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Food safety for vegetarians and vegans

2.5 million Australians are vegetarian, choosing to not eat meat or fish for reasons relating to personal values, religion, or health. An estimated half a million of the population extend beyond removing all animal-derived products from their diets, such as eggs, dairy, and honey. With this increasing number of consumers choosing to opt-out of animal products, restaurants and commercial caters are adapting their menus to include vegetarian and vegan options, or in some cases, offering meat-free menus strictly. It is essential for these businesses responsible for preparing food that they take their customer's diet preferences seriously by following safe and correct food-safe processes.

 Avoiding cross-contamination

In commercial kitchens that also prepare food that isn't vegetarian or vegan, it is important to avoid cross-contamination to respect customers dietary requirements. Cross-contamination can occur as a result of contaminated contact services, equipment, or hands. Implementing strategies such as the use of colour-coded cutting boards (green boards being used only for fruit and vegetables) and precise food labelling is key to avoiding accidental contamination.

High-risk vegetarian and vegan foods

 Several popular plant-based foods are notorious for harbouring bacteria. It is essential to follow the correct preparation and cooking procedures of these foods to ensure that consumers aren't at risk of contracting a potentially deadly case of food poisoning.

  •  Tofu is a high-risk food as it is often served 'raw' or 'pre-cooked', meaning that it is not subjected to the cooking phase's high temperatures that kill bacteria. It is essential to assess tofu before consumption and throw it away if there are any signs of a slimy texture, weird smell, or fermented taste.
  •  Raw sprouts such as alfalfa grow in warm and wet weather, which can result in bacteria growth on the surface. It is best to thoroughly clean sprouts and avoid serving them raw.
  •   Pasteurisation refers to the process in which the product is usually heat processed to kill bacteria. Unpasteurised dairy is illegal to sell in many locations, and juice is just as dangerous.

Washing fruit

The dangers of incorrectly preparing meats and poultry are often ingrained into kitchen staff; however, fruits and vegetables, if not appropriately washed during the preparation stage, can also cause food poisoning among consumers. Bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli are commonly found on the surface of these staples within the vegetarian and vegan diet, along with chemicals such as pesticide and dirt. It is important to wash all produce under cold, running water, especially leafy greens such as lettuce, responsible for most illnesses caused by fresh produce.

Fildes Food Safety offer a range of commercial kitchen supplies ideal for the preparation of vegetarian and vegan meals. These products include food labels indicating food safe for each dietary requirement, and colour coded cutting boards and knives for preparing a range of ingredients safely. Browse the full range of products online at the Fildes Food Safety website.

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