Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Coca-Cola learns a Food Recall Lesson

It is amazing the effect that a poorly written and executed recall plan can have on the credibility of a business.  One of the world’s most popular brands is under the spot light after failing to notify the New Zealand Food Safety Authority that they had a problem.

Coca-Cola had been receiving customer complaints relating to white mould in its “Pumped” branded flavoured water since December 2010.  It has been reported by New Zealand media that seventy-six (76) people had complained about the water with eleven (11) of those reporting experiencing symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.

Concern has been raised by the Authority around the time it took for Coca Cola to notify the issues they were having.  A trade recall was initiated by the company back in December with full distribution stopped in January 2011.  It was not until further complaints were received in February 2011 that notification to the Authority was made.  Even then, it was not the company that notified but a marketing company who alerted government.

The basis of every product recall plan should be the action of notification. This particular recall has shown that particular elements of the recall process were not followed by Coca-Cola.  Several other deficiencies were identified during the Food Safety Authority investigation including inconsistencies in company recall procedures.

So, based on this latest report, please consider the following questions for your food business:
  • How good are your recall procedures?
  • Have you ever conducted a review against legal requirements?
  • How effective is your “mock recall” process in identifying problems?
  • Did you actually rectify issues identified during your last “mock recall”?

Love to hear your feedback!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Food Business Notification

The NSW Food Authority has successfully prosecuted a food business for failing to notify their business in accordance to food legislation.  A fine of $3,200 was issued for this offence by the local court in conjunction with a listing on the NSW Food Authority “Name and Shame” database. 

Food Safety Standard 3.2.2 (Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code) requires all food businesses to notify their existence to the relevant authority.

What is a food business?

A food business is defined as any business, enterprise or activity that sells food or handles food intended for sale.  This includes all commercial, charitable or community based businesses.

How were they identified?

The food activities of the business were uncovered as part of a food poisoning investigation.  Over 50 consumers became ill after the catering event was held.

Court documents stated that after an extensive investigation was conducted by the public health unit it was found that “the severe illness affecting participants was indeed caused by salmonella, and those affected constituted a significant proportion of people who had participated in the event. Further, whilst the investigation revealed that there was considerable cross-contamination of various foodstuffs and the facilities in question, the source of the salmonella was able to be identified with a substantial level of certainty”.

Is your business next?

It is the food businesses responsibility to notify their existence to the relevant authority.  In most cases, this will be either your local council or your State/Territory Food Authority or Health Department.
It is recommended that you keep a copy of your notification registration details to produce as required.  This will include providing this information during your 3rd party certification audit as the majority of customer standards require you to comply with your food legal obligations.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Hand Washing for HACCP

The legal requirements for food handlers in regards to hand washing are documented the relevant food safety legislation applicable to your country location. Food handlers are generally required to wash their hands whenever they are likely to be a source of contamination.

This includes washing hands:
  • Before working with ready-to-eat foods
  • After handling raw food
  • After using the toilet
  • Before commencing and re-commencing handling food
  • After smoking
  • After coughing or sneezing
  • After touching hair, scalp or a body opening
  • After using a handkerchief or disposable tissue
  • After eating or drinking
  • After using tobacco or similar substances
It is recommended that a food handler, whenever washing his or her hands:
  • Use only the designated hand washing facilities provided
  • Wash hands with warm running water and soap
  • Only dry hands with single use or disposable towels

6 Step Hand Washing Technique
  1. Remove all rings and wet your hands with warm running water
  2. Put a small amount of liquid soap in the palm of one hand
  3. Rub your hands together for 20 seconds so you produce a lather
  4. Make sure you scrub between your fingers, under your finger nails and the backs of your hands.
  5. Rinse your hands with clean running water for at least 10 seconds. Try not to handle the taps once your hands are clean. The provision of hands - free taps helps to reduce post hand washing contamination.
  6. Dry your hands with a single use paper towel.  Single use towels help to prevent the spread of germs.  All used towels should be disposed of in the waste bin.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

How to document a HACCP Flow Chart

The HACCP Flow Chart is the basis of any HACCP based food safety program.  It is imperative that the food business documents this flow process correctly as the remaining HACCP principles are developed from this flow process chart.

Over the years there has been a gradual shift from the use of symbols that represent certain production operations to the use of words.  By documenting your flow process chart as a series of words, it helps to clearly indicate the steps in your process.

What is a HACCP Flow Chart?
A flow process chart is a pictorial representation of a process.  Within the food industry, it generally represents all the steps that raw materials go through to become a finished product.  Steps in a flow process chart can include Receival of raw materials, store of ingredients, preparation, cooking, cooling, packing, labelling, bulk storage and distribution.  Depending on your process, you may have many more or less steps and types of steps than these listed.

Flow Chart Symbols

Traditionally, HACCP flow chart symbols have been used to illustrate the actions within a flow chart.  The most common actions are shown below:

Flow Chart Text Boxes
It is more common now to use worded text boxes.  This helps to give a better description of the process step and is more also easily understood.  Text boxes also allow you to document as much detail about the process step as you need.

Clear documentation
Whatever method you choose to use, the flow chart should clearly indicate all steps in the process.  Please ensure that you consider steps involving re-work and services in eg. Water, compressed air (food safety hazards can be identified at these process steps).  If you find that you have several processes within a process, a separate flow chart should be documented.  Your first level document can be an overview with subsequent layers drilling down into each of these processes.
For more information and guidance on the flow process chart requirements, please check the HACCP certification standard which you have based your HACCP system on.