‘It’s everyone’s business’: 3 ways food manufacturers can contribute to food safety
posted on 2 June, 2020 by Saxon Robinson - Chief Marketing Officer
Ensuring food safety in the changing climate is a major challenge for today’s food industry, particularly during the current COVID-19 global pandemic. Plus, increasingly longer and more complex supply chains, a growing world population and climate change is pushing food safety to become a top public health priority. Given the impact that poor food safety can have on consumer health, the issue has attracted the attention of the World Health Organization (WHO), with 7 June 2020 marking the second World Food Safety Day.
This year’s theme “Food safety, everyone’s business” hints that food safety is a shared responsibility amongst governments, producers and consumers. But who is ultimately accountable for keeping our food safe and contaminant-free? According to WHO, food can become contaminated at any point of production or distribution, and the primary responsibility lies with food producers. Reviewing processes and implementing measures across production lines can therefore be crucial in reducing the risk of a food safety incident. As the world moves towards more enhanced measures to contribute to food safety in food processing and packaging technologies, we outline three steps that can support producers’ endeavours, while maintaining high quality standards:
- Ensuring equipment is easy-to-clean and maintain
Keeping a plant clean is one of the most effective measures for avoiding environmental contamination concerns. It is even more important in the current climate, as the world looks to the food industry for the reassurance that plants are taking additional safety precautions. Although the risk of transmitting COVID-19 in the food industry is relatively low due to the already stringent regulatory requirements, such as ‘Good Manufacturing Practices’, food manufacturers are encouraged to review hygiene procedures to consider where additional cleaning is needed.
Meanwhile, some food products, such as frozen goods or meat and fish, demand even more frequent cleaning and regular monitoring to prevent bacterial contamination. Implementing a stringent plant hygiene policy is not only necessary to meet the relevant regulatory requirements, but also assure complete food safety. As such, food manufacturers are increasingly choosing systems that are created using easy-to-clean materials, like stainless steel, across production lines to minimise lengthy downtime and reduce the risk of allergens and contamination.
To help food manufacturers meet various safety standards, however, equipment providers are increasingly offering several options to enhance the hygienic design of food processing and packaging machinery. Easier access to machine parts can further simplify cleaning procedures. Ideally, cleaning is accomplished without removing components; but if components need to be removed, they should have a tool-less design with no loose parts. In addition, crevices, corners and other areas where food can build up are open invitations to cross contamination. Systems should therefore be free of features that create recesses, gaps and areas that are typically hard to clean.
- Implementing metal detection systems
Metal contamination in food products is a major safety hazard for consumers – and it is an issue that can happen at any stage of the food processing chain. Detection systems have therefore become an essential requirement for any production line, either as a standalone entity or integrated alongside other packaging and processing equipment. The latest technology allows processors to identify potential risks in food by monitoring for small pieces of metal, as early in the process as possible, to avoid wasted products and time.
Sensitivity and reliability are both key for effective detection systems; it is crucial that nothing is missed. Plus, with today’s processing lines capable of operating at unprecedented speeds, food manufacturers must be sure that their chosen detection system can still perform accurately at such high speeds without decreasing productivity. In light of the COVID-19 crisis, however, it is important to check whether metal detection equipment needs to be recalibrated in line with any updated food safety risk assessments.
- Investing in date-coding and traceability
Establishing traceability in food processing is one way in which manufacturers can manage risk on production lines. It allows the movement of products to be recorded throughout the processing stages, usually with barcodes or RFID tags. Accurate labelling forms a key part of monitoring product safety levels, so manufacturers can quickly and effectively identify what is in the packaging.
Date coding is increasingly being used to improve traceability and meet the latest food safety regulations in a simple and cost-effective way. Assurance systems can then be implemented to accurately and reliably find products that are miscoded or un-coded. These measures mean that food products have date codes clearly marked, reducing the risk of incorrectly labelled goods entering the market. Again, date coding labelling may need to be updated following the COVID-19 pandemic, to make sure that it fits current food safety requirements.
Making food safety a priority
While business must continue, food manufacturers globally must adapt their production models in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis if they are to succeed. With all eyes on the industry, World Food Safety Day is another step in promoting good food safety and hygiene practices in production. As well as posing a risk to consumer health and potentially further the spread of the virus, poor food safety could have significant cost and brand implications. Partnering with tna can provide you with the right processes and tools to help you continue to operate safely in a highly regulated area.
Contact us to find out more about how tna can help your business optimise food safety on production.