Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What does Clean really mean?

Cleaning is a basic requirement of the food industry but often one of the hardest requirements to achieve.  All food law and customer standards require that the food business is clean, so what does clean actually mean?  Clean means you can’t see it, you can’t feel it and you can’t smell it.  To expand on this let me explain further.

You can’t see it

When you visually look at a food contact surface or another surface (say the floor), you cannot see any dirt, dust, food scraps or any other material - so visually it looks clean.

You can’t feel it

If you were to run your hand over a bench, you can’t feel any grit or granules.  If you were to walk across a floor, the surface does not feel slippery or sticky.

You can’t smell it

If you were to say walk past a drain, you cannot smell any filthy, rotting or putrid smells.  There should be no smells that would indicate spoilage of any sort.

So, if you want to avoid a host of problems that come with an unclean food premises (bacteria growth, slip and fall injuries, prosecution, foreign matter in your food and pest infestation) follow the three simple actions to ensure your place is clean.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Value of Your Food Safety HACCP Consultant

The HACCP certification process can be very daunting for any food business and even more so when there is trade at stake.  The majority of the time, it is the responsibility of one person (normally the QA representative) to write, implement and make sure certification is successful.  But those of us who have ever been expected to achieve this outcome know too well, that this is a massive job. Enter the trusted food consultant.

As an auditor, I have had many experiences with consultants – some good and some not so good.  I get very irritated when I see that someone is being paid to do a job and they really just have no idea what so ever.  So here are some tips of what to look for in a Food Safety Consultant.

Professional Credentials

The consultant should have at least some level of qualification in the food safety / food quality / food compliance arena.  A degree in Food Technology, Environmental Health or Food Microbiology is a fantastic start.

Knowledge of the Criteria

Depending on the certification that your company requires, specific knowledge regarding the audit criteria is essential.  Different certification criteria’s include Codex HACCP, BRC, SQF, WQA, McDonalds, ISO22000 etc.

Past Experience

Check out what the consultant’s background experience is.  Have they worked in your industry or actually been exposed to successfully writing, implementing and managing a certificated food safety system.  Keep in mind that the consultant should compliment your HACCP team.  It is not necessary for them to know the ins and outs of your processes as your company would have that expertise. Knowledge around the different types of hazards that would occur in your process should be expected.

Professional Development

Keeping up to date is essential in the food safety and quality arena.  Knowledge of emerging trends in food safety hazards and changes in legal requirements is a must.  As an auditor, we are required to undertake 6-monthly calibration training to ensure that we are up to date with the latest standards and their requirements.

Past References

Get in contact with previous businesses that the consultant has undertaken work for.  Ask about how they found the consultant to work, what Criteria (Customer Standard) they consulted on and how the certification process went.  It is also important to find out what the scope of the consultants work was.

The Final Word

A little bit of research into your chosen consultant (before you sign a contract) can save you a lot of money and a lot of time.  Also, you should be wary of any consultant that tells you that they can write and implement a HACCP based food safety program in 2 weeks.  It takes time to change workers habits and behaviours so this cannot happen effectively within such a short period of time.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

E.Coli Food Poisoning Outbreak: A Timely Reminder

The E.coli food poisoning outbreak in Germany is a timely reminder for food businesses to review their food safety hazard analysis tables.  As it stands today, over 630 cases of HUS (Haemolytic uraemic syndrome and 1601 cases of EHEC (Enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli) infections (without HUS) have been reported in Germany.  Of these, 21 deaths have been recorded.

Food Safety Hazard Analysis

The majority of certification standards require the food business to keep up-to-date with new and emerging diseases along with reviewing their hazard analysis or food safety risk assessments on a regular basis.
Check that specifically E.Coli has been identified and assessed as opposed to just “microbiological hazards”.  A common mistake by the food industry in the hazard analysis process is to not get specific with the actual type of microbiological hazard identified.  This is important as one common “preventative measure” does not and will not control all different types of microbiological hazards.

Risk of E.Coli

The outbreak in Germany highlights the need to undertake a review for any food business that uses or processes fresh produce, seeds or sprouts (or anything that ordinates from soil or water).  What is generally known about E.Coli is that it commonly found in the gut of humans and warm-blooded animals. 
Although the source of the bacteria has not yet been identified in the outbreak, I suspect some type of cross contamination issue with faecal matter (maybe via fertiliser or watering).

Further Reading

If you would like to keep up to date with the E.Coli outbreak in Germany the World Health Organisation Media Centre is the place to look (

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Metal Contamination: Can you really detect metal in your products?

There seems to be several food recalls every week due to metal contamination in finished product. If a metal detector was in place and operational, how is it that product has been recalled for metal contamination?