World food trade is valued to be around $300-400 billion, according to FAO. With the demand for food rising to meet the ever growing world population, food safety is becoming, even more, important.
The reason why food safety has such an important role in the manufacturing process is to ensure the products delivered to consumers do not interfere with a person’s health. Currently, there are more than 200 diseases that can be spread by food. Failing to comply to food safety regulations can result in the transmission of foodborne illnesses. There is a range of different food safety procedures in place to protect public health.
The food supply chain
In order to successfully comply to the proper regulations, food safety needs to be applied and monitored at each section of the food supply chain.
Food safety comes into play within the farming and agriculture section of the food supply chain to ensure that human health isn’t put at risk. Food safety regulations are applied to multiple areas of a farm ensuring that every aspect meets the correct food safety standards.
Areas of a farm monitored:
- Animal feed
- Animal cleanliness
- Dairy products
- Veterinary medicines
Processing refers to manufacturing of food products. Food safety is applied here to ensure the products created do not have physical, chemical or microbial contaminants introduced during processing and packaging.
The systems which assure the safety of the food products manufactured are:
- Good Manufacturing Practises (GMP)
- Sanitation Procedures
- Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)
Logistics refers to the transportation of food products. During this time there are multiple factors to consider when referring to food safety and quality. Logistics need to be monitored through the transportation of food to check the quality, safety and shelf-life of the products destined for distribution.
Food safety is applied to logistics by:
- Inspect condition of all trucks boats and containers prior to usage.
- Apply written procedures to ensure proper handling
- Follow a commodity reception programme
- Deploy a coding system to track every finished good
- Establish Hygiene standards for food storage and handling
- Document and maintain records.
Food storage can also have an impact on food safety. Mishandling and inferior hygiene practises can lead to food contamination, and ultimately a food-borne disease.
Food safety in storage:
- Ensure cooked food is not left at room temperature for more than 2 hours
- Storing raw and cooked foods separately
- Store foods below 5°C
Retail and food service
During the cooking and preparation process, food can become contaminated with harmful pathogens and bacteria.
Food service safety
Currently, the practices that are in place help to ensure food safety practices are followed and met by adhering to the following:
- Ensuring proper hand hygiene is met before handling food
- Keeping worksurfaces utensils and equipment clean
- Cooking food at a temperature of 70°C
- Using separate equipment for raw and cooked food
- Ensuring proper pest management is in place.
Learn more about food safety in hotels and restaurants here.
Although there is a wide range of food safety best practises being followed throughout the food supply chain, there are a range of factors which cause some complications, and could compromise some food safety requirements.
Globalization of food trade
The food trade industry is one of the largest in the world. Many countries actively take part in this, distributing products which are locally grown and processed.
However, different countries adhere to different food safety standards, what may meet the correct food safety laws in one country could fail to in another. This makes food safety quite challenging to maintain and monitor when it comes to food trade.
Climate change also produces some risk in terms of food safety. According to the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health climate change affects food safety by:
- Increasing food poisoning cases
- Increasing pest infestations
- Causing power-cuts affecting refrigeration through drought conditions
- Contaminating reservoirs with farmland contaminants due to heavy rainfall
- Enabling bacteria in animal feed to multiply faster
Threats from malware and hackers have become increasingly troublesome in terms of food safety. Cyber attacks to a food processing factory can result in machinery shutting down. The implications of this result in the potential for food on the processing line becoming contaminated.
The increase in global terrorism and extremism has placed food safety at risk through the increased use of advanced weaponry. As a result, there is an increasing demand for better risk management plans.
In order to bring the cost of food down, food fraud has become increasingly popular. Food fraud consists of substituting a product with a cheap alternative. In terms of food safety, the issue here is the said substituted products arenâ€™t regulated, meaning that they could be harmful to humans. The same can be said for the selling of food knowingly unfit for human consumption.
In some cases, disgruntled employees can affect food safety. This can be done by purposefully contaminating food, or manipulating data and reports to release food that hasnâ€™t passed certain food safety regulations.
Increased consumption of processed food
The increased consumption of processed food provides a risk due to the chemicals and additives used in the making of these products. There are also risks around the methods, equipment, facilities, and controls for producing processed foods.
Failing to comply to food safety regulations could result in the following:
- Foodborne illnesses -The main result of neglecting proper safety procedures, by contaminating food products with diseases such as salmonella and E.coli.
- Closures – In cases where food safety has been severely neglected, governments and law officials have the right to shut down premises.
- Stock deflation – Creating a serious affect on your profit margin.
- Product Recalls – For products already distributed but found to feature contamination.
- Reputational Damage – The result of all the factors mentioned above can have a serious financial stress on your business.
The future of food safety relies on improving the best practises and regulations for food hygiene.
Making improvements to the risk management systems in place such as the HACCP, as well as introducing new ones that involve risk point assessment like the HARPC to help improve the safety of food generated in the food supply chain.
Threat assessment (TACCP)
Threat assessments involve identifying potential threats and emerging risks in the food supply chain, understanding which points of the supply chain is prone to threats, and implementing the appropriate control measures to reduce the risk. The ADAS explains that the TACCP focuses mainly on food fraud and malicious attacks on the food supply chain.
Crisis management is implemented in case of outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. Specific procedures are implemented in order to deal with this issue. Crisis management in the food industry has four phases:
- Prevention – Following food safety guidelines and staying current on potential risk factors
- Preparation – Proactively planning for a problem and monitoring potential risks
- Management – Implementing a plan in case of an outbreak
- Recovery – Reassessing risk management practices to avoid another crisis
Real-time data collection and measurement
Implementing real-time data collection and measurement helps to ensure every point of the food supply chains meets and complies to the food safety requirements and provides information on when to proactively react to any potential contaminants before they escalate into a problem.
Rapid testing techniques
Rapid testing techniques are being introduced to comply to the HACCP driven hygiene procedures. New technologies and equipment produce rapid results on site in real time and help validate products meet hygiene requirements and detect spoilage before it becomes a contamination. Rapid testing methods enhance testing efficiencies, improve food safety programs and help create a safer food supply.
Education and Training
Educating and training staff is playing a big part in food safety. In some countries, food business operators by law are required to ensure that all food handlers receive the appropriate supervision and training in food hygiene tailored to their work activity. This helps reduce the risk of spoilage and contamination.
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