Hindsight 20/20 # 6 – Keep you hands off our sausage sandwiches

What is it about the humble sausage sandwich that it seems to be the source of such enormous risk – and, it needs to be said, a great deal of criticism – usually against the organisation that has made the decision.

In this Hindsight 20/20 I will look at two such examples where the bastion of the Saturday morning trip to many retail outlets has been unfairly targeted.

The sausage backflip

In 2013 a jurisdiction in Australia announced that any organisation that holds more than five sausage sizzles a year, whether it be a Scout group or St Vinnies or a school, was required to appoint one of its members as a food safety supervisor.

A prospective supervisor had to undertake a special course at a cost of $150 and had to be contactable, by law, if the barbecue was operating.  To ensure that someone was contactable, most of these organisations would then need to have multiple people with the certification.

So the risk?

Contaminated sausages consumed by members of the public.

Now I do not even believe this is a risk to the the government – but, nothing surprises me when it comes to the levels that they will go to protect us through regulation.

It also needs to be noted that this was not in response to an incident in the jurisdiction (or anywhere else in Australia that I can find). So, what was the motivation? I have absolutely no idea.

By way of research, I found the nine foods to be considered most at risk of causing food poisoning:

  • Poultry;
  • Vegetables and leafy greens;
  • Fish and shellfish;
  • Rice;
  • Deli meats (ham, bacon, salami and hot dogs);
  • Unpasteurised dairy products;
  • Eggs;
  • Fruit; and
  • Sprouts

What this means is that, as a vegan, I am at a much higher risk of food poisoning than those eating sausages at a hardware store.

The result of the backlash that came from this decision was swift and loud, to the point where the government removed the requirement the following year. Five years on, still no incidents have occurred, despite not having the food supervisors.

But are we safe from the humble sausage sandwich?

If we are to believe Bunnings – the answer is no.

2018 Bunnings food serving suggestion

Scandal rocked the sausage sandwich earlier this month when (as reported by news.com.au)

Like safety warnings on peanut packets advising they may contain traces of nuts or hot content cautions on coffee cups, modern society’s overly cautious nature has the humble warehouse chain’s iconic fundraiser in its sights.

A new occupational health and safety requirement has shaken up how the quintessentially Australian delicacy of a barbecued sausage in bread is to be constructed.

Specifically, the new rule — which will apply to all stores nationally — tackles the apparent dangers posed by a few bits of fried onion.

“Safety is always our number one priority and we recently introduced a suggestion that onion be placed underneath sausages to help prevent the onion from falling out and creating a slipping hazard,” Bunnings chief operating officer Debbie Poole said.

So the risk in this case is fairly obvious:

At fault/preventable slip, trip and fall in Bunnings store.

So, let’s break this down.

What is the consequence? The reality is that the consequence to Bunnings in such a case is purely financial and would be covered by their public liability insurance policy.  Previous to the announcement that was made regarding the sausage sandwich, someone slipping on an onion was not something that had ever made the news (that I could find) – so a reputation consequence could not be a justification.  The maximum the consequence could be from a corporate perspective would be (in my view) Insignificant or Minor (at worst).

What are the causes?  No doubt, an errant onion could be a cause, however, given that there are no restrictions on taking food or beverages into the Bunnings store (and some of them even sell them in store) the onion is, quite possibly, the least of the causes as most people consume their sausages adjacent to where they purchase it or buy one when leaving.  There are spills in store as products are dropped on the floor.  What about when it rains and people trapse water into the store.

But hang on ….. Bunnings allows people to bring pets in store, so isn’t there a greater possibility that someone could slip on the little gifts left by the pooches within the store than an onion?  If someone brings their dog in whilst eating a sausage and it is raining, these people could be a considerable safety risk to everyone around them.

If it sounds like I am being sarcastic, you would be correct.

It is, after all, a retail business that has tens of thousands of people visit every day.  There is no such thing as zero risk in a store that has concrete floors that are slippery when wet.

So should they just accept the risk and do nothing? I am not saying that.  There needs to be protocols relating to observing slip/trip hazards and for the cordoning off and cleaning of these areas, but a change to how food is prepared – well that is, in my opinion, taking it to a whole new level of risk craziness.

And the result?? Bunnings has been widely criticised and has been the subject of significant ridicule for the over-reaction.

Summary

Please, please, please just stop the madness – the sausage sandwich is not the enemy.

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