Safe Food in Community Institutions

YOPI (young, old, pregnant, immunosuppressed) stands for especially vulnerable sections of the population who are prone to getting food-borne infections because their immune system is either impaired or not fully developed yet. It includes children up to the age of 5, the elderly, pregnant women and persons with a weakened immune system. "In institutions such as hospitals, childcare centres, and old people’s homes, catering therefore involves great responsibility for the health of those making use of these services", says Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR). For this reason, the BfR has published a leaflet in German which summarises the recommended measures to be taken by institutions that regularly provide meals for YOPIs.

Mistakes made when selecting and preparing food can have serious consequences for especially vulnerable groups of people. In adverse circumstances, food-borne infections, for example salmonella or listeria, can cause serious health problems and even death. Institutions catering to groups of people therefore carry a special responsibility when selecting and preparing meals. This especially applies to certain medical institutions and nursing homes in which those benefiting from the catering services are very limited in their options to try and prevent a food-borne infection by making responsible menu choices.

In consequence, the BfR has released the leaflet: “Safe Food: Especially Vulnerable Groups in Community Institutions”. This leaflet summarises recommended measures to protect YOPIs from pathogenic germs that can be transmitted through food. The target group are employees responsible for the catering services provided in such institutions. The goal of the information provided by the BfR is to help them comply with the legal requirements.

Food-borne infections are caused by pathogens which are carried into canteen kitchens via raw ingredients or infected personnel. Through a lack of hygiene, the germs can be spread around the kitchen and thus end up in prepared dishes. If the food is not sufficiently heated before it is eaten, germs can survive and thus cause illness.

To protect especially vulnerable groups from food-borne infection, a risk analysis is therefore essential. As part of this analysis, every stage of the process - from planning the menu to serving it - is assessed in terms of its microbial hazards. The BfR leaflet lists the process stages that need special attention in the risk analysis in such catering environments and explains the most important measures that can be taken to minimise the risk.

In addition, kitchen staff play a key role in preventing food-borne infections: on the one hand, because they are responsible for the correct implementation of the control measures within the catering facilities and on the other hand through their personal hygiene. The leaflet therefore also contains advice on personnel training.

The leaflet (in German only) can be downloaded free of charge from the homepage of the BfR (Publikationen) where it can also be ordered via the shopping cart function.

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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