Help – There’s a spider in my broccoli!

Recently, a major supermarket chain withdrew their broccoli across Queensland and New South Wales when a customer found a highly venomous redback spider in their broccoli. This is on the back of another recent incident, where a shopper was frightened to find a large huntsman crawling through her bag of ‘ready to eat’ salad mix.

This would give anyone nightmares – whether you’re an arachnophobe or just really don’t like your vegetables.

The unfortunate reality is that pest contamination does happen, even with trusted food suppliers. Pests can be resilient, difficult to detect and can breed rapidly under the right conditions, causing illness and sometimes even death. This is why your venue should have maintenance and recovery procedures when pests are detected by staff – or even worse – by your customers. The first point of action to control pests in food businesses is to ensure your staff have completed their food safety training to be aware of signs of pests, and understand their duty of care and responsibilities when pests are detected.


Does your kitchen have a Food Safety Supervisor?

It is a must for any licensable food business to have a Food Safety Supervisor available under the Food Act 2006 – which refers to someone who has completed SITXFSA101 Use hygienic practices for food safety (also known as Food Safety Level One) & SITXFSA201 Participate in safe food handling practices (also known as Food Safety Level Two). As best practice, Club Training Australia recommends extending Food Safety Supervisor training to all staff in your venue who are involved preparing, serving or safely receiving food so they can implement procedures for food safety and control food hazards to an industry compliant standard. For a less intensive option – Workplace Hygiene for Food Handlers is a great starting point for basic food safety knowledge and is available 100% online.

Your commitment to minimising pest contamination shouldn’t just end at your kitchen staff however. Should something creepy and crawly be found on the restaurant floor, it is your frontline staff who will need to identify food safety hazards and recover with tact and swiftness.


Do your floor staff know how to recover from a food safety breach?

Beyond just having the potential to cause illness, someone finding an insect in their salad is an awful dining experience for any customer. Being able to deal with customer complaints can be a make or break moment – handled well, this is an opportunity to reassure your patron and rectify a lackluster experience. Fumbling this moment however can turn a bad experience into a disaster. When a complaint is received, our trainers suggest the following:

  • Get your story straight – check with other staff to ensure you have the correct version of events, and listen to your customer’s point of view without issuing blame or becoming defensive.
  • Ask questions to clarify – when unsure, feel confident in asking questions.
  • Try summarising your understanding of the issue back to the customer – this prevents misunderstandings.
  • Nominate one staff member to manage the situation until it is resolved – this minimises potential for miscommunications and will assure your customers their complaint has not been palmed off.
  • Follow up – check back with your patron to ensure they are satisfied with your solution, and assure them of how you will prevent this occurring in future.


Interested in more tips for handling customers, and ensuring food safety? A Certificate IV in Hospitality is an excellent opportunity to advance your hospitality career and could be the pathway for you.