Food safety

Food safety definition & why is food safety important

Food safety refers to the practices that are observed during the handling, processing, and distribution of food to ...


  • Food safety refers to the practices that are observed during the handling, processing, and distribution of food to ensure that contaminants that can cause foodborne illnesses are not present.
  • Food safety is an important aspect of food production and handling as it ensures that the health and safety of consumers are protected from any food-related issues.
  • Food safety is a collective effort from all the members of the food supply chain.

Food is one of the major necessities of a human being to survive. The nutrients we get from consuming food give us the energy and nourishment we use to sustain our daily activities. Foods also play a great role in the culture of the society and give a certain identity to a community. Consuming food brings your different experiences through the sensations and flavors they give you. Together with, enjoyment, everyone should be entitled to food safety. With this, we ask ourselves, "Why is food safety important?"

All members of the food supply chain play a role in maintaining food safety. Whether you are a food supplier, a food business owner, and manufacturer, or a customer, you have a significant part in food safety. This aspect of the food supply chain aims to protect customers from food poisoning and foodborne illnesses that can affect human life and business performance for establishment owners.

 

food safety is important

 

With the recent trend of the global food trade, food safety has become a concern that needs to be emphasized even more. Increased awareness of the principles of food safety to make informed choices can save everyone from any inconveniences they may bring.

In this article, we will tackle the most important food safety aspects from the point of view of a consumer and a food business owner. Know what part you play and how important it is to know what food safety can bring to our everyday lives.

 

Food safety definition – What is food safety?

Food safety refers to the proper food handling procedures applied during food preparation, processing, storage, and distribution of the products you deal with in your food business. The concern on the integrity of food safety lingers within all of the parts of a food supply chain. The concern for the food production life cycle starts from agriculture to packaging of finished products and delivery to the consumer's table.

Controlling food safety requires knowledge about what could endanger its integrity and stability. Food safety is negatively affected by contaminations along your food supply chain. These contaminations can be caused by biological, chemical, physical, and radiological hazards that can affect all key junctures of your operation. Without the proper management and control of food safety, issues such as foodborne diseases and food-related injuries can occur.

Food handling practices that can be applied to keep food products wholesome are what is food safety made up of. All of the members of the food supply chain must comply with established standards and legislation to maintain food safety. Proper handling and industrial processes may include cooking at the right internal temperature to prevent undercooked meat, preventing cross-contamination through proper segregation to prevent contact, storing foods at proper refrigeration temperatures, and other critical control points that help render potential infectious diseases ineffective.

Additionally, consumers also play a significant role when it comes to food safety. Customers are expected to follow storage and processing directions for the products they purchase especially if these are raw materials. Participation of consumers towards food safety is also seen through their demand for high quality, safe products and voicing their complaints if there are and food safety issues.

 

Why is food safety important?

Recent data released by the World Health Organization have estimated that at least 600 million people all over the world become inflicted with foodborne illnesses after consuming unsanitary food. Of these people, at least 420,000 people die every year. Economic progress can become affected through productivity loss and medical expenses as a result of a foodborne disease burden.

The majority of food safety issues are caused by pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria that cause food poisoning or food intoxication. They can cause mild to fatal health consequences that include watery diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or even debilitating infections and long-term diseases. The consequences of food safety issues may have fatal outcomes for both food business owners and consumers. Basic and everyday foods can easily become contaminated. Some examples of foods involved in common illnesses include high-risk ingredients and any perishable food such as eggs, poultry, fresh fruits, raw meat or deli meats, deli seafood salads, undercooked seafood, ground meat, raw sprouts, and raw milk products. These ingredients can become contaminated by intestinal pathogens such as bacteria and cause infection if preventive measures are not applied.

 

FoodDocs food safety system

 


Here are a few reasons why it is important to keep food safety controlled:

  • Protection from foodborne illnesses and other food-related injuries. The main objective of food safety is to protect consumers of food products from foodborne diseases or injuries related to food consumption. Foodborne illnesses are a major threat to food businesses and affect everyone all over the world as a result of inadequate food safety. These effects are mainly caused by foodborne pathogens that may include harmful bacteria, fungi, yeasts, parasites, or viruses. Additionally, chemical substances, heavy metals, and excessive additives can also cause foodborne illnesses and acute poisoning. Depending on the nature of your products, a pathogen is expected to thrive with inadequate food safety control measures. Foodborne infections and injuries can also arise as a result of physical hazards such as shards of glass, pieces of metals, or any hard objects that have contaminated your food in production. With proper food safety measures, you can assure that the food you serve safe food and that the chance of infection is low.
  • Reduced cost from food safety issues. Unsafe food with proven safety issues may be deemed unfit for consumption and may merit being disposed of. Defective product recalls cost companies more and will affect your profits and can even cause business closure. The cost of food recalls is not only seen in terms of profits. If the food safety issue has reached a widespread scale, you may be liable to pay for medical expenses or lawsuits concerning damages. On the side of consumers, proper food safety practices can reduce costly health care expenses from less risk of disease occurrence. Consuming unsanitary food may lead to hospitalization and contribute to the cost of health care.
  • Reduce waste. Food products that have been proven to have food safety issues may be subjected to disposal. Through the use of proper food safety practices, a food business can cut waste as a result of a better food production process. Food safety management systems are also designed to detect and control food hazards even before they enter production which can lead to more waste if processed further. 
  • A better way of living. Any foodborne illness affects productivity in consumers. Once afflicted, consumers will be able to function well and may even need hospitalization in extreme cases. These events cause dramatic disruptions in everyday activities. If food safety practices are applied both in a food service establishment and at home, these cases can be prevented. Everyone can enjoy the delights that foods bring and healthy life without the inconvenience and dangers of food safety hazards.
  • Sustainable food production. Some food production practices have already received backlash from different communities because of the negative effects they contribute to the environment. Proper food safety practices include food manufacturing processes that not only protect the consumer but also take into account the environment. Practices such as reducing synthetic fertilizers that can leach into the food products are controlled under food safety legislation. In addition, food safety practices include assurance of clean drinking water and the reduction of air, sewage, and other environmental pollutants which significantly contribute to the environment. These practices go a long way. Contaminated water can easily affect all other ingredients and enter the human body since water is a key ingredient in almost all processes. 
  • Safer food globalization. All laws about food safety are designed to protect consumers from food safety issues. Adhering to these comprehensive guidelines makes your products as competitive as possible, especially in the fast-paced globalization of the food industry. With proper food safety management systems, routes to a broader distribution channel become open for your food business.

 

How does food safety help to save lives?

Food safety plays a great role within the entire food chain more than we think it does. Food businesses are required to implement food safety management systems to protect the health of consumers from any foodborne disease. Beyond this concept, food safety contributes as well to important necessities in society as food security. 

When properly implemented, food safety practices can help detect and control food safety risks, and contribute to economic prosperity, food security, and continuous and sustainable development. By providing safe food for consumption a continuous supply of food for everyone can be ensured. The many benefits of food safety in various aspects of life prove why is food safety important for everyone.

The concept of farm-to-fork (or farm-to-table) food safety is well-known in the food industry. This concept tells us that food safety should be observed right from the beginning when raw foods are just being produced up until the finished product reaches the consumer. Standard food safety practices for growing produce have been established in laws such as the Food Safety Management Act in the United States. The farm-to-fork concept emphasizes how food safety hazards can occur at any point in the food supply chain.

The ultimate goal of food safety is to create a sustainable and secure food supply for everyone. This goal aims to emphasize the enjoyable experience of food while being sure that the food we get is safe. When all participating parties in the entire food chain, manufacturers, suppliers, the government, and consumers, play their role in food safety, this goal can be achieved.

 

Your responsibility to food safety

Each member of the food supply chain has a role to play in the food safety concept. All roles are vital and invaluable in the process. Whether you are a food business owner, government personnel, or a customer, your role cannot be replaced. Food safety is everyone's responsibility. 

Here are some ideas on the roles of major food industry players in the management of food safety:

  • Government regulatory bodies establish standards and laws for food safety...

Food regulatory bodies are responsible for establishing food safety standards on food handling, food and personal hygiene, and distribution. Some of the well-known regulatory agencies include the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the United States and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the UK. These agencies, together with the presiding government create food laws and regulations that aim to prevent food safety issues such as foodborne illnesses or infection.

They are also responsible for monitoring the implementation of these laws to ensure the food safety compliance of food retailers and other businesses for the interest of consumers. Government food safety regulatory bodies also prepare appropriate sanctions for non-complying food businesses to uphold any international standard. In this light, some food agencies conduct food safety inspections and external compliance audits of food manufacturing companies. They similarly provide certification programs and auditing services to update food businesses with the new laws and regulations.

  • The manager's most important food safety responsibility is training you to...

As food business operators who manage manufacturing operations, some of your biggest tasks in managing food safety include orienting, implementing, and reminding your team members about food safety hazards and how to control them. You are similarly responsible for building an effective food safety protocol for the welfare of your food business to show your concern for health care. Your installation of a food defense plan must follow international and domestic food safety standards and laws related to the industry you are in. As such, you have to research and update the knowledge of your team about food safety regulations.

Food business operators play a great role in maintaining food safety. Effective food safety management is achieved by applying a proactive approach to identifying the food safety hazards of your business and establishing control measures for all of them. To achieve these responsibilities a food handler must disclose its company information to the food safety regulatory bodies for proper assessment and gain consumer trust. To further prove commitment to the health and safety of consumers, a food business owner can acquire certification for food manufacturers.

  • Customers must be knowledgeable about food safety...

Although unusually emphasized, consumers also have a great role they should play to maintain food safety. The first responsibility of a consumer is to demand safe foods from food manufacturing companies and food handlers. Consumer opinions and demands emphasize the task of food business owners to uphold high food safety standards. In addition, it is also the responsibility of the consumer to be educated and aware of food safety practices and foodborne illnesses. Once the products arrive at your households safely, the responsibility to keep the product safe for consumption becomes partly yours. 

Some reports about foodborne illnesses have been linked to the consumer's lack of knowledge and awareness about any proper food safety practices. Customers are required to know how to properly handle, process, and store the products they buy as instructed by the producer as these are based on international standards. The information about food safety that customers must possess does not need to be very advanced. Basic knowledge about cross-contamination, risks of hazards, and proper preventive measures would do great. Some activities that easily go unnoticed but are vital to maintaining food safety may include proper handwashing, sanitizing the working area, and proper segregation of fresh produce and cooked foods.

Food safety is a concept that only becomes effective if all food industry players work together. Food laws and regulations may be present, but without complying with them, food safety will not be effective. In the effort to control food safety within the whole food supply chain, education about food safety hazards, proper training, and certified food handlers are keys.

 

restaurant food safety is important

 

Restaurant food safety

Perhaps a model example for food safety practices is a restaurant food safety system. Restaurants deal with lesser complex raw material receiving, storing, processing, serving, and distributing food products when compared with big manufacturing operations. Despite this, a restaurant's food system is a simple yet great design for food safety systems. 

In a food business such as a restaurant, food safety is controlled by a mandatory food safety plan created in compliance with food laws and regulations. This plan is implemented by the food business owner or manager and applied and practiced by the whole team including the quality assurance supervisor, service personnel, chef, and even the visitors. Each member of the system contributes to controlling food safety.

Having detailed safety programs would enable your team to identify which points of your operation would hazards most likely occur and what preventive and control measures would be most appropriate. During receiving, your food safety plan must contain thorough inspection directives to detect any outright visible hazards. An example would be passing the raw materials through a metal detector.

At the processing stage, your chefs and personnel must follow food safety standards on food preparation and cooking. Standards such as properly cooking the food to the correct internal temperature using a food thermometer to check, separating raw foods from cooked materials, and maintaining the prescribed temperature during service are included in a food safety system.

As a food service employee, the manager's most important food safety responsibility is training you to properly manage food safety hazards and apply corrective actions should standards be breached. All of these components are parts of a comprehensive food safety plan. For start-up businesses and even those that have been in the food industry for a long time, having a detailed food safety management plan would be the best way to ensure food safety. Completing these documents and food safety procedures in the fastest way possible is our main goal at FoodDocs. Our services can help you to create a HACCP Plan in 1 hour and set up your food safety management system in just 15 minutes and implement it right away. You are very welcome to browse and test our services at FoodDocs.

 

Food safety jobs

To create a food safety system, your food business must come up with a team dedicated to food safety. Opportunities in the food safety sector range from food safety officers to food safety inspectors and senior managers for food safety.With the ultimate goal of protecting public health from foodborne illnesses and other food-related issues, these jobs play vital roles in the food supply chain.

Here is a list of the wide range of opportunities, jobs, and responsibilities of key personnel in the food safety industry:

  • Food safety officer

A food safety officer is a qualified employee with extensive experience and knowledge about food safety. An officer may be hand-picked or voted as the best representative to implement and monitor food safety management systems in a food business. As a food safety officer, this employee must be knowledgeable and updated in the current food safety laws and regulations locally and internationally. The food safety officer also must ensure that all other employees follow proper food safety practices during any operations process. Food safety officer compliance audits concern all fields of processing that can affect food safety.

Some of the other tasks of a food safety officer include:

  • Lead the conceptualization and implementation of the company's food safety management system.
  • Supervise and monitor employee practices before, during, and after operations.
  • Conduct internal audits on the different sections of the food business as a food safety inspector.
  • Suggest improvements for food safety practices and coordinate with involved departments. 
  • Ensure a high level of food safety standards in the company.
  • Issue notice and appropriate corrective action in case of questionable products.
  • Conduct training on food safety practices for employees
  •  
  • Quality assurance/ control officer

Although their title suggests mainly being concerned with the quality of the products, it is also part of a quality officer to detect malpractices and food safety hazards in the operation. Included in their task is to document and report any deviation from the standards of the production process. Other tasks involved in being a quality assurance officer may include:

  • Collecting samples for safety analysis.
  • Monitoring production process and maintaining standards
  • Recording and archiving any deviations and appropriate corrective actions applied.
  • Inspecting raw materials upon receiving

  • Operations manager

An operations manager's main task is to facilitate the proper use of equipment, scheduling of production, and cost reduction. They are concerned with compliance with standards on the factory floor and administrative duties. This role is vital as a part of a food safety management system team because they are concerned with the design and structures of the operations facility. Additionally, they are also involved in improving the overall performance of the whole production team. In terms of food safety here are some tasks that an operations manager plays:

  • Ensuring the safety of employees during the production process.
  • Implementing directives of food safety officer in terms of food safety standards while maintaining operational efficiency.
  • Initiating corrective actions and supervising their execution.
  • Monitoring the release of food products with slight non-conformance.
  • Ensuring accountability of food production personnel during operations.
  • Conducting training for operations staff to prevent any accidents.
  • Ensuring proper pre-operational and post-operational sanitation procedures.

  • Food safety and operations personnel

Whether a frontline service employee, food production personnel, sanitation crew, or the chef, all food safety personnel are responsible for carrying out food safety mandates from their respective officers and the law. As personnel of the food business, you are accountable for maintaining and executing proper food safety practices and preventive measures during your operations

 

How has food safety improved or changed during the last decades? Has the knowledge of the topic increased?

In the previous decades, food safety issues have plagued nations worldwide. Widespread foodborne disease outbreaks such as the Jack-In-the-Box foodborne illness outbreak which was caused by the widespread of the enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli 0157:H7 in the United States and the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy disease in cattle in the United Kingdom have prompted food safety agencies to seek more effective food safety standards. These events have also highlighted the participation of consumers when it comes to food safety. The causative microorganisms in these outbreaks are still present and are commonly found in perishable food such as unpasteurized milk or raw meat.

This history of food safety has sparked the interest of food regulatory bodies in the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) system to significantly increase. After other major food safety issues, the food safety sectors have focused on implementing preventive measures to apprehend foodborne illnesses. After initial implementation procedures of the HACCP food safety program, incidences of foodborne illnesses have started to significantly decrease.

During the implementation years of the HACCP food safety plan, scientists and the government food agencies have gained more information on the nature of different foodborne hazards. This information led to an increase of food safety awareness among food businesses and consumers alike. Initiatives and international benchmarking systems such as the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) have also been created to certify similarly natured food safety management systems.

In addition, laws such as the Food Safety Management Act of 2011 in the United States have shifted the focus of the whole food industry towards the prevention of food safety hazards. This proactive approach aims to detect food safety hazards before they even happen and prevent further issues. Soon after major outbreaks in the food industry, other international standards for food safety have been established. Although still a major concern, the developments in the field of food safety have made food safety issues manageable.

 

food safety UK vs US

 

Food safety UK vs US

Food safety standards, laws, and enforcement measures significantly vary depending on the context of location. Perhaps some of the most well-known food safety agencies that set international-level standards are from the UK and the US. Below are some differences and similarities between the food safety standards of the US and the UK.


Food legislation

The UK and the US food laws differ in terms of principles and focus. The main food safety legislation in effect in the US is the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA) which is the most recent reform made to the FDA food safety laws. This law shifted the focus of the food industry from solving food safety issues to a proactive preventive approach. The FSMA includes directives on how to maintain food safety within the whole food supply chain for local and international businesses of the US food market. 

The FSMA mandates for all food businesses have a risk-based food safety system to identify hazards and establish preventive measures. It is the country's solution to control any foodborne illness outbreak. On the other hand, the United Kingdom's main food safety law is the Food Safety Act 1990. This law is the main framework of all the food regulations of Wales, England, and Scotland.

The Food Safety Act 1990 emphasizes the importance of ensuring that food businesses do not have or will remove any material that can be damaging to public health and safety. It aims to protect the interest of the consumers and uphold the quality they demand. Under this food legislation, food safety guidelines on proper labeling, advertising, and presenting information about food products are included.

 

HACCP Implementation

The United States food safety regulations do not mandate the implementation of the HACCP food safety program for most food businesses. Despite this, some industries under the FDA such as the seafood and beverage industries are required to have a HACCP food safety plan in place. In addition, the USDA mandates all meat and poultry processing food businesses to have a HACCP food safety system.

Despite being not mandatory, the FDA FSMA law requires all food businesses to have a risk-based system for food safety relevant to all other food businesses. This food management system specified by the FDA is called the Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls system or HARPC.

In the UK, the HACCP plan for food safety was only a recommended food safety system until the amendments passed in the early days of January 2006. Under Regulation (EC) No 853/2004, all food businesses in the UK are mandated to implement a HACCP food safety system. In addition to its mandatory implementation, the HACCP system of food businesses is due for scheduled auditing to measure its effectiveness. 


Food Allergens

There are a few differences when it comes to labeling food agents that can cause food allergies in the US and the UK. In the US, the FDA mandates the disclosure of eight major food allergens in all of the food packaging of foods ready for sale. These food allergens include tree nuts, milk, egg, shellfish, soybean, fish, wheat, and peanuts. 

On the other hand, food regulations in the UK require the declaration of 14 different major food allergens. These allergens include celery, peanuts, wheat, soybean, fish, crustacean, tree nut, milk, egg, sulfite, mustard, lupin, mollusk, and sesame seed. 


Surveys

There have been several different surveys that aimed to compare the food safety laws of the UK and the US. Despite the many claims that the US food safety management laws are inferior to that of the United Kingdom, a global survey conducted by the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) in 2020 has shown that the UK and the US food safety standards are equally competitive.

The mentioned analysis was based on the evaluation of the core elements of food security:

    • Affordability
    • Availability
    • Quality and safety

In the 2020 study, the UK and the US share the same spot in third place. In the most recent (2021) food security index, the US food security standing fell a few places down but was still in the top 10 countries with the best food safety standards. In summary, legislation and food safety guidelines from both countries equally uphold high standards for food safety.

 

Common food safety questions

  • What is the name of the legislation associated with food safety?

    • In the US, the Food Safety Management Act of 2011 (FSMA) contains the majority of the most significant regulations on food safety, whereas the Food Safety Act 1990 provides these food safety guidelines in the UK (England, Wales, and Scotland)

  • Why is it important to keep food safe?

    • Foodborne illnesses arise as a result of improper food handling procedures. Activities to keep food safe protect consumers from these food related-issues.

  • Why are food safety and food hygiene important?

    • Proper food safety and food hygiene practices prevent the contamination of food products from related hazards. They ensure that the food produced by a food business is safe for the consumption of consumers.

  • What is food safety and why is it important?

    • Food safety involves preventive practices at any point of food-related operations such as receiving, storing, processing, handling, and distributing. Food safety practices ensure that all operation steps will not have any food safety hazards and that a company is delivering safe food to consumers.

  • What is the easiest way to prevent cross-contamination?

    • Some of the best practices that can prevent cross-contamination include frequent handwashing and proper segregation of cooked and uncooked foods to prevent direct contact. As an example, keep raw poultry, meats, unwashed fruits, and eggs separate from bread and other ready-to-eat foods.

  • What are the most basic food safety practices?

    • The key practices to achieve food safety include (1) maintaining cleanliness and personal hygiene, (2) properly cooking food to the correct internal temperature, (3) storing foods at a safe temperature (refrigerated temperatures or hot-holding), (4) keeping raw and cooked foods separate, and (5) ensure clean raw materials.

  • What are the principles of food safety?

    • The four main principles of food safety are to Clean, Chill, Store, and Cook food properly to control food safety hazards.

  • What is a food hazard?

    • A food or health hazard is any article that could contaminate food products at any point of the food processing operations and can cause foodborne illnesses and other food-related injuries.

  • What are the 3 types of hazards?

    • The three main types of hazards include biological, physical, and chemical hazards. In recent developments, long-term exposure to radiological has been considered a major concern for people with weak immune systems in addition to allergen hazards.

  • A food handler's duties regarding food safety include all of the following practices except:

    • Food safety testing samples for microbiological soundness. 
    • Conducting food inspections and audits based on food safety. 
    • Submitting complaints directly to the food agencies.
    • Serving or directly distributing food to consumers.

 

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