SANDWICHES could be packing more than your favourite filling, with those stored incorrectly offering an extra special ingredient – potentially lethal bacteria.
More than a quarter of pre-packed sandwiches included in a food safety study were found to have been kept at temperatures that promote the growth of harmful bacteria which can result in food poisoning.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) tested 948 pre-packed sandwiches from retailers and caterers across the country and discovered that 29% were stored or displayed at temperatures higher than 5C.
Four sandwiches in the study that were classified as potentially hazardous by the FSAI were found to have been stored above 8C, with one sandwich found displayed stored at 17.9C.
For three of these sandwiches there was at least one day remaining until the use-by date expired, which could allow foodborne bacteria such as Listeria monocytogenes to multiply.
According to the FSAI, infection from Listeria monocytogenes can have a mortality rate of up to 40% in infected people.
FSAI chief executive Professor Alan Reilly said that the survey highlighted an unacceptable disregard for temperature control.
“Storing pre-packaged sandwiches at the incorrect temperature can lead to food poisoning. The onus is on retailers and caterers to ensure pre-packaged sandwiches are refrigerated at the recommended temperature.
“Equally important, manufacturers must ensure that accurate and realistic use-by dates are applied to the sandwiches they make.”
Mr Reilly added hospitals and establishments that cater for vulnerable patients and the elderly should be particularly vigilant in monitoring temperature control and use-by dates.
While the study noted a high level of compliance (99%) with the requirement for sandwiches to be labelled with a use-by date, the study also noted the use-by date had expired for a small proportion (1%) of sandwiches collected, and the shelf-life given to some sandwiches may have been too long.
A further 1.3% of the sandwiches were found to have had their shelf-life extended by using modified atmosphere packaging. The oxygen content is reduced by flushing it with carbon dioxide and nitrogen.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved