Soup source sunk


SOUP has become the latest ingredient in the growing recipe of controversy regarding government regulations.

Coffs Ex-Services Club has pulled the plug on supplying day-old soup and pasta sauces to The Soup Place, the Uniting Church charity which provides free midday meals on weekdays to everyone who is in need of a feed.

The Soup Place serves about 300 meals a week.

The food services manager for the Ex-Services Club, Tom Grady, said because of Safe Food regulations, the club had little choice but to cease its daily provision.

He said the club was 'heading towards' Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), a recognised quality control system that tracks food through the handling chain.

He said this meant the club was responsible for all the food it prepared, even after the food left the premises.

As the soup was not collected in a refrigerated vehicle and there was no possible way of controlling what happened to the food after it was handed to Soup Place volunteers, the Club was concerned over possible liability.

Mr Grady said the board of the Ex-Services Club was currently looking at giving the Soup Place a cash donation in lieu of providing the soup.

But while he was reluctant to criticise government regulations, Mr Grady said it was a shame this had to happen

"We really like to support them (the Soup Place)," Mr Grady said.

"I went there for Christmas dinner last year, but Government regulations and Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) compliance are making it harder and harder."

The assistant co-ordinator of the Soup Place, Joan Howlett, said the loss of soup from the Ex-Services Club, which had previously provided all the soup served to diners, would not mean the closure of the Soup Place, as had been rumoured.

But she said it would mean increased costs and more work for the 30 to 40 volunteers, since they now had to buy soup or make it themselves, so more volunteers and donations were urgently needed.

She said volunteers ate the same lunch as the diners and no one had ever had a problem with the food in the 14 years the Soup Place had operated.

The head of Hospitality and Tourism at the Coffs Harbour campus of TAFE, John Woodcock, said Coffs Harbour and other TAFE colleges were still supplying food to charities which fed needy and homeless people and he was not aware of any recent dramatic changes to regulations which would prevent them from doing so.

Mr Woodcock said everyone working in the food industry was now supposed to have knowledge of food safety and handling and complete courses 'but not too many people are doing it'.

"Food poisoning is a growing industry," Mr Woodcock said.

He said the provision of 'doggy bags' of leftovers to diners was now another 'grey area' of controversy in the restaurant industry over whether restaurateurs were responsible if a diner became ill, perhaps after leaving the leftovers in their car for hours before eating them.

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