CFS announces risk assessment study results on microbiological quality of ready-to-eat food sold by vending machine
The Centre for Food Safety (CFS) of the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department today (January 17) announced the results of a recently completed risk assessment study on the microbiological quality of ready-to-eat food sold by vending machine. The overall result was satisfactory.
A spokesman for the CFS said, "In recent years, there have been new food types sold by means of a vending machine that may involve temperature control or simple processing on site. Without proper temperature control and cleaning of processing or dispensing systems in vending machines, microbiological growth and build-up of microorganisms may occur, thereby posing potential microbiological risk in the ready-to-eat foods sold. The CFS therefore conducted a study and collected 120 samples of ready-to-eat foods sold by means of a vending machine for different laboratory analysis to assess the microbiological quality of the relevant foods. The samples included food items requiring hot holding, food items under cold keeping, fresh-squeezed orange juice, beverages, drinking water with no drinking utensil provided, and frozen desserts manufactured by the vending machine."
For microbiological safety, the study results showed that all 102 samples, where testing for foodborne pathogens was applicable, were satisfactory according to the Microbiological Guidelines for Food. The tests included Bacillus cereus count, Clostridium perfringens count, Listeria monocytogenes count, presence or absence of Salmonella spp. in 25g sample, and Staphylococcus aureus and other coagulase-positive staphylococci count. For hygienic quality, results of all 120 samples were satisfactory in terms of the hygienic indicator organism tested. None of the samples were detected with Escherichia coli.
Furthermore, among the 74 samples collected where aerobic colony count (ACC) assessment applied, all were satisfactory in terms of the results of ACC except eight samples of beverages with ACC at borderline levels according to the Microbiological Guidelines for Food. The spokesman explained that ACC is an indicator of quality rather than safety and will not cause food safety concerns. Nevertheless, for the sake of prudence, the CFS has provided advice on food hygiene and relevant improvement measures to the relevant food trade. Follow-up samples from the vending machines of the relevant food trade were collected for testing again of the levels of ACC, and the results of all samples were satisfactory.
The CFS has issued "Guidelines on Food Safety and Hygiene for Vending Industry (www.cfs.gov.hk/english/multimedia/multimedia_pub/files/Guidlines_of_Vending_Machine_e.pdf) with details of the relevant advice on ready-to-eat foods sold by means of a vending machine for reference of the food trade. The spokesman reminded food businesses to take heed of the relevant advice, including handling the ingredients in a hygienic manner during the replenishment of stock to prevent any microbial contamination during the handling process; and reviewing the cleaning procedures of the vending machines to ensure the effectiveness of cleaning and prevent the growth of microorganisms. The trade should also carry out checking, maintenance and replacement of parts of the vending machines regularly.
The spokesman also advised members of the public to check whether the vending machines have the licence/endorsement for the sale of the ready-to-eat foods before purchase. Also, the ready-to-eat foods bought from vending machines should be consumed as soon as possible.
For details of the study results, please visit the CFS's website at www.cfs.gov.hk.
Ends/Tuesday, January 17, 2023