What is Due Diligence in Food Safety?

Due Diligence in Food Safety
If you work in a food establishment, you may have come across the term ‘food safety due diligence.’ This article looks at what due diligence in food safety is and how it should always be maintained and recorded. All food workers, including owners, managers, supervisors and other members of staff, should make keeping food safe their highest priority. Implementing correct due diligence records allows your food business to provide evidence of safe food practices and can protect your food establishment from legal repercussions.

What is Food Safety Due Diligence?

Members of staff who work with food should be well trained, ideally with a verifiable qualification to ensure that they have the knowledge to work with food safely. This proves that they are continuously handling, holding and serving food hygienically, and this should cover all stages of food production, from delivery to service.

It’s one thing to put all these good practices into play, but another to prove that these safe practices are being implemented in the day to day running of a food business. Following a documented system such as HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) will enable you to keep and prove all the evidence and records of food safety management produced by your business. This evidence can be used as support in the court of law, as a due diligence defence under the Food Safety Act 1990, as it provides proof that the business in question has followed extensive precautions and a systematic approach to the prevention of committing a food safety offence.

Overall, this is essentially is ‘Food Safety Due Diligence’, ensuring you are implementing legal and safe food-handling practices while documenting and evidencing them throughout each stage.

Why is the Food Safety Act, 1990 important?

Handling food in an unhygienic or unsafe way can lead to catastrophic consequences for consumers. There are many reasons why preparing and handling food in a safe manner is vital and should always be practised. Some consumers such as infants, the elderly, pregnant women and allergy sufferers are easily susceptible to certain food hazards. The Food Safety Act, 1990 gives the consumer the confidence that the food they are consuming is safe to eat. Each person who works with food should always follow the Food Safety Act, 1990.

The FSA (Food Standards Agency) states:

“The main responsibilities for all food businesses under the Act are to ensure that:

  • businesses do not include anything in food, remove anything from food or treat food in any way which means it would be damaging to the health of people eating it
  • the food businesses serve, or sell is of the nature, substance or quality which consumers would expect
  • the food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that is not false or misleading”

If a consumer feels that the food or drink, they have received from a food establishment or company goes against the Food Safety Act, 1990 they have the right to challenge this in court. By keeping appropriate due diligence records and maintaining good food hygiene practices, the food establishment can build a due diligence defence against the claims being made.

What is Needed to Demonstrate Due Diligence in Food Premises?

Good record keeping is an efficient way to prove that due diligence has been maintained throughout the food production process. We have mentioned the food safety management system, HACCP previously in this article. It is important to know that following HACCP principles and procedures will help to ensure that a food business is always compliant. Maintaining detailed and correct records in line with HACCP principles will underpin high standards of food safety.

These records enable the food worker to gain an understanding of how the food is being produced throughout every stage and process. This makes it easier to keep track of any hazards that may come into contact with the food and how to prevent them quickly.
Certain records could include:

  • Cleaning schedules
  • Approved suppliers
  • Labelling and packaging procedures (essential for allergen control)
  • Cooking, fridge and freezer temperatures
  • Disposal of waste
  • Pest control
  • Staff training
  • Your own HACCP system
  • Monitoring and updating of records

These will provide evidence which could be used in court to prove that the food safety management systems and procedures in your food business are safe. It will also demonstrate the measures and efforts that are in place to ensure that food remains safe for the consumer and that safe food hygiene and practices are always being implemented.

Without these records, it will be hard to prove that you are compliant to the Food Safety Act, 1990 and could result in legal ramifications, which could have negative repercussions on a businesses’ reputation or continuation of the company.

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