The food manufacturing industry in Great Britain is big business. In 2018, there were over 86,000 licensed food and drink premises in the UK, which lead to a contribution of over £20 billion to the UK economy.
It is vital that whenever food is handled or processed, it remains safe for the consumer to eat. Foodborne illnesses can become a significant health issue if there is evidence of poor food hygiene practices and a lack of effective processes. Companies and businesses need to follow the major principles of food safety, which are designed to remove or minimise risks.
Strong controls and effective systems need to be in place and maintained. In this article, we’re going to look at some food safety tips for ensuring that manufactured food remains safe to eat.
What is Food Safety
Food safety is the overriding umbrella term that is concerned with all aspects of keeping food safe to eat, throughout all processes, from ‘farm-to-fork’ to ensure that whatever the food or drink product, it is safe to consume, whether it is a restaurant, food retailer or in food manufacturing.
Read our article to know the difference between food safety and food hygiene.
What is Food Safety in Manufacturing?
One of the key factors responsible for incidents of food-borne illness is the lack of understanding of safe food hygiene practices. If businesses put into practice the food safety principles set out by the relevant legislation and leading food authorities, consumers of products should not become ill, and subsequently, join the food poisoning statistics. The source of most food poisoning and food-borne illness is micro-organisms, such as pathogenic (harmful) bacteria. In terms of food safety, bacteria are of most concern.
A basic understanding of these micro-organisms is essential if you are to understand the controls required to prevent your consumers from contracting illness from a bacterial source.
For example, Clostridium botulinum, which produces the deadly Botulinum toxin, can be found inside cans that have not been properly processed. Normal thorough cooking (pasteurisation: 70°C 2 minutes or equivalent) will kill Clostridium botulinum bacteria, but not its spores. To kill botulinum spores, a sterilisation process equivalent to 121°C for at least 3 minutes is required, known as the ‘Botulinum cook process’.
Knowing safe food-handling practices is critical in any food business operation at every stage of a process. Food safety tips in the food manufacturing industry involve having an in-depth working knowledge of the following:
1. Contamination – This is the presence of a contaminant, which can be any objectionable matter that has the potential to cause harm. This includes harmful bacteria, chemicals or foreign physical bodies such as a nail or plastic.
1 a. Cross-contamination – Cross-contamination is the transfer of bacteria from contaminated food (i.e. raw chicken) to uncontaminated food (i.e. cooked beef) because of poor, unsafe, unhygienic food-handling practices. Food-handlers are known to be one of the most common sources of cross-contamination, mainly through contaminated hands.
Colour coding of equipment, utensils and machinery should be used for different types of food such as fish, vegetables, raw and cooked food etc. Raw foods must always be regarded as contaminated and therefore, colour coding must be used for handling raw and cooked foods to minimise the possibility of the raw food contaminating the cooked, ready-to-eat foods.
Our food hygiene training page will help you pick the right food hygiene course.
2. Cleaning and disinfection – Where there is food preparation or waste food, there is potential for bacteria to multiply to harmful levels. This bacteria must be removed or reduced levels that are not harmful. An important process to do this is to implement high standards of cleaning and disinfection routines. The manufacturers’ directions for their use must be followed (i.e. correct dilutions and recommended contact time).
Cleaning schedules should also be in place to ensure all equipment and premises are cleaned regularly with the appropriate chemicals and using effective methods of cleaning. Disposable cloths are recommended to be used to minimise the risk of cross-contamination.
Attention to detail and following instructions will help to keep machinery, utensils and equipment used in all processes clean and free from harmful substances.
3. Cooking – Not all food manufacturers will have a cooking stage. However, present processing methods such as cooking at the required temperature for the appropriate length of time is essential to destroy or reduce harmful bacteria to an acceptable level.
4. Discarding – Knowing when to discard any unfit, spoiled or potentially contaminated food will reduce the risk of contamination and cross-contamination.
5. High standards of personal hygiene – Everyone who handles food must do so safely and hygienically, which includes adopting effective hand washing techniques. Sinks must be provided for washing hands or for any other purpose and should not be used for washing equipment or food.
6. Appropriate protective clothing – It is essential to wear clean overalls or aprons to protect the food from bacteria. Long hair should be tied back or confined in a hairnet, which stops the hair from falling into the food during preparation and becoming a potential source of physical and bacterial contamination. Men with beards should wear snoods. Gloves must be disposable. Any food-handler who uses gloves should change them regularly or if they become contaminated or damaged.
7. Storing and chilling – Keeping food separate in appropriate containers stored at the correct temperatures according to best practice is essential. High-risk (cooked) or raw foods (such as poultry) should be chilled as quickly as possible as this will stop or slow down the multiplication of bacteria.
If your role is to effectively supervise the implementation of safe and hygienic food practices in your business, you need to ensure that all food-handlers are trained and follow best practice at all times.
Train your employees to have the necessary skills and knowledge to manufacture food safely. We deliver online training courses for those in the food sector industry which includes manufacturing. A Level 2 food hygiene certificate is recognised as the standard in food health and safety training, find out more about this manufacturing course.