cfs.gov.hk.
Ends/Friday, September 16, 2022