The food processing industry has the prime responsibility for food safety by ensuring the materials and products supplied to them, as well as their produces and processes, are safe for the consumer.
As well as ensuring food products are made in safe environments, food processors also have to be able to prove to relevant authorities that their employees, machinery and facilities comply with legislation and regulation requirements.
This has to start with commitment from top management, as required in ISO 22000, with a ‘fundamental statement of intent’:
- putting food safety as a business objective;
- communicating to staff the requirement for food safety;
- establishing a food safety policy, signed by the person with overall responsibility;
- conducting regular reviews of safety;
- allocating sufficient resources.
The Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) principles of a food safety program
Ensuring strong compliance with food safety standards involves achieving a series of ‘prerequisites’ to adhere to. The requirements below are based on the Codex Alimentarius and GFSI recommendations, which are followed by regulating and standards bodies worldwide.
An important GMP for food processing facilities is the location, design and construction of the facility. This gives a basic foundation for controlling external risks to food safety and improves the ability to maintain hygiene, store materials safely, and remove waste effectively.
- Location: The facility should be located to reduce the risk from pollution, flooding, pest infestations and waste accumulation.
- Design and construction: The design and layout should enable maintenance, cleaning and hygiene practices. It must also prevent physical, chemical and biological contamination. Durable materials must be used which are suitable for use in food preparation and storage areas as well as adequate drainage systems in place.
- Equipment and containers: Equipment, working surfaces and reusable containers coming into contact with food should be made of food-safe material and designed with cleaning and disinfection in mind to ensure food safety.
- Food hygiene: Suitable facilities should be in place to hygienically clean food, utensils and equipment with an adequate supply of potable water.
- Personnel hygiene: Staff should be provided with adequate facilities to maintain personal hygiene. Said facilities must provide the appropriate tools to ensure hand hygiene is met to a high standard as well as suitable washroom and changing facilities.
- Air ventilation: To control aerosols, condensation, temperatures, odours humidity and dust a food processing facility must have the correct ventilation and air conditioning systems in place. These mist also be able to prevent contamination and be easily cleaned and maintained.
- Water supplies: The facility should have adequate supplies of water for food processing, cleaning and fire control. Non-potable water should have a separate system that prevents contamination.
Cleaning and hygiene
GMP for food processing state that the business should establish effective procedures and methods to prevent contamination of food through systems for cleaning of food production areas and equipment, pest control and waste management.
- Cleaning of facilities: Building exteriors, interiors, food production areas and equipment should be maintained and cleaned on a regular basis to prevent contamination. Cleaning and disinfection products must be used according to manufacturers’ instructions and stored safely.
- Pest control: The monitoring, prevention and control of pests must be installed to prevent contamination. Inspections of incoming materials and products for pests need to be in place as well as providing documentation of pest control activities as required by legislation.
- Waste management: An essential part of preventing contamination. Effective and legally compliant procedures and facilities need to be established to effectively manage waste produced in food processing facilities as well as being pest resistant.
Personnel hygiene and health
The personal hygiene and health of staff are an important GMP in food processing. Effective procedures need to be in place to help ensure staff follow the appropriate hygiene practices in manufacturing facilities in order to help ensure food safety has adhered to a high standard.
- Health status: People known to be suffering from or carrying an infectious disease, or suspected to be, must not be allowed to enter a food processing area.
- Injuries: Cuts and skin abrasions should be covered with suitable dressings
- Personal hygiene: Hand hygiene must be adhered to a high standard especially before entering food handling areas and also at appropriate times such as before and after eating.
- Hygenic clothing: Items such as gloves, hair coverings and footwear must be worn by handlers in order to protect food from contamination. Additionally, said clothing must be made or appropriate materials and cleaned regularly.
Transportation affects food products before and after the manufacturing process. Therefore GMPs should be implemented to ensure raw materials, ingredients, packaging, semi-processed and finished products are transported in conditions that protect them from contamination, damage and spoilage.
- Vehicles, containers and packaging: Must be suitable for the products and conditions of transport, to maintain the integrity of the products and prevent pests and human interference.
- The temperature, humidity, atmosphere and other conditions: Should be maintained at suitable levels to prevent spoilage, deterioration; and these are also recorded;
- Vehicles and containers: Do not contaminate the product from materials used in their construction, dust and fumes. Additionally, they should be maintained in a good state of repair and cleanliness.
- Regular inspection: Vehicles, containers, packaging and products are inspected before loading and on arrival at the food processing facility e.g. for contamination, pests, transport conditions.
- Loading and unloading areas: Must be of appropriate construction and design to protect the transported product during loading/ unloading. Said areas must also kept clean and spills removed quickly.