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Employer calls to action for this World Food Safety Day

Man checking food quality in processing plant

Each year, June 7th marks World Food Safety Day, a day aimed at inspiring action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks. And though many of us take food safety for granted, there are 600 million cases of foodborne illnesses and approximately 3 million deaths annually as a direct result of poor food safety. It has broad and sweeping implications on the world at large, affecting food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development. 

Furthermore, though COVID-19 has not been transmitted by food, the pandemic has sharpened the focus on food safety-related issues, such as hygiene, antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases, food fraud and the potential benefits of digitalising food systems. It has also identified vulnerabilities in food production and supply chains, with many parts of the world struggling to receive supplies due to tight restrictions and lockdowns.  

For this reason, it is vital for organisations involved in the growing, processing, manufacturing and storing of food to be hyper vigilant when it comes to implementing rigorous Quality Assurance systems and protocols regarding food safety. 

Here are a few of the calls to action the World Health Organisation is encouraging everyone involved in the food supply chain to consider this World Food Safety Day. 

 

Grow it safe 

Good food safety needs to occur from the outset. This means that horticultural and on-farm food safety for fresh produce should be implemented throughout the planting, growing and harvesting, packaging and distribution stages.  

There are three major categories of food safety hazard – microbiological, chemical, and physical – which can occur through soil, fertilisers and soil additives, water and people. It is important for both employers and employees to understand the potential hazards for each category, and be able to identify them, even if no perceived potential risk exists.  

Potential hazards can include everything from untreated organic animal products used for fertilising coming into contact with food, to inadequate cleaning of picking containers and packing equipment. It is important for businesses involved in the production of fresh produce to show they use Quality Assurance systems incorporating the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points‘ (HACCP) 12-step method, as required by law as a food safety tool. 

When it comes to instances of human contamination, employers can review the competency, experience and capabilities of staff to ensure that they pose no threat to food safety while handling produce. Training can be conducted in personal hygiene standards (e.g. hand washing, no smoking, no communicable diseases) with regular re-enforcement on-site. For those employees managing or supervising a team, training can be provided to identify employees with potential gastro-intestinal complaints or open wounds, so that they can be given tasks that do not involve contact with fresh produce. 

 

Keep it safe 

This call to action encourages business operators to ensure that any food products included within their operations or stored on their premises is safe for sale and consumption. The Australian government’s Guide to the Food Safety Standards suggests one of the best ways to do this is by informing food handlers of their health and hygiene obligations, while also taking all reasonable measures to ensure persons on food premises do not contaminate food. 

A lot of this will come down to the effective training of employees and ensuring they possess the skills and knowledge in food safety and hygiene matters that are commensurate with their work activities. There are many options that a food business can choose from to ensure this, including in-house training, the distribution of relevant documentation to employees, having operating procedures in place that clarify the responsibilities of food handlers and supervisors, attendance at food safety courses run by local councils or other bodies, and the completion of online food safety training courses.  

It is important to note that some jurisdictions may have specific competency and training requirements for food safety supervisors or those in managerial roles. This means that specific training must be delivered by a registered training organisation.  

With instances of staff turnover or changes in business processes, it may be useful for employers to keep records of staff training, so as to better keep track of which employees have the most relevant and up-to-date skills and knowledge. Having a plan that identifies the training needed by each staff member or category of work, may prove helpful, as well as keeping track of who has completed the training. 

 

Know it’s safe 

As food production, manufacturing and distribution becomes increasingly more complex, there are a growing number of touchpoints by which a food product can become unsafe for consumption. And with the public’s heightened focus on food safety and contamination, food production and manufacturing businesses are at greater risk of reputational damage should there be need for a recall. 

By the same token however, those businesses that maintain rigorous safety standards may be at an advantage to their competitors as more of the Australian consumers seek out food brands they know are safe. By using accurate labelling and being transparent when it comes to safety processes and the supply chain, consumers will develop greater trust in the company. 

If you are looking for employees within the food and beverage industry who have the relevant skills and experience for the safe handling and processing of food, contact Techstaff today 

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