Why is food safety important?
Food contaminated by biological, chemical, or physical hazards can cause food poisoning which can in turn lead to more serious health hazards, such as sickness and dehydration.
The World Health Organisation estimates that around 600 million people – that’s almost 1 in 10 globally – fall ill after eating contaminated food.
Therefore, effective food safety practices are crucial to ensuring that all consumers are protected from the health hazards related to foodborne illnesses and common allergens.
All types of businesses involved in the food supply chain have a crucial role in adhering to globally and locally recognised standards and regulations such as HACCP and maintaining food safety.
What are the benefits of effective food safety practices?
Having robust and effective food safety practices can help create many benefits for your business, including:
- Protection from inflicting foodborne illnesses or other food-related injuries upon your customers.
- Avoiding expensive product recalls, costly fines and/or legal action resulting from poor food safety and hygiene offences.
- Helps you to build a robust reputation that can attract more customers to your business and engender customer loyalty whilst also avoiding complaints.
- Allows you to clearly evidence your compliance and due diligence to auditors and the local authority.
- Reduces downtime resulting from the occurrence of hazards helping to boost the overall productivity of your business.
- Continuously driving improvement in the quality and safety of your procedures and the food products that you provide.
What are the three main types of food safety hazards?
When working with food there are three key food safety hazards that you must prevent, reduce, or eliminate at every step of your process to ensure the safety and highest quality of the food which you provide.
- Biological Hazards: Involves the contamination of food by microorganisms and typically develop because of poorly handled food or contamination from an outside source. Examples include bacteria, viruses, and parasites
- Chemical Hazards: Involves the contamination of food by harmful substances that can be found naturally or unintentionally added during processing. These include naturally occurring toxins, persistent organic pollutants, and heavy metals. Allergens are also considered to be a chemical hazard. (The full list of allergens can be found here )
- Physical Hazards: Involves the contamination of food by a physical substance such as glass, packaging, and pest droppings.
What are the 5 key pillars of food safety compliance?
So how can you work to reduce, eliminate, or prevent the risks associated with the food safety hazards?
1. Cleaning & Sanitising
Cleaning and sanitising help to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria.
Make sure that the equipment you use, such as chopping boards and knives and the area you are working in is cleaned thoroughly between each different cooking task that takes place and at the start and end of each day.
You should first clean your equipment and area with warm soap and water to remove any food remnants, dirt, and pathogens, this should then be followed by sanitiser to help kill off any bacteria.
Good personal hygiene is also crucial so be sure you and your staff are washing your hands regularly and thoroughly, wear clean uniform, and have hair tied back or facial hair covered with a hairnet.
2. Temperature Control
Accurate temperature control helps prevent the growth of dangerous microorganisms, such as bacteria.
Therefore, it is important that you consistently temperature your food at every stage of the process to ensure it stays within a safe range.
For example, chilled food must always be kept between 0-5 degrees Celsius and when cooking food, it must reach a core temperature of between 70-75 degrees Celsius for at least 2 minutes.
Remember to ensure that your thermometer probe is always clean before use and correctly calibrated.
Download our free thermometer probe calibration record PDF template and make sure your readings are always accurate.
3. Cross Contamination
Cross contamination is one of the main causes of food poisoning, therefore it is critical that you always keep your raw and cooked food products separate.
Illness causing microorganisms, which are more commonly found in raw foods like meat or poultry can easily be transferred to ready to eat foods through poor food handling practices.
Remember to always use different storage, utensils, chopping boards and knives for your raw and cooked foods and always wash your hands after handling raw food.
It is also crucial that you do not allow allergen cross contamination and always keep allergen-free meals separate as this could cause serious illness and even death to the customer.
4. Compliant Suppliers
Your choice of supplier is critical to ensuring your own effective food safety practices and you should always make sure your supplier follows the internationally recognised HACCP guidelines.
When you receive a delivery from your suppliers it is important that you check the temperature of the food you receive, the appearance of the food and packaging, and whether the order is correct.
Remember to keep all invoices and receipts from your suppliers, so that if a food hazard does arise you or an enforcement officer can clearly examine the details of the food.
Make sure you are thoroughly documenting all your food safety procedures such as your HACCP plan and your temperature checks.
This enables you to easily evidence your compliance with food safety laws and regulations when you are audited.
Remember if you have five or more employees you are required by law to have a thorough written health and safety policy that details all the processes and procedures you have in place.
What is HACCP and how can it help with your food safety practices?
A Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Plan or HACCP Plan is a food safety monitoring system that allows you to identify and manage biological, chemical, or physical food hazards and the actions that you must perform to prevent them from occurring.
You must use a HACCP plan and identify all possible food hazards for each individual step of your process.
Once you have determined all the potential food hazards you must then determine the action that is the required to prevent, reduce, or eliminate their occurrence – these actions are known as control measures.
Each control measure that you put in place should then have a critical limit which outlines the acceptable minimum or maximum acceptable values that it must meet to ensure the hazards are being mitigated successfully.
The successfulness of your control measures should always be closely monitored and recorded so that you can quickly identify the need for and implement corrective action if a control measure is failing.
HACCP does not specify how frequently you should be monitoring your processes but stipulates that it must reflect both the nature and size of your business.
When considering the corrective action that must be applied consider all the steps you must take to ensure you not only effectively fix the problem but also investigate its root cause and prevent its reoccurrence in the future.
It is also essential to your compliance that you both validate and verify your HACCP plan periodically to ensure that is performing successfully and determine ways in which it could be improved.
Continuous improvement is integral to the success of any business helping to improve your productivity and growth.
Download our free HACCP Plan PDF template or learn how to create your own.
Remember your HACCP records must be retained for a suitable amount of time so that you can effectively evidence that your food safety system is performing successfully.