There are many factors in food processing which businesses need to consider when ensuring food safety for consumers. Adhering to the necessary food safety standards and regulations can help prevent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses such as Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter.
10 ways food processors can successfully ensure food safety
Here are 10 critical areas of focus that will help you to ensure that food safety is applied to your business.
1. Pest control
Pest control plays an important part in food safety. Troublesome insects such as cockroaches and flies can spread food-borne diseases by contaminating food at any stage of production. Rodents also spread diseases as well as causing damage to buildings, fixtures and machinery. Stored product insects can damage and contaminate food during transport and storage.
2. Cleaning programmes
Establish cleaning and disinfection programmes to ensure the correct hygiene standards are met and reduce the risk of a foodborne illness outbreak.
This includes proper cleaning and disinfecting food preparation areas as well as machinery and utensils used within the food processing cycle to eliminate the microorganisms that cause food poisoning.
Adhering to the correct cleaning processes will also reduce the risk of pests such as rodents, flies and cockroaches in food preparation and processing areas by removing potential food sources and insect breeding sites.
3. Waste management
The BRCGS standard for food safety provides guidelines for waste management to meet the correct food safety regulations.
If food waste is accumulated, it can attract pests to areas where food waste is stored, thereby bringing about the possibility of pest infestations, posing a risk to food safety.
This can be prevented with the provision of appropriate containers; suitable, secure waste storage areas and establishing adequate procedures for waste removal on a regular basis.
By ensuring these procedures are successfully in place, food processors can help improve food safety compliance by reducing the risk of pest infestations as well as contamination.
Establishing proactive maintenance measures for premises and food processing machinery to ensure they run smoothly and properly, and ensures the production of safe foods.
An article from the Food Safety Magazine states that a number of food-borne illness outbreaks can be linked to the failure to ensure equipment is properly maintained under the correct sanitary conditions. They provide an example of a botulism outbreak in the early 1980’s which was caused by improperly performing can reformer machines.
Pests such as rats and mice can affect the way in which machines perform, gnawing at the power cables and contaminating the components that have direct contact with the products.
5. Personal hygiene
Installing the correct facilities for staff to ensure proper personal hygiene is met contributes towards meeting food safety requirements.
Bacteria can easily be spread through biological and physical contamination. This can put foods at high risk of carrying food-borne diseases.
The UK Food Standards Agency advises that food handling businesses ensure the following factors are considered to ensure personal hygiene:
- Hand Washing — ensure effective hand washing techniques are followed at appropriate times
- Minimise hand contact with food — try to minimise direct hand contact with raw food by using appropriate utensils and safe use of disposable gloves
- Personal cleanliness — cover hair; do not sneeze or cough over food; cover cuts and sores; and do not wear jewellery
- Wear protective clothing — wear suitable clean protective clothing and handle appropriately to prevent cross contamination
- Exclude ill staff — staff must report illnesses; exclude staff with vomiting or diarrhoea
6. Environmental hygiene
Food processing facilities rely on the use of potentially dangerous chemicals for sanitation and pest control. Because of this attention has to be applied to reduce the risk of accidental environmental contamination during the food processing cycle.
Food safety practices need to be applied to ensure the chemicals stored and used on food processing premises do not contaminate the food products at any stage in production.
In addition to this, new non-toxic pest management solutions are being developed to help provide a more green solution to pest control issues within the food supply chain.
7. Correct handling, storage & transport
On top of food production and preparation, food safety also has to be applied during handling, storage and transportation, for both incoming deliveries and products going out to customers.
A range of factors needs to be considered during these stages to ensure food products do not become contaminated. These include:
- the temperature, humidity and hygiene of operations sites, vehicles and containers;
- safety and risk mitigation in the areas where food products are packaged
- cybersecurity for any digital software used to organise, monitor and respond to logistical processes.
The FDA provide a guidance on the Sanitary Transportation of Food for all sectors of the food industry. It broadly discusses applicable recommendations for controls to prevent food safety problems during transportation.
8. Facilities location and design
The design and location of a food processing facility need to be taken into account when ensuring food safety meets the correct standards. Areas that are known to be pest “hot spots”, as well as prone to pollution, need to be avoided to reduce the risk of contamination.
Materials used for the internal structure of buildings should be durable, prevent buildup of dirt, easy to clean and maintain, and safe for staff.
9. Machinery and production line design
The layout of the production line should allow easy maintenance and cleaning of machinery and surrounds and prevent contamination of the food products and ingredients during the production process.
The design of machinery used for food processing also has to be taken into account to comply with food safety regulations. Poor design can result in a build-up of food material in hidden places that are difficult to clean. There are standards for machinery design, such as the NSF equipment design standard, to ensure all food handling and processing is performed to a high standard of hygiene.
10. Staff training
Educating staff on how to ensure food safety practices are followed will help reduce the risk of contamination. Regulations require that food handlers are supervised and trained in food hygiene practices suitable for their work activity.
Areas which staff should be trained about include:
- Hand hygiene
- Safe food storage practices
- Safe food handling practices
- Cleaning for food safety
- Pest control