It is critical for food processing businesses to follow all aspects of food safety to ensure all-round good food safety practices and hygienic standards are implemented and maintained. Failure to carry out the required practices as stated in the food safety regulations enhances the risk of food becoming unsafe to eat and the possibility of us, as consumers, becoming a statistic of foodborne illness, such as Campylobacter, Salmonella and Campylobacter.
In this article, we look at 10 ways to help ensure that food remains safe to eat, reducing possible sources and vehicles of contamination and cross-contamination that cause foodborne illnesses or injury. The factors that are critical to ensuring food safety are:
- Facilities location and design
- Design of machinery and production lines
- Maintenance of machinery
- Measurements to control pests
- Effective cleaning processes
- Management of waste
- Handling, storage and transport of food
- Staff training
- Personal hygiene
- Environmental hygiene
Read this article on knowing the difference between food safety and food hygiene.
1. Facilities Location and Design
Food facilities should not be in areas that have the potential to become pest “hot spots” or has high levels of pollution, which will help to reduce the risk of contamination while meeting with the correct standards.
The BRC Global Standards, states that a food processing facility “shall be suitable in size, location and construction, and be maintained to reduce the risk of contamination and facilitate the production of safe and legal finished products.”
Handwashing facilities must be available and in good working order. The amount provided should reflect the number of staff in the business.
2. Design of Machinery and Production Lines
The design and setup of your machinery and production lines should be easily accessible, which will facilitate easy cleaning, maintenance and monitoring as far as possible. Your food-handling and processing must be carried out to the highest of standards, and machinery is chosen to comply with food safety regulations.
3. Maintenance of Machinery
Regular inspections and maintenance must be carried out when working with food processing machinery to identify signs of wear and tear and the presence of pests, which could be a risk of contamination. For example, visual damage of machinery could be evidence of the presence of pests, such as mice.
Surfaces should be:
- smooth (not be cracked or have niches which could become a source of contamination)
- easily accessible for inspection, maintenance, cleaning and sanitisation to a microbiological level
- monitored regularly, to check for oil spills, etc.
4. Measurements to Control Pests
Regular inspections for signs of pests should be carried out. Pest infestations can happen quickly if the signs of their presence go undetected. Common pests can be:
- insects such as ants
If left, they can quickly become established, and your premises will become a major source of contamination for foodborne diseases as well as causing costly damage to your premises and machinery.
Premises should be sealed to prevent entry and kept clean and free of food and have an established waste management system to deter them from entering and making your premises their home.
5. Effective Cleaning Processes
The cleaning of equipment, machinery, food preparation areas and surfaces must be carried out regularly with the appropriate methods and chemicals to reduce the risk of contamination. The chemical manufacturer’s instructions must be followed to ensure the process of sanitisation and disinfectant is carried out.
Instructions and timescales should be available on cleaning schedules for cleaning staff to follow. These should be checked and dated by supervisory staff.
6. Management of Waste
Procedures for the safe storing and disposal of waste must be in place to meet with the legal requirements of waste management.
The BRC Global Standards for Food Safety guidelines for waste management states:
“Waste disposal shall be managed in accordance with legal requirements and to prevent accumulation, risk of contamination and the attraction of pests.”
The accumulation of food is a key factor of poor food safety and can quickly become a source of pest infestation, which will cause contamination. Designated storage areas and containers for waste should be available, and they should be emptied regularly by the relevant staff or external contractors.
Waste containers must have tight-fitting lids and be pest-proof.
7. Handling, Storage and Transport of Food
It is vital that high standards of food safety practices are carried out during the handling, storage and transport of food to ensure the product does not become contaminated with harmful bacteria and to prevent the deterioration of the foods.
The temperature of the food is important and must be maintained for each stage during its process and storage.
For example, cold food should be stored below 5℃ and hot food above 60℃, which will help to prevent the multiplication of bacteria.
Other safety factors to consider during all stages of the food chain to ensure food remains safe for consumption to include:
- the hygiene of the premises, vehicles and containers, i.e. where vehicles are incoming, outgoing
- food packing areas
8. Staff Training
Businesses must provide the relevant training for all staff and ensure they are supervised in the correct food safety procedures during:
- Cleaning for food safety
- Personal and hand hygiene
- Safe and hygienic food preparation, food storage and waste disposal
- Pest infestation recognition and control
9. Personal Hygiene
Correct facilities for staff must be provided to ensure proper personal hygiene is met and contributes towards meeting food safety requirements.
The number of handwashing facilities should be appropriate for the size of the business. Only use sinks designated for handwashing (and not used for washing equipment or food), which helps in reducing the spread of several types of harmful bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli.
It is critical to wash hands properly before and after handling foods, to prevent contamination and cross-contamination, as bacteria can spread easily and quickly from our hands onto food. To do this effectively, use warm water and rub soap into the hands, between the fingers, including fingertips, and wrists for at least 15-20 seconds. Rinse with clean water.
Hands should be dried using disposable paper towels or an air dryer. Do not use cloths, overalls, tea towels as this can also cause contamination.
Long hair should be tied back, or a net/hat should be worn to prevent hair falling into food or onto the surfaces. Men with beards should wear a snood. Jewellery should be removed (except wedding rings).
Wear clean aprons or overalls to protect the food from outside clothing, which may be contaminated.
Staff who are suffering from vomiting or diarrhoea should not handle or work with food until they have been clear of the symptoms for at least 48 hours. Certain skin conditions such as lesions and boils should be covered with blue plasters to prevent anything from dropping into food.
10. Environmental Hygiene
During the food processing cycle, food businesses rely on strong, sometimes dangerous chemicals for cleaning, disinfection and sanitisation of preparation areas, equipment and machinery.
However, chemicals can also become a source of contamination if it comes into contact with food. Chemicals must be stored away from food and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Also, measures should be in place to prevent accidental contamination.
Cleaning cloths must be kept clean and stored away from food. Disposable cloths are preferable, and mops should be laundered at high temperatures.
If you’re working in the food industry, whether this is food manufacturing, catering, hospitality or retail, you should look at our Level 2 Food Safety online course, which allows the certificate to be obtained without the need for face-to-face training, taking you or your staff out of business.
The online course content is written to meet with the EU Regulation which requires food businesses to have all staff fully trained in food handling and understands the importance of maintaining the food safety processes at all times as well as the consequences of not adhering to the rules.