A visit to the Food Standards Agency website reveals that the food industry makes worryingly frequent errors across manufacturing and preparation processes which leads to recalls.
In recent weeks, there have been several recalls because products were dispatched without the allergens being listed which posed potential health risks, possibly life and death issues. A seemingly small error can have grave consequences.
This same period saw food recalls from suppliers because the items were suspected of containing plastic, metal, listeria, salmonella, contamination risks and there was a concern about product tampering.
It seems that the influx of food recalls is relentless but it can, and must, be addressed.
Health and safety training
A primary way to ensure that food recalls are minimised is to be proactive about health and safety training. Every worker involved in food manufacturing, preparation and retail is required to attend health and safety training at the start of employment. It’s recommended that this training is refreshed every three years.
Specialist training firms like Food Alert in London offer a range of classroom based and online food safety training courses which are Chartered Institute of Environmental Health or Royal Society for the Protection of Health accredited.
They use up to date legislation so when a candidate takes training they are optimally educated.
It is imperative that the best practices are enforced on the premises by management and that risks are identified, assessed and controls initiated.
This can be done via a HACCP, Hazards Analysis Critical Control Points, based food safety management system that meets both UK and EU legislation. Again, courses are available from leading training firms.
The level 2 (GCSE equivalent) HACCP training course content is shown below:
- The components of HACCP food safety management systems.
- Risk awareness.
- HACCP’s purpose.
- HACCP benefits.
- How to use HACCP.
- HACCP’s seven integral principles.
- Establishing HACCP food safety management systems.
- Identifying HACCP procedures.
- Hazard recognition.
- Critical control points.
- Corrective actions at all levels of employment.
- Food hygiene – assessing critical control areas.
- Contamination and its various sources.
- Control methods to prevent contamination.
- How to reduce/eliminate risks using HACCP.
- How HACCP reduces risks.
- Workplace safety.
- Staff competency.
Ignorance and a lack of in-house food safety audits to monitor processes and accuracy are not credible excuses for placing the consumer, and indeed workers, at risk.
Food safety audits
As with the official HSE and FSA audits, management should not announce when an unofficial food safety audit is to take place. A true picture highlights training gaps, process issues and identifies how labelling errors, cross contamination and tampering could be controlled at the highest level.
Health and safety training is an expenditure but compare this to the ramifications of a food safety incident; a product recall, being listed on the FSA website, loss of reputation and business plus fines, legal action and unhelpful publicity, and the outlay is a wise investment.
Peace of mind is an invaluable asset.
Food recalls are wholly preventable with effective training, food safety audits and management procedures so please take positive action today.