Displaying Asian Food Safely

Workplace Hygiene ProceduresAsian cuisine has grown in popularity in recent times, not only for its delectable qualities, but for its health benefits also; health conscious and food gurus alike are partial to a fantastic piece of sushi or a good Yum Cha. But like all other food, hygiene and safety come into play. With the complex mix of starch and fresh foods, how do you display these treats safely?

The ambient or cool display of sushi is one of the toughest things to master. Refrigeration would be the obvious choice of display, keeping the fish, cooked proteins and fresh produce in a safe storage environment. However, sushi businesses are sometimes reluctant to refrigerate product, because changes to rice starch can result in a firmer texture and starchy taste.

Businesses often claim there is no risk because the rice is vinegared. However, there are two problems with this theory. When businesses were surveyed, 16% of vinegared rice was found to be above pH 4.6, and in a range where food poisoning bacteria can grow. When the average pH of sushi products was measured, 72% of samples were above 4.6, and clearly not all components of sushi are acidified by the vinegared rice. Sushi is also prepared by hand and has an increased risk of contamination.

In summary, some components of the sushi remain potentially hazardous, as there is evidence of the use of inadequately vinegared rice, and sushi can be contaminated during preparation. Therefore, storage and display in a safe and refrigerated temperature and/or time-controlled environment is the recommended and safest way to display sushi products.

Anecdotally, Asian communities have a tradition of “cook–serve” food service and equate refrigerated products to old or stale food. However, for many Asian specialties, “cook–serve” has been replaced by a longer supply chain that includes centralised processing, overnight (or early morning) delivery and extended display times, often with no temperature control. Even when foods are prepared at the retail premises, if temperature and time controls are lacking, it is not possible to comply with Food Standards Code requirements for display of potentially hazardous foods.

With these kinds of foods potentially containing fresh and perishable goods (such as vegetables, fish, chicken and other meat), the storage of these products must be at a standard that complies with health requirements. Warm foods must be stored at a temperature at or above 60°C, to prevent the multiplication of bacteria. Similarly, cold or cool foods must be stored at temperatures of 5°C or less, in temperature or time-controlled environments.

Food Safety and Workplace Hygiene procedures are especially important with working with Asian foods, as different preparation styles and techniques often result in more handling than that of western foods. Ensuring that the process of preparing and displaying Asian foods is imperative to providing potentially hazardous foods safely. For more information on how to correctly prepare, store and display your Asian food products to a Food Safety and Workplace hygiene standard, visit our website and start your online training course today.