Punch

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Changed on: 19.01.2016

Hygiene in Mulled Wine and Punch Mugs

Official Austrian food inspections also examine items such as punch or mulled wine mugs. When such mugs come into the laboratory for testing, they are examined for visual damage such as chips or cracks and for dirt. Moreover, the mugs undergo microbiological tests for bacteria, viruses and moulds.

The range of microbiological tests includes the assessment of the total amount of bacteria, the verification of hygiene indicators such as Escherichia coli and staphylococcus and evidence of noroviruses.

The punch and mulled wine mugs examined in recent years have not produced any complaints based on hygiene deficiencies. Staphylococcus and noroviruses could not be found on any of the mugs examined.

Official Austrian food inspections also examine items such as punch or mulled wine mugs. When such mugs come into the laboratory for testing, they are examined for visual damage such as chips or cracks and for dirt. Moreover, the mugs undergo microbiological tests for bacteria, viruses and moulds.

The range of microbiological tests includes the assessment of the total amount of bacteria, the verification of hygiene indicators such as Escherichia coli and staphylococcus and evidence of noroviruses.

The punch and mulled wine mugs examined in recent years have not produced any complaints based on hygiene deficiencies. Staphylococcus and noroviruses could not be found on any of the mugs examined.


Inspection of Local Mulled Wine and Punch Stands

Inspection of Local Mulled Wine and Punch Stands
Mulled wine and punch are usually served at more than 70°C. Any potential bacteria or viruses in the mugs are mostly killed at these temperatures. However, bacteria or viruses could still survive around the rim of the mug or cup used. Thus, it is essential to ensure how the mugs are cleaned.

Stands selling mulled wine and punch are obliged to use dishwashers that ensure the mugs are always cleaned at the right temperature and with fresh water. Operators of larger stalls usually use their own dishwashers – smaller stands often rely on central dishwashing facilities. If neither is present, the operators are urged to use disposable cups. According to information from the food control administration, washing the mugs by hand is not acceptable during inspections. Unfortunately, it is impossible to exclude the possibility that the prescribed hygiene standards are neglected in individual cases, e.g. during peak times.

The mugs and cups taken to the lab are assessed subject to Regulation (EC) No. 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs, which states that any items that get into contact with food must be cleaned thoroughly and must be made and maintained in a manner to keep the risk of contamination to a minimum. Cleaning and disinfection must be carried out as many times and in such an efficient way that there is no risk of contamination.

Conclusion

It can be said that if you experience a headache after an extensive visit to a Christmas market, it is not unlikely that you might have had one or two punches etc. too many. You already have a blood alcohol level of 0.5 ‰ after two mugs of punch.

The present test results give no reason to worry about contact with pathogens when drinking mulled wine and/or punch. Interviews with staff members of the food control authority showed that stand operators are very much aware of the hygiene standards required.

If you still have any doubts, you can always bring your own mug or take "your" mug from one stand to the next.

Microbiological Examination of Punch

E. Coli

The evidence of E. coli points to contamination with faeces. This might be caused by insufficient hand hygiene or if no warm water and soap are available.

Coagulase positive Staphylococcus / Noroviruses

Coagulase positive staphylococcus or noroviruses may result in diarrhoea and vomiting, often in combination with headaches. In the case of noroviruses, it is believed that 10 to 100 viruses may already cause infections. Additionally, noroviruses are very stable in the environment and can remain infectious for several days once they have adhered to an item.

Herpes viruses

There should be almost no risk in catching a herpes virus (“cold sore virus”), which is much less stable in the environment and can be deactivated by cold cleaning and a cleaning agent, as opposed to noroviruses.


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