Jul 23, 2019
How to mitigate your risk of contamination
Recently, eight varieties of milk were recalled in Victoria and New South Wales amid fears that they may have contained food grade dairy cleaning solution. Incidents like this often come at a significant cost to the manufacturer. They bear not only the cost of recalling contaminated products, but also reputational damage for the brands involved.
While contamination isn’t incredibly common, this recent milk recall proves it can happen. The risks however, can be mitigated by putting the right procedures and people in place.
Contamination can occur anywhere in the production process
There are many reasons why food can become contaminated. Contaminants can originate from raw materials or occur during the production or transportation process. When raw materials or even finished products are stored alongside other products there is also the risk of cross-contamination.
The types contamination that can occur can also vary depending on the type of materials or products involved and what they’re exposed to. In some situations, like in the recent milk contamination, dangerous chemicals may inadvertently be mixed with food products. While in other cases, one food product may contaminate another, which could be life threatening for people who have allergies.
One of the most common causes of contamination are avoidable procedural errors that occur in the laboratory. This is because laboratories are often busy environments with multiple personnel working on different products at the same time, so the opportunity for cross-contamination to occur through shared equipment - or simply working in close proximity to others - is high.
Prevention is better than recall
It is always best to put in measures to prevent contamination from occurring all together, rather than relying on a recall of products. By putting in place good aseptic techniques and maintaining a safe lab environment you can ensure the risk of contamination is minimised. Laboratory staff play a crucial role in this process.
Some things that laboratory staff can do to mitigate these risks include wearing clean lab coats, washing their hands regularly and using proper aseptic techniques. They can also ensure the lab design is optimised, consistent cleaning procedures are in place and equipment is properly calibrated.
Experienced laboratory professionals understand the importance of these procedures and often know how to put in place processes to reduce risk. They may be able to identify risks in lab design or cleaning processes, for example, and identify opportunities to improve procedures to minimise contamination risks. It always pays to have qualified, engaged staff who understand the importance of following procedures that minimise contamination.
To find the right people to help you protect your products, partner with an agency who understands what skills your business needs.