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Food Safety Management

Updated on August 9, 2014

Introduction

Efficient food control systems in every country are very important in protecting the consumer’s health. Food control systems and safety management practices are also crucial as facilitators for food processors to assuring quality and safety for food products. They are also essential in authenticating that the food items so produced or imported meet the national health and safety requirements. For instance, the legal basis and safety standards for food products in member states of the European Union are currently in the process of being enacted. Safety concerns related to food products especially during the 1990s mandated the European Union and other nations around the globe to review their policies regarding food safety and finding means in protecting consumers against contaminated food products (Newcomb, 2013, 43).

During the year of 2001, the European Union prapared a paper on food safety as framework for the new legal basis for the production of suitable food and animal feed production plus food safety control measures. The Codex Alimentarius Commission is an organization mandated to developing internal guidelines, standards, and recommendations that are meant to reducing risks associated with food contaminations. The Codex Alimentarius established a risk analysis, the HACCP and the approach of the integrated food chain. The paradigm of the food analysis includes risk management and assessment. The risk communication have also been included as the universal principles in the European Union regulations and they are the ones which forms the legal basis of the food safety systems in EU member countries (FAO, 2012).

Many people around the world today, including scholars have been concerned on the negative effects of unsafe food on human health. A lot more have begun to explore the issue from a range of perspectives such as crisis management, food safety, state responsibility and so on (Charles, et al n.d, 2).

. This hub discusses how the principles of risk analysis and food safety management can be applied to ensure food safety in the food chain. We will evaluate various principles such as HACCP, BCP and Traceability and Recall Management as measure that ensure food safety in food chains.

Risk Management and Analysis

Risk management remains a major concern for governments and food processors in protecting their consumers against harmful food products. Although Risk management may be based on both scientific evidence and risk evaluation, other areas of food production such as environmental protection and animal warfare could be taken into consideration (Food Market Exchange, 2001, 17). An efficient system in food management may be regarded as a combination of direct government or corporation overview based on food safety needs that are approved by laws as well as the private systems for controlling the food safety and quality. According to the Netherland’s ministry of agriculture, (2012) approval of production processes by accredited firms are poised to assist manufacturers in reducing the levels of risks that are associated with contamination and convince government officials and consumers of the quality and safety of the products they are consuming. The user’s confidence on the products is largely depended on the quality of the body responsible for certification. In the majority of the Western nations for instance, businesses in the private sector have developed their own extra quality measures in order to keep the quality of their products in check. These unofficial policies are meant to improving specific qualitie of products, but on the other hand, the increased demands may hinder the accessibility of the markers by the businesses.

The development of significant food laws and regulations is an important component in the present food control systems. Many nations around the world have developed efficient food legislations and this is poised to influence the efficiency of all food control operations undertaken in particular state. Food regulations have traditionally consisted of definitions such as dangerous food, plus the prescription of implementation tools for removing unsafe foods from the market and punishing those parties who have trespassed the rules. This traditional perspective has however not offered controlling agencies with clear authority and mandate in preventing problems associated with food security. This has resulted into programs that that have turned out to be reactive and oriented to enforcement instead of being holistic and preventive in their attempt to reducing the food contamination risks. To some extent, the modern food laws not only harbor the all important legal jurisdictions in ensuring that regulations on safety are adhered to, but also the competent and effective authority in building preventive approaches into the system (Agriculture and consumer protection, 2013,1).

The government should enhance the level of punishment on the unlicensed and illegal business, propaganda the significance of food quality and safety and track the process of production of companies then give objective report regularly. The companies have to standardise the production process and the supply chain, form correct business morality, undertake all the bad consequences of the illegal activities and recycle all the problem products. The media has to report the situation correctly, but it should report the positive aspect at the same time, calm down the public panic and concern. The individuals should believe in the domestic milk and dairy without blindness in panic of negative reports and spread positive emotions on domestic milk industry (Griffith, 1997, 24).

Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP)

HACCP refers to a management system where food safety is addressed by way of analysis and control of chemical, biological and physical hazards derived from production of raw materials, handling and procurement to manufacturing, distributions and eventual consumption of the finished goods. HACCP can be used as a preventive strategy to not only food safety but also chemical, biological and physical hazards in production activities that are deemed to make the finished products to be unsafe, It establishes measures that are aimed at reducing such risks to a level that is considered safe (Food and Drug Administration, 2007, 2). It is because of this that HACCP is considered as preventive measure that is capable of preventing hazards instead of focusing such measures on finished products. Individuals, authorities or organizations could use this system at all stages of the food chain. This is from food production, preparation processes such as packaging , distribution and so on. For instance, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration claim that their compulsory HACCP programs for meat and juice have been an effective strategy in protecting the public health and the general food safety in the country. USDA is responsible for regulating Meat HACCP systems while FDA is mandated to regulate juice and seafood. In other industries, the use of HACCP is voluntary.

HACCP has been increasingly identified globally as an effective instrument for adapting conventional inspection techniques to the modern food safety systems that are science based. This tool, which is based on risk analysis and assessment enables both the government and organization leaders to efficiently allocate their resources in establishing and auditing food production practices that are safe. The HACCP Alliance was initially established purposely for the safety of poultry industries and U.S meat. Presently, the HCCP members has spread to other industries and professional bodies (International HACCP Alliance, 2014, 1).

The application of HACCP can be extended to other industries other than food. For instance, it can be extended to other industries such as pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and so on. In effect, this technique seeks to plan unsafe practices that are science based. However, it differs from the traditional approach of sort and produce and quality control methods that are not focused at preventing hazardous occurrences, but are only aimed at identifying them at the end of the process. HACCP emphasizes on the health and safety issues of a particular product and not necessarily the quality of that product. However, the principals of HACCP forms the basis of the majority of food safety and quality assurance systems (American Society for Quality, 2007, 2).

Under HCCP, food processors are expected to document the HCCP plans as well as corrective or preventive measures on ensuring safety on their food productions. They should also be able to present such documentation to food and drug administration when requested to do so. These records should also be maintained for a specific period.

To effectively and efficiently comply with such mandates, food processors should use management systems of food security that will facilitate control of electronic documentation and signatures. Such systems may include checklists, workflow management functions, standard operating procedures, critical control paint alarms among others. They will also enable the statistical process controls, easy collection of quality data and charting. Effective management of food safety will not only facilitate compliance in these, but will also automate data management processes that may otherwise necessitate manual interventions. These measures will save a substantial amount of costs as well as improve on productivity (National Food Service Institute, 2013, 2).

Effective documentation and general managerial procedures besides good resource management is an effective strategy for implementing the FSMS (ISO 22000). For the food firms to efficiently implement FSMS systems, they have to put their focus and efforts in strengthening their internal documentations systems, resource planning and management and realization of safe products to facilitate improvements as well as effective implementation of FSMS.

Traceability and Recall Management

With the number of recalls and audits is significantly rising, food processors are expected to track all food ingredients right from receipt through the finished goods and delivery , including the one up and one back in the supply chain. This capability is in most cases considered as a pedigree to the usage of product genealogy. With the use of FMSSs, food control processes that are incorporated can immediately address any quality related issues. If a quality related problem is identified or suspected, then it can be dealt with accordingly (Plex On line, 2014, 2).

An example can be derived from this scenario, a customer or distributor logs into FMSMS and establishes a problem report. He notes the unique batch number, identification number or barcolate scan which identifies the problem ingredient by its batch or lot. The problem ticket will instigate an alert inside the system. Quality automatically receives the ticket alongside the traceability tree for potential problems in the product, including the quality of all the ingredients. The FSMS then undertakes a root cause analysis, which recognizes the problem. All ingredients within the batch are also identified and quarantined inside the software. The software then automatically quarantine the inventory that is not yet consumed as well as all the finished goods that are still stock. Any shipped product that need to be recalled is also identified. Notifications are then sent to all customers and distributors (Plex On line, 2014, 2).

Business Continuity Plan (BCP)

Business continuity planning (BCP) is an essential element for many organizations. The continuity plan can also be used by food processors in ensuring food safety. BCD is a process where organization leaders may employ a plan for and protecting against potential disasters and risks during processing, packaging, storage or distributions. BCP will assist companies to design effective measures on how to control the potential hazards and risk in food production. With a carefully thought out BCP, an organization may be able to continue business operations even in the occurrence of a particular disaster (Elliot et al 1999, 48).

The first step in BCP is to determine the natural and manmade disasters as well as the type of potential threats that affect the business operations. After determination of the potential threats and risks to food safety, the BCP can be used to plan on how to manage them. Among the advantages of BCP is to reduce the risks of and damages to food safety. Organizations such as the Food and Drug administration, Occupational safety and Health Administration (OSHA) among others may develop the business continuity plan so as to ensure that the firms goes back on track once there have been some damage caused by accidents, human error, or natural disaster (British Standards Institution, 2006, 2).

Under the plan food processors are expected to identify the potential risks that that may emanate from the production or distribution of food items. In addition, they are expected to constantly evaluate the safety of their food and the production process. The threats to food risks and hazards should also be evaluated and managed accordingly. The processors should also assess the weaknesses and strengths in solving a crisis should it occur. This is to make it ready to handle such crisis should they occur. Some of the elements may include incorporation of procedures to be followed in notification of the crisis to responsible authorities, notification of distributors, vendors or customers and recovery of the major operational functions. The processors should ensure that all their internal departments are well integrated in order to implement an holistic continuity plan. They should ensure that they are adequately prepared for all safety aspects associated with their production process. The potential weaknesses of the firm should be discussed in-depth and involving all stakeholders (British Standards Institution, 2012, 3).

Preparation of a business continuity plan will require a budget for the purpose of implementation. Such a budget should be prepared based on the company’s critical requirements. The budget should also be categorized as specifically a risk management budget. The workability of the continuity plans should also be evaluated accordingly. Responsible figures may use several figures in evaluating their effectiveness. Such tools may include benchmarking, audit reports as per industry standards and maturity modeling.

In essence, it is important for food processors to plan for potential hazards and risks. This is because food hazards are always bound to happen, as proved by media reports. The natural and mad made hazards are challenging and terrifying to deal with on a personal level as well as on a corporate level. At the corporate level, responsibilities are broadly reaching to such stakeholders as clients, employees, suppliers and stakeholders. Familiarity with business continuity resources will make them to be better prepared.

Food processors need to be concerned on the safety of their food items through the food chain that is from reception, production, distribution and the ingredients used in the food chain. They should also be concerned on the business consumption plans, which is the return to work formulas and how to continue with the operations after a disaster has occurred. The potential effect of a hazard or risk to food processing and safety may adversely affect the reputation of the firm involved in food processing, the entire food chain and the business in general. A part from clients losing faith on the processor, the government may also be forced to evaluate the company and may even stop from operating in the case of a food hazard. This therefore necessitates food companies and processors to set up an effective strategic plan in order to effectively manage risks and hazards. Such a plan should also include disaster recovery scenarios and scenario analysis (Harney, 2004, 18).

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