Tips on how to avoid poisoning your hangi guests

A new food safety guide for Maori has its origins in a nasty incident back in 1997, when a GP notified Auckland Healthcare Public Health Protection of a gastroenteritis case.

The patient had attended a hui in Auckland hours before becoming unwell. Public health staff found 63 more people who had been at the hui suffered symptoms of gastroenteritis.

That led (seven years later) to the Food Safety Authority producing a set of food safety practices in preparing and cooking a hangi.

Now the NZFSA has produced a new guide, named Te Kai Manawa Ora, which is said to provide up-to-date advice on food safety.

It has been designed for marae cooks and will be officially launched at Turangawaewae Marae in Ngaruawahia tomorrow.

“Sharing kai is a core element of Maori culture, and the marae is often the centre of this experience,” says Minister for Food Safety Kate Wilkinson.

“This guide aims to help maintain the mana and dignity of marae cooks by providing them with hints and tips for keeping food safe.”

Associate Minister of Maori Affairs Georgina te Heuheu will join Wilkinson for the launch.

As well as covering topics such as how to buy, store, cook and serve food safely, Te Kai Manawa Ora gives food safety tips for some traditional Maori food practices.

This includes gathering puha, watercress and kaimoana, making a hangi and serving recreationally caught meat.

The guide was developed by NZFSA, public health units and Maori health providers.

According to the Minister’s media statement,

It was written in response to requests for more information from whanau, hapu and iwi following the release in 2004 of NZFSA’s Hangi Guide.

Wilkinson has delicately avoided explaining the background to why officials started sniffing into the cooking of kai.

But former Food Safety Minister Annette King said in 2004 the Hangi Guide launched at that time had been developed following an investigation of a 1997 case when 63 people had been affected with foodborne illness at an Auckland hui.

“That particular incident was the catalyst for this guide, but there have been several other recent incidents too. Health protection officers, who have contacted NZFSA since the guide came out, say hangi food has been implicated in other outbreaks, including a salmonella outbreak late last year affecting at least 64 people, including six hospitalized, two with septicaemia and one near death with kidney failure.”

Ms King says: “The cost to those people, and to their families, employers and the country, far outweighs the $20,000 NZFSA spent on developing, launching and promoting the guide.

The food team at Auckland Public Health surveyed the hui participants ater the incident back in 1997, by the way, and identified roast pork as the most likely source of infection.

The home-killed, uninspected pork had been put in a chilly bin without icepacks and driven for five hours from Kaitaia to Auckland, which would have allowed bugs to grow to dangerous levels. The temperature of the meat hadn’t been monitored during cooking so it is not known if the cooking would have killed the bugs.

Lastly, the cooked meat was allowed to sit at room temperature for a couple of hours, again allowing bugs to grow. Along with these process problems there were issues with the supporting systems in the marae kitchen. There were limited systems in place with regards to cleaning and cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods.

Alf suspects the poor buggers who went down with the shits as a consequence weren’t too fussed about preserving the mana and dignity of the marae cooks who had prepared the tucker.

Oh, and he imagines if it happened in a restaurant, matters may well have finished up in court with a hefty fine.

One Response to Tips on how to avoid poisoning your hangi guests

  1. […] on the heels of being reminded how bug-laden pork laid low some 63 guests on an Auckland marae with gastro-enteritis in 1997, Alf is being assured by the pork industry about the safety of their […]

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