Food Safety Compliance Regulations: A Brief Guide

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food inspector checking a product

Food safety compliance keeps consumers safe and minimizes harm to the public. In order for consumers to enjoy various food products without getting sick, manufacturers must abide by strict food safety standards. If you’re wondering what these regulations are and how to comply with them, this guide will cover everything you should know about food safety standards and compliance.

Discover the basics of modern food safety compliance rules and how to guarantee food safety so consumers don’t eat products contaminated with bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

Understanding Food Safety Regulations

Everyone who handles food cooking and production needs to be familiar with food safety regulations that stem from the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This piece of legislation grants the Food and Drug Administration the authority to regulate the process of getting food onto consumers’ tables, from growth to harvesting to processing.

Why are food regulations important? Without them, consumers are at greater risk of contracting illnesses like salmonella, listeria, and E. coli. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 48 million Americans contract a foodborne illness every year, with 128,000 requiring hospitalization and 3,000 fatalities as a result.

These numbers are far greater on a global scale, with the World Health Organization reporting that nearly one in ten people becomes ill after eating contaminated food. Approximately 420,000 people die every year related to foodborne illness, with children under the age of five accounting for nearly 30% of that figure.

FSMA compliance has been the norm since the act became law in 2011, following a years-long stretch of consumers reporting foodborne illnesses.

To keep the public safe, the FDA requires all food manufacturers to follow food safety standards. Establishing these regulations aims to reduce the number of people who get sick with a foodborne illness and thereby suffer from symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.

In addition, compliance with food safety standards helps manufacturers build trust among consumers and minimize significant productivity losses. The World Health Organization reports that countries with low to middle incomes suffer $110 billion in losses as a result of unsafe food. This number accounts for both medical expenses and the hit to productivity, caused by food recalls.

When it comes to food safety inspections, basic compliance checklists boil down to the four C’s:

  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Chilling
  • Cross-contamination

Food suppliers must take appropriate action to ensure that all food is properly cooked, stored at the right temperature, and made in a hygienic facility to avoid cross-contamination or infection.

Establishing Proper Hygiene Practices

man working on a biscuit production facility

Food suppliers must put proper hygiene procedures in place to give consumers a product that won’t get them sick. These practices are essential for eliminating germs and cross-contamination as various workers handle food and, typically, produce various products within the same facility.

Think about how you’d want a chef to prepare your food in a kitchen. You’d expect them to always wash their hands after touching raw meat or use different pairs of gloves while handling a product like fresh seafood versus fresh vegetables. This is a basic principle of food safety compliance and contributes to producing safer, uncontaminated products.

One crucial hygiene practice is for every employee to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds, including in between the fingers, the palms, the fingernails, and the wrists. Rinse well after sufficient washing, and then dry with a clean towel. A key thing to remember is to turn off the faucet with a clean towel to avoid unnecessary germs.

In addition, food handlers should be mindful of their fingernail length and the attire they wear since unwanted germs or bacteria can infiltrate these surfaces and spread to food. Personal hygiene practices like this are just one component of keeping food products safe from contamination. A larger part is making sure the entire facility stays clean.

Maintaining a Clean and Sanitary Environment

To align with food safety compliance standards, manufacturers must maintain a hygienic environment. This involves properly sanitizing all surfaces and utensils that come into contact with various food products. In order to avoid cross-contamination and kill all of the dangerous pathogenic microorganisms that are on the surface, handlers must follow a strict protocol.

Wiping food residue from the surface of a counter won’t actually make the area cleaner but instead spread the germs around for future contamination. The correct way to clean a surface is to scrape food particles off the surface, wash it with soapy water that reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit, and rinse with clean water until all soap residue is gone. Then, take a sanitizing spray or water that is at least 180 degrees, spray it onto the surface, and leave it to air dry.

Be sure to clean surfaces like this at the beginning and end of every production shift to maximize food safety. Wash and sanitize any utensils that touch food products to avoid cross-contamination.

One of the most important aspects of maintaining a sanitary environment is to clean all surfaces regularly, not just those in contact with food. This means that routines should be in place for scrubbing the floors, windows, and food storage areas, as well as disposing of food waste.

Safe Food Handling Techniques

holding a meat sample for testing

How your staff cooks and handles various products is a major part of food safety compliance. Failing to cook raw meats all the way through can lead to illness, and suppliers need to understand the proper techniques for cooking these products. Using a food thermometer can facilitate food handlers when it comes to reaching the desired temperature.

For poultry, ground beef, lamb, and pork, the internal temperature should fall between 160 and 165 degrees to reach medium doneness. Whole cuts of beef and veal require a temperature of 150 degrees, while fish only needs to reach 145 degrees.

While experts generally suggest serving meats only at their correct temperatures, some establishments offer steak, veal, or lamb slightly undercooked to accommodate the customer’s preference. This is fine as long as the supplier warns the consumer of the risks that come with eating undercooked meat.

Preventing Cross-Contamination

The last of the four C’s, cross-contamination, is a huge reason why millions suffer from foodborne illnesses every year. Bacteria and germs between products can cross paths if manufacturers aren’t diligent, which can put consumers in harm’s way. Preventing cross-contamination is possible, but suppliers need to understand food safety regulatory compliance.

Following proper hygiene practices can kill germs that may spread to food, but one of the best ways to prevent cross-contamination is to keep raw and cooked food products separate during storage and preparation. Keeping a head of lettuce right next to an uncooked steak can infect both products and result in foodborne illnesses. Storing similar products together in air-tight packaging minimizes this risk.

In addition, food handlers should also keep products separate while preparing the food. If cutting up meat or seafood, the handler must wash the knife, cutting board, and hands before moving on to cutting up vegetables. If it’s not possible to clean the utensils before switching products, they’ll need to use different utensils for each product.

Training Employees on Food Safety Procedures

All employees involved in growing, harvesting, and processing food must understand the proper food safety compliance standards. Training these workers on correct food safety procedures strengthens the chance that the product will reach grocery store shelves without contamination from harmful bacteria, viruses, or foreign objects.

Ultimately, business owners benefit from having employees who are knowledgeable about food safety compliance because it minimizes risk to their customers and protects them from financial loss.

Regardless of an employee’s role when it comes to food handling, it’s vital that they understand all of the necessary procedures as well as the consequences of not complying with these standards.

Conducting Regular Inspections and Audits

a pile of documents

If you’re a manufacturer that deals exclusively in raw produce or meat, then pests, mold, or other unwanted substances nesting on the product mean wasted food. Carelessly packaging products that are visibly contaminated goes against food safety compliance and puts millions of consumers in harm’s way.

All food handlers need to perform regular inspections of their products to ensure they’re of good quality. In addition, they should run maintenance and audits on all equipment used, such as x-ray inspection systems. Upholding the quality of this equipment allows suppliers to maximize food safety by detecting dangerous contaminants like metals, glass, and other foreign objects.

Internal audits of the facility, employee practices, and documentation can pinpoint any issues with food safety compliance to correct any mistakes and learn from them to promote a safer product for consumers.

Implementing a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) System

All food manufacturers need to establish a hazard analysis and critical control points system to abide by FDA standards. HACCP systems protect businesses and consumers from potential dangers by monitoring the food production process and identifying any hazards. If suppliers find an issue with one of their products, the FDA requires that they warn the public and take action to keep them safe.

Conducting a hazard analysis makes manufacturers aware of potential contamination that may occur during food production. They need to take these findings and establish critical control points that either reduce, prevent, or eliminate these risks. This process also involves accurate record-keeping and verification so suppliers can quickly pull products from shelves so customers don’t consume contaminated foods.

Ensuring Proper Storage and Temperature Control

If you fail to store food properly, you risk bacterial growth that can cause severe foodborne illnesses. The CDC warns that there is a danger zone regarding storage temperatures for perishable food. Leaving food out for more than two hours or between 40 and 140 degrees can cause rapid bacterial growth that will spoil the product.

Some tips to remember when it comes to food safety compliance are:

  • Set the refrigerator temperature at or below 40 degrees
  • Set the freezer temperature at or below zero degrees
  • Refrigerate all perishable items within two hours or one hour if exposed to temperatures above 90 degrees
  • Only thaw frozen foods in the microwave, the refrigerator, or in cold water instead of leaving them out on a counter

You should transfer hot food products into shallow containers before refrigerating them so they chill faster and reduce the chance of contracting a foodborne illness.

Let TDI Packsys be a part of helping your company achieve food safety compliance standards. We provide accurate inspection systems to detect foreign objects or contaminants within food products, as well as packaging automation systems to streamline manufacturing. Contact us at (877) 834-6750 or complete our online request form for more information about our products and how they comply with food safety regulations.

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