Consumers these days are very conscious about the food they eat. They are willing to pay premium price for food manufacturers that address their health concerns. How can food manufacturers address consumers’ health concerns? How they ensure food safety? And more importantly, what is the best way to prevent poor food safety? Read on to know why it is important and what manufacturers can do to ensure they have an adequate plan to meet regulatory requirements and consumer demands.
What is Food safety?
Food safety refers to the process of ensuring that the food is safe from all kinds of bacteria, viruses, parasites and chemical substances which can cause any kind of food-borne illness in people consuming it.
Why is Food Safety Important?
Food safety is important because according to World Health Organization almost 420,000 people die every year due to a food-borne illness. There are almost 200 diseases which are caused by contaminated food.
Importance of Food Safety Program?
Since diseases caused by food can be very serious sometimes even causing death, it is very important to make sure that it doesn’t get contaminated at any stage of the food chain. Therefore, food safety programs are used to help businesses handle and process food in a way that it is safe for people to consume.
How to Implement a Food Safety Plan?
The food safety plan consists of the following sections and is implemented as below:
- Facility Information: It is important to collect the information about the facility i.e. what kind of facility is it, whether it is a breeding facility, feeding facility or a packing facility (slaughter house).
- Good Manufacturing Practices: This includes personnel, sanitary operations, sanitary facilities and controls, processes and controls and warehousing and distribution. It is important to have a system which ensures that the personnel are following all the right practices of sanitation and quality control.
- Hazard Analysis & Preventive Controls Determination: It includes qualified individual, hazard analysis and preventive controls for hazards. It is important to have personnel who have successfully completed their training in food safety. Also, it is important to identify and evaluate all the hazards that are known or for each type of animal food manufactured, processed, packed, or held at the facility. Once all the hazards are identified, it is important to identify and implement the control mechanisms to that would ensure the prevention of those hazards.
- Process Preventive Control: Process controls incorporate methods, practices, and procedures to guarantee the control of parameters during operations, for example, heat processing, acidifying, irradiating, and refrigerating foods. Procedure controls must incorporate, as appropriate to the nature of the applicable control and its role in the facility’s food safety framework:
- Standard Operating Procedures to control the hazards
- The max/min values or minimum values to control, minimize, and prevent biological, physical and chemical hazards.
- Sanitation Preventive Controls: Sanitation controls incorporate strategies, practices, and procedures to guarantee that the office is kept up in a clean condition adequate to significantly minimize or prevent hazards for example, environmental pathogens, biological hazards due to employee handling. It can be done by making sure that the surface or objects that the food comes in contact with are cleaned as frequently as possible. The contact surfaces that are used during processing, packing and holding low-moisture food items should be clean and dry. It is also important to make sure that the personnel handling the food must take care of the hygiene and should often wash their hands after coming in contact with anything that might contaminate the food.
- Supply-Chain Preventive Controls: It is also important to ensure that your suppliers are working as per applicable FSMA rules and that they have proper hazard analysis and risk-based preventive controls in place. It is important to have FDAs approved suppliers. Also, conduct verification activities like on-site audit, sampling and testing of raw material, Review of suppliers’ relevant food safety records etc. After doing the verification, it is important to document them for future process and verifications.
- Recall Plan: Another important section is to have a recall plan. It is for situation in which a hazard has been identified in the food and needs to be prevented. The recall plan includes notifying the direct consignees and the public about the hazard, conducting effectiveness checks – ensuring that the recall has been carried out and proper disposal of the recalled food.
- Reanalysis of the Food Safety Plan: It is important to re-analyze the food safety plan after every 3 years. It is also essential to re-analyze the plan whenever a significant change in the activities conducted at your facility creates a reasonable potential for a new hazard or creates a significant increase in a previously identified hazard.
- Food Safety Plan Report: After having all the above sections in check, you need to prepare a food safety plan report outlining all the potential hazards and their preventive controls.
What are some Food Safety Regulations in the US?
The food safety regulations in US are as follows:
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
Which Food Safety Practice will help prevent biological hazards?
The best method to control biological hazards is by prevention. The application of Good Manufacturing Practices and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point will help prevent biological hazards in your Facility. Good Manufacturing Practices guarantee hazards related with work force and environment are controlled during food production. HACCP controls hazards that might be present in food ingredients or food packaging material. Moreover, it also controls hazards that may be present during food processing, packaging and storage.
FDA Food Safety Modernization Act
Food Safety Modernization Act was signed by President Barack Obama and it empowers FDA to protect the health of the public by reinforcing the food safety system. FSMA ensures prevention of food-borne illness. FDA has set seven major standards to implement FSMA and they are as follows:
- Accredited Third Party Certification: Food safety audits are conducted by third-party auditors. They offer certifications when SOPs as well as regulatory requirements are met.
- Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive controls for Human Food: Food facilities must have a food safety plan made which comprises of controls to prevent and/or minimize hazards.
- Current Good Manufacturing Practice and Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Food for Animals: Animal food facilities need to have a food safety plan made which should cover how to identify, minimize, and prevent hazards.
- Foreign Supplier Verification Programs (FSVP): This standard is for the importers of food. The main objective is to ensure that the food being imported from the foreign suppliers is safe. The importers must determine hazards for each food and assess the risk posed by food on the basis of both hazard analysis and the foreign supplier’s performance. Suitable verification activities should be determined and conducted to approve the suppliers. The verification process is conducted every three years for the suppliers and corrective actions are taken when necessary.
- Mitigation Strategies to Protect Food Against Intentional Adulteration: The main goal is to prevent actions that may cause harm to public health. This could include an act of terrorism targeting the supply of food. Such acts, while not prone to happen, could cause illness, death, economic disruption of the food supply missing mitigation strategies.
- Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food: The focus of this standard is to make the food less prone to contamination during its transportation from farm to the table. It is applicable on shippers, loaders, carriers and receivers transporting food by motor or rail within US It additionally incorporates containers that arrive by ship or air that are then be delivered by motor or rail within the US, if the food will be consumed or distributed within the United States.
- Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing, and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption: This standard is only applicable to fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption. It emphasizes on maintaining standards that result in safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of produced food.
What makes enforcing safety standards a challenge for the food and drug administration?
Many foods are imported from other countries, and the FDA must ensure those foods meet the same standards as US goods because imported goods come with different quality standards from different countries. It is easier to supervise and to ensure standards when the goods are made into the United States. However, when they’re coming from abroad, they have already gone through a different quality standard process, and it makes it challenging for the FDA to ensure that it is of the same standard that the US requires.
What is the Best Way to Prevent Poor Food Safety?
The best way to prevent poor food safety is by following HACCP approach. HACCP stands for hazard analysis critical control points. HACCP is an approach to food safety that is systematic and preventive. It is recommended by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United Nations international standards organization for food safety. There are seven principles of HACCP and they are as follows:
- Conduct a hazard analysis: List down the steps in the process and identify at which stages the hazards are most likely to occur. Hazards can be physical, chemical and biological. Once you have a list of all the hazards, focus on their evaluation i.e. the degree of risk to the consumer due to the hazard. After that identify the critical control points.
- Identify the critical control points: A critical control point (CCP) is a point, step or procedure at which control can be applied and a food safety hazard can be prevented, wiped out or decreased to satisfactory levels. For each critical point a preventive measure is then identified.
- Establish Critical Limits: A critical limit (CL) is the maximum and/or minimum value to which a biological, chemical, or physical parameter must be controlled at a CCP to prevent, eliminate, or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of a food safety hazard. It is measured in time, temperature, pH, water activity, weight, etc.
- Monitor CCP: Monitoring activities are required for CCPs to ensure that the process is under control at each critical control point. These activities describe how and when the measurements will be taken and who is responsible and how frequently are they taken during the process.
- Establish Corrective Action: When a deviation in a critical limit occurs, corrective actions are taken. Steps are identified to prevent the hazardous food from entering the food chain and the steps that are needed to correct the process.
- Verification: This helps ensure that the plan is adequate and working as originally intended. The procedures may include review of HACCP plans, critical limits, CCP records, as well as microbial sampling and analysis.
- Record Keeping: It is important that all facilities maintain their records that include hazard analysis, HACCP plan and documentation of monitoring of critical control points, critical limits, verification activities, and the handling of processing deviations.
Farm Quality Assurance:
Folio3’s Farm Quality Assurance Software helps digitize farm quality, compliance, and maintenance management. The solution enables quality managers ensure that regulatory requirements and standard operating procedure are met. This is usually done using paper-based processes which makes analysis of data very difficult. Moreover, information sharing with paper-based processes is very slow. Sometimes a big disaster can be prevented if information is shared on time. However, with paper-based processes it’s very difficult to manage.
Feedlot Quality Assurance:
Feedlots that raise cattle such as beef cattle, sheep, cows, goats, swine, etc play an important role in the meat supply chain. If they don’t follow quality standards and regulatory requirements, it means that the forward partners in the supply chain will get poor quality input. These partners include slaughterhouses and processors. Our Feedlot Management Software ensures cattle producers and growers provide high quality product to their customers, while ensuring proper care and management of cattle.
Milk Quality Assurance:
Milk producers that raise dairy cattle have to comply with government regulations as well as dairy compliance programs such as proAction. By following the guidelines associated with these programs, dairy farms demonstrate that they milk they are producing is of high quality and safe to consume. The compliance also helps them assure the consumers that SOPS regarding biosecurity and animal welfare are strictly followed in their operations.
Most of these programs come with paper-based forms and checklists that farm managers have to fill on a daily, weekly, monthly, or adhoc basis. However, their are products like EcoDocs that can help managers digitize these record forms and assign them to farm workers. Farm workers can use the EcoDocs mobile app to see their work schedule and submit data on-the-go.