Interview on Proper Food

Sylvia Wadding is the woman who created Enlitened, a service which analyses the calorie count of menus for restaurants.

Simon Harris is our current minister for health and he has promised/ threatened to publish legislation that forces restaurants to calculate and declare the calories in their menu. And guess what, Sylvia Wadding has the solution! She created Enlitened, a service which analyses the calorie count of menus for restaurants.

Most chefs around me are not happy at all with having to spend time trying to calculate calories but if push comes to shove, Sylvia Wadding will be in a great place to help them.

I’m talking to women in the food industry. How did your career path bring you here?

I graduated with a BSC in Food Science & Technology from DIT in 2007. I always had a love of food, from my earliest memories of baking with my mother to always reading the back of packs, and wanting to find out more about the ingredients, and their function in food and more about the nutritional makeup. I love food! Cooking it, eating it, talking about it, working with the producers, it is such an integral part of all our cultures, apart from it being necessary to survive. From DIT I worked in the food industry for 12 years in Quality/Food Safety & Compliance roles, and New Product Development. where I worked to implement and control quality standards, create new products, and worked on nutritional improvement projects. I saw there was a need for my expertise to help small businesses in the areas of food safety and calorie and nutritional labelling, as they were lacking the resources that larger businesses have in house. Last year I officially set up my business ‘Enlitened’

How does your career fulfil you?

I am passionate about helping businesses reach their full potential, whether this is through ensuring they are covered and compliant in all areas of food safety, or helping them grow their sales by adding value to their menus through smart nutritional and calorie labelling. I also love helping businesses make nutritional improvements to their current offerings. Making these small changes and tweaks is something I was involved with in my food manufacturing days. Nutritional labelling can flag when a dish/product is high fats, salts or sugars, and lends the opportunity to make nutritional improvements.   This is something that is crucial to tackling Ireland obesity problem (Ireland is on track to be the most obese nation in Europe by 2030 if current trends continue). Nutritional and calorie labelling can empower the consumer to make an informed decision. Enlitened helps the consumer make smarter food choices.

I work with artisan producers, restaurants, take-aways and butchers to name a few. I have worked with some incredibility resourceful, creative, and hardworking people and their energy and passion can be truly inspiring. As the saying goes, ‘If you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life’

What are your professional ambitions? What’s next for Sylvia Wadding?

Within the next 3 years Enlitened will be the leading provider of calorie and nutritional information labelling for menus countrywide. So whether you are in a chipper in Cork or a deli in Donegal, and you see the Enlitened brand, you know the information has being carried out by an independent professional who is a leader in their field. A brand you know and trust. I also want to continue growing the Food Safety Training side of the business, this is something that is essential for all business. I love being able to bring clarity to my learners, and give them the tools they need to ensure they are providing safe food to their customers.

In your opinions, what challenges women face in the food industry?

To quote Stephan Murtagh –  Women outsell men by 11% every time. (I met Stephan, who runs some masterclasses through the Thrive course I am attending at the Entrepreneurs Academy).  I think women need to start looking at the strengths they have over men. What can they bring to the table, what is their superpower? Let’s start using being a woman in the food industry, as a positive, an opportunity to leverage our position in the industry.  Sometimes we don’t put ourselves forward as much as men do. Men can generally be more confident, and more likely to be risk-takers If a man sees a job advertised and he has 3 out of the 10 requirements, he will go ahead and apply for the job, if a woman sees the same job advertised and has 8 out of the 10 requirements, she won’t apply for the job as she thinks she does not have all the requirements for the role. Women have a tendency to set the bar so high for themselves, and that everything has to be absolutely perfect before they will apply for that job, or go for that promotion. I must admit – I was one of those women! But through setting up my business, I found it was time to change for the better if I was going to make a success of my business. I have completely stepped out of my comfort zone, and am seeking out and pursuing every opportunity that comes my way. I am growing so much as an individual, and meeting some amazing like-minded people along the way. Women are definitely becoming more visible, but there is a bit to go yet.

Tell us of one woman in the food industry who consistently inspire you and why?

FoodCloud connects businesses with surplus food to charities. It was founded by Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O ‘Brien. Their business has delivered the equivalent of 2.3 million meals to over 250 charities in one year alone. These girls have created a very successful business that gives so much to local communities.  One in eight people in Ireland is living in food poverty, yet one million tonnes of food is still wasted each year. The girls have created an amazing business to help close in on this gap. I really do hate food waste and this is such a great concept.

What do you think can be done to help raise the profile and visibility of women in the food industry?

In my career before I set up Enlitened, it was the women who dramatically outnumbered the men in Food Safety & New Product Development both junior and senior roles. Working now as a food consultant, there are quite a number of women in my area of expertise. Food science attracts more females, and that’s what I am seeing in my area of work..  Some of the top positions in my industry are held by women. In Bord Bia the CEO is Tara McCarty and in the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, CEO is Pamela Byrne. It is so uplifting to see women in these leadership roles. These and so many other women in top positions are great advocates to other women in business.

The interviews you are doing, Katia, ‘Women in Irish Food’  is a great way to give women exposure. Local female business owners giving talks about their journey and successes to secondary schools would also be a good angle to showgirls the opportunities that await them.

The Entrepreneurs Academy help me and other entrepreneurs work on areas of leadership, creativity and having a growth mindset. Working on these core attributes can help women to become more visible and get ahead of the game.

What was the proudest moment of your career so far?

Making my first million!! Ha-ha, haven’t quite reached that level just yet! I would say my proudest moment was securing my first big contract, and seeing how my skills helped their business to grow and generate more sales. It re-iterated the value I add to food businesses.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Have confidence, and believe in yourself, if you don’t know one else will. Don’t care what other people think of you. One of my favourite sayings ‘you can’t be everyone’s cup of tea, if you were you would be a mug’

What are the top skills required to do your job and why?

Technical ability to analyse menus for nutritional information. Keep up to date on legislation and ensure you have a good understanding.

Attention to detail is critical.

Resilience – learning how to overcome challenges and setbacks, and become stronger.

Relationship building –  interacting and connecting with clients is so important. You need to be able to listen and understanding your clients business and needs.

What is your go to comfort food when you’re under the weather?

If I’m sick and have no appetite it would be jelly and ice-cream. Its what my mam always gave me and my siblings when we were sick, and it always made me feel better ????. If I just have a bit of a cold, then I love a beef stew with mashed potatoes mmmm…….
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Risk of Legionella on re-opening your business

When businesses finally get to re-open their doors, another health issue is a real risk – Legionnaires disease.

What is Legionnaires disease?

Legionella bacteria are the cause of legionellosis, better known as Legionnaires Disease.  Legionnaires disease is a potentially fatal form of pneumonia. It can be contracted when a person breathes in contaminated tiny water droplets. Anyone can contract Legionnaires disease, but the elderly, smokers, alcoholics and those with cancer, diabetes or chronic respiratory or kidney disease are at more risk. In February 2020, a 5 star hotel in Kerry was sued after a guest contracted the disease whilst using the spa facilities.

How can Legionella end up in the water supply?

Legionella bacteria are found in low numbers in lakes, rivers and ground water. As a result, it is difficult to prevent Legionella bacteria entering man-made water systems. In low numbers the bacteria are generally considered harmless. With the correct conditions, for example, warm water, the presence of micro-organisms and nutrients in the water or materials such as rust, the bacteria can grow and multiply to high levels which increase the risk of contamination. They are likely to grow where water has become stagnant or a where there is a low water flow. With a lot of business closed over the last number of weeks this could be ideal conditions for legionella to grow. Systems and equipment with reduced or no use over a period of time can be at risk.

 What businesses could be affected?

Every business needs to know about Legionella as ignorance could lead to potential deaths or serious illness. At particular risk are:

·        Warm/ stagnant water supply

·        Hot and cold water systems including taps and showers in public and private buildings

·        Air conditioning units

·        Cooling towers

·        Spa and swimming pools

·        Water fountains,

·        Sprinkler systems

·        Nebulisers.

How can you help prevent its occurrence?

For optimum growth of the bacteria, a temperature of 20 – 45°C is required. Taking this into account you should ensure the cold water system is operating at a temp of less than 20°C, and the hot water system is always above 45°C. Temperatures > 60°C kill the bacteria.

·        Prevent favourable temperatures and conditions for bacterial growth. Keep out of 20-45 °C temp range.

·        Prevent water stagnation – If you have access to your business run all taps, showers, flush toilets etc on a weekly basis.

·        Flush hot and cold water through all points of use to remove stagnant water. Care should be taken to minimise splashing and aerosol generation during flushing.

 What to do prior to re-opening your premises?

If your water systems have been out of use for a significant time, in a lot of cases, they cannot simply be used straight away. The system may require thorough flushing, cleaning and disinfection prior to return to use. Risk assessment review and water testing should also be considered as part of the recommissioning plan. The services of a competent person may be required to provide further advice.

To ensure your water is free from Legionella you can take a water sample and send it to a lab for testing. This will confirm your water is safe and free from the bacteria.

I hope this article has given you some useful information in relation to Legionella. If you would like to find out more, check out the links below.

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Interview with Fiona’s Food for Life

The ‘Fiona’s food for life’YouTube series interviews people all over Ireland that work with food. Fiona gains an insight into their work and gets their 3 tips we can all implement to live a healthier life. In this video, Fiona interviews Sylvia Wadding who offers quality assured nutritional analysis of menus through her business

What’s in our food?

Sylvia talks about the nutritional analysis of menus, portion control and calorie count on menus so that consumers know what is in the food.

Her top 3 tips are:

1. Watch your portion size

2. Watch labelling on food products & compare

3. Food Safety, don’t be afraid to report issues to a restaurant manager

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Food Safety for Christmas Baking

With Christmas cake and pudding baking in full swing, I have written a blog on the risks of consuming raw mixtures. Did your mother let you lick the spoon? Mine did, and its one tradition I won’t be passing on to my daughter.

Did you know unbaked ingredients such as dough, batter and Xmas cake mixture should not be consumed. Raw eggs can pose a risk of Salmonella and there have been many cases where E.Coli  outbreaks have led back to flour. E-coli and Salmonella will be destroyed on effective cooking. Salmonella and E.coli are not a treat…no licking spoons or the beaters this holiday season.


Here are some tips for handling raw baked goods safely

  1. Wash hands (20 seconds), work surfaces and utensils thoroughly after contact with flour and raw dough products.
  2. Do not give play dough made with raw flour to children.
  3. Take care to clean up any flour spillages (if children are ‘helping’, flour is most likely to be scattered half way across the kitchen).
  4. Keep raw, unbaked food away from other foods to avoid cross-contamination
  5. Follow storage instructions of chilled ingredients and refrigerate as soon as possible after purchase.
  6. Follow manufacturers’ cooking instructions, or recipe guidelines when baking. Cooking food at the right temperature/time will ensure any harmful bacteria are killed.

Enjoy your Christmas baking ????, get the kids involved and make a mess.

Just remember to say no to raw dough!

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7 Tips to Ensuring Food Safety at Outdoor Events

Summer is just around the corner (even though the weather hasn’t quite got the memo yet!). What’s not to love about the summer and spending more time outdoors. I always look forward to the wonderful array of markets, music, food and drink festivals. All which have a fabulous selection of foods to delight the taste buds.

Catering at an outdoor event is a high-risk activity and will always carry with it the possibility of causing food poisoning to a large number of people.

Poor and careless hygiene practices, and the warmer weather in summer, can create ideal conditions for bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli to multiply to unsafe levels in food.

Sometimes the usual safety controls in a kitchen, such as handwashing facilities and refrigeration may be limited at outdoor events. This makes it even more important for you to be prepared and follow food safety tips.

In this blog I will go through some key points, producers/stall holders need to consider to ensure they continue to comply with food hygiene legislation.

1.      Transporting food

  • Vehicles and containers used to transport food must be kept clean and in good repair.
  • Food must be wrapped, covered or placed in sealed containers.
  • Ready-to-eat foods must be kept separate from raw foods to prevent cross- contamination.
  • Refrigerated vehicles may be necessary if high risk foods are sold to ensure that the cold chain is maintained throughout delivery and storage.

2.      Storage & Display

  • Careful control of food temperatures is one of the most important ways of reducing the risk of food poisoning.

Keep food out of the danger zone (5 to 63°C), bacteria grows best within this range.

  • Hot foods must be stored and maintained at ≥63°C. Foods which are reheated at the stall must be heated to a core temperature of ≥70°C.
  • Use a calibrated thermometer to ensure food is adequately cooked, and to check cold storage temperatures. Make sure that you use a probe wipe to sanitise the thermometer before and after use, to prevent cross-contamination.
  • High risk foods must be kept separate from raw products.
  • The stall must be situated so that the risk of cross contamination by dirt, animals or other sources of contamination, is minimised. Food should be stored at least 450 mm off the ground.
  • Samples should be displayed in small portions and replaced or topped up when required. Samples should be offered in single portion disposal containers or be supplied with cocktail sticks, disposable cutlery, tongs or other means to minimise the risk of contamination.

3.     Facilities for cleaning equipment

  • Suitable cleaning equipment and materials must be provided at the food stall to clean what is required to ensure food safety while in operation at the site.
  • Where utensil/equipment washing is necessary, a sink unit of adequate size with a supply of ‘running’ hot and cold water must be provided or easily accessible. This can be achieved by bringing enough water or having access to a supply. The water must be of potable quality.

4.      Handwashing Facilities

  • A wash-hand basin with ‘running’ hot and cold water or warm water, with soap and disposable towels are required where there is exposed high-risk food.
  • For low-risk activities, alternative means of cleaning hands such as detergent and antiseptic wipes, may be acceptable. Note – alcohol hand disinfecting gel or wipes are only effective when used on physically clean hands, and is not suitable for hands which are likely to become soiled during the course of trading.

5.     Personal Hygiene

A high degree of personal hygiene must be practiced by staff handling foods on stalls.

  • Wash your hands before handling food, and after using the toilet or after handling raw foods or waste.
  • Wear clean clothing, footwear and over clothing.
  • Use separate aprons when handling raw foods and cooked/ready to eat foods – colour coded are the best idea.
  • Ensure cuts and sores are covered with a coloured waterproof dressing.
  • Avoid unnecessary handling of food, and never cough or sneeze over food.
  • Do not smoke or eat near food.
  • If you have an illness that could be transmitted through food, e.g. sickness and diarrhoea, you should not be working in a food handling environment.

6. Waste Disposal

  • A suitable number and type of refuse bins must be provided. They must be provided with tight-fitting lids. They must be easy to clean. Bin liners should be used where possible.
  • Bins may be required for customer use at the food stall. Bins must be emptied during trading if necessary, and refuse must be properly disposed of after trading.
  • Bins must be segregated from food storage during transport.

7. Training

  • All food handlers, including seasonal and part-time staff, must be adequately supervised, instructed and/or trained in food hygiene matters to allow them to do their job safely.

Industry guides to good hygiene practice were developed by the National Standards Authority of Ireland as an agreed interpretation of the hygiene rules as provided for in Regulation (EC) No 852/2004. These include I.S. 340: Hygiene in the Catering Sector and I.S. 341: Hygiene in Retail and Wholesaling which may be followed. Check out these standards for more detailed information.

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