Working as a manufacturer in the food industry revolves around food safety importance. One minor slip that contaminates your batch could mean a huge profit loss and a public health concern. Understanding how your business can follow the best food safety practices helps protect your customers, finances, and future.
Why Is Food Safety Important?
Food safety refers to the safe handling, processing, and distribution of edible items to prevent foodborne illnesses, chemical hazards, and physical threats from harming the consumer. The food safety movement is important, especially for large manufacturing organizations, as it impacts the general public’s health. Prioritizing food safety keeps your consumers safe and protects your business.
Benefits of Food Safety
Food safety can help save lives. Rather than tossing contaminated foods and further contributing to a disrupted food chain with high prices, food safety prevents hazards to allow meal security, economic prosperity, and sustainable development. Food security can help more people access the nutrition they need when followed correctly and at scale.
The benefits of food safety include the following:
- Better public food security
- Reduced health hazards
- Economic security at your facility
- Reduced lawsuit risks
- Reduced profit losses and downtimes
What Are Some Common Causes of Foodborne Illness?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the top causes of foodborne illness include the following:
- Improper storing and handling temperatures: Storing food at an unsafe temperature causes 90% of all food poisoning cases.
- Unsafe cooking temperatures: Foods, particularly meats, must reach a certain internal temperature to be safe for consumption.
- Equipment contaminations: Contamination from raw meats on equipment like cutlery or cookware can spread harmful bacteria to finished products.
- Poor personal hygiene: Facility workers may spread germs by not following the correct hygiene standards.
- Unsafe food sources: Manufacturers should obtain food from safe and approved facilities to prevent hazards.
Examples of Foodborne Illnesses
- E. coli
- Hepatitis A
How Food Safety Measures Prevent Foodborne Illnesses
Food safety measures prevent foodborne illnesses by stopping or removing hazards before they reach the consumer. For example, thoroughly washing vegetables can remove harmful bacteria, cooking meats to a safe temperature reduces salmonella risks, and using separate prep spaces prevents cross-contamination. The list of safe practices goes on (we will cover them in more depth below), but each item aims to prevent common hazards in the food industry.
Food safety measures also include strict regulations by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), and Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) to minimize risks. Such regulations require manufacturing and production facilities to ensure food items meet safety protocols before reaching the shelves.
What Are the Risks Associated With Unsafe Food?
Unsafe food doesn’t just harm a single consumer. A contaminated batch can cause ripple effects that harm the general public, local or widespread economies, and your organization, demonstrating the weight of food safety importance.
Health risks go beyond foodborne illnesses. Four primary types of hazards can occur with unsafe foods:
- Physical hazards: When inedible items like glass or metal accidentally enter the food during the manufacturing or processing stages, the consumer can choke or suffer injuries.
- Chemical hazards: Chemical hazards include added or naturally present substances, like pesticides or residues, that cause harm to the consumer when ingested.
- Allergenic hazards: Cross-contamination with unplanned-for ingredients may not harm all consumers, though it could be fatal for someone with an allergy. For example, if a candy bar touches the same prep space as shellfish products, the label must warn consumers of the potential hazard.
- Biological hazards: Biological hazards include bacteria, viruses, mold, parasites, and other harmful organisms that contaminate food.
Minor disruptions in the food supply chain can have major ripple effects on local economies and the stakeholders involved on an international level. For example, say you own a large corporation that produces and ships eggs worldwide. After a salmonella outbreak, you must pause production, causing a major profit loss from the reduced exports.
Now, grocery stores worldwide must charge more for eggs for the time being. Your business loses money, and public access to necessary nutrition is reduced.
While this may be a hypothetical example, the pattern appears in real-world applications. Food safety is necessary for keeping consumers safe and businesses afloat.
Food manufacturers and producers should uphold certain responsibilities to keep consumers safe. Failing to meet food safety regulations can result in legal ramifications, like class-action lawsuits, where groups of consumers can sue for the harm caused by the product. Such scenarios can also result in severe economic and reputational complications for your company.
How Can Food Safety Be Improved in the Food Industry?
Current rules and regulations regarding food safety protect consumers to a certain extent but do not enforce all safety practices. Therefore, the food industry could improve food safety by creating more rules that enforce the best practices for handling edible items. If all manufacturers strictly followed safety practices, the food industry could reduce hazards.
Food Safety Practices in the Food Industry
The primary food safety best practices include the following:
- Wash hands with hot water and soap for 20 seconds before touching items and between preparing ingredients.
- Wash all equipment with hot water and soap between each ingredient to prevent cross-contamination.
- Use proper temperature control techniques associated with individual ingredients.
- Cook and reheat items to the correct internal temperatures for at least 15 seconds.
- Obtain food from only federally approved, safe sources.
- Maintain records of all food invoices, tracking, receipts, etc.
- Do not rely on cooking times, food colors, or odors when considering doneness or quality.
- Use metal or x-ray detection systems to locate hazards or foreign items in packaging.
- Thaw food correctly using only safe methods.
- Preserve food according to proper standards (vacuum sealing, freezing, etc.).
- Sanitize surfaces to remove bacteria between prepping.
- Use paper towels, not reusable, when cleaning surfaces to prevent cross-contamination.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables to remove bacteria.
- Establish critical control point procedures.
Consumer Responsibilities in Food Safety
Food safety is not just the manufacturer’s responsibility. Consumers can receive safe items and still get sick because of improper handling. Consumer responsibilities regarding food safety importance include the following:
Proper Food Storage and Handling
After grocery shopping, consumers must immediately place items in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent drops in temperature. Storing meats, veggies, fruits, and other items in separately defined places can prevent cross-contamination.
Shoppers should store items in the appropriate containers. For example, certain foods do best in air-tight containers in a dry cabinet, while others should stay on the counter.
Safe Food Preparation Techniques
Consumers should follow all the same safe food preparation techniques listed above, though this can be tricky in an at-home kitchen. Prepping items in separate spaces and thoroughly washing them between preps can prevent cross-contamination.
All at-home cooks should follow guidelines surrounding the proper internal temperatures. While food from the grocery store may seem “clean,” consumers should still wash vegetables and other items before preparing.
Reading Food Labels and Expiration Dates
Food labels often reveal hidden hazards, like allergen contaminants or chemical fillers. Carefully reading labels can prevent accidental injuries. In general, consumers should always follow recommended shelf lives and expiration dates.
What Are the Mistakes People Make When It Comes to Food Safety?
According to the CDC, the top ten mistakes people make when handling food are as follows:
- Not cooking eggs, meat, or seafood to the correct temperature
- Eating raw batters, flour, or foods with uncooked eggs
- Thawing food on the counter where germs can multiply
- Leaving food out for too long where bacteria can grow
- Peeling vegetables or fruits without washing them first
- Not washing hands before preparing food or eating
- Eating unsafe food as a high-risk individual (over 65, under five, compromised immune system, etc.)
- Placing cooked meat on a surface where raw meat sat
- Smelling or tasting old food to see if it has spoiled
- Washing poultry or meat, which can spread the contamination
How Does the Government Regulate Food Safety?
Yes, the government regulates food safety in a few ways:
- FDA: Regulates the nation’s food supply with further support from the organizations below
- FSMA: Gives the FDA further authority to prevent contamination
- GMP and HACCP: Prohibit the sale of adulterated food products and dictate risk minimization practices with science-based techniques
- GRAS: Ensures that foods are generally deemed safe by the FDA before reaching shelves
- CDC: Works with partners to track, investigate, and prevent foodborne illnesses
At TDI Packsys, we’re passionate about food safety. Our inspection solutions help your business identify physical hazards before they reach the next stage of production. Call TDI Packsys today at (877) 834-6750 to speak with our team about a customized solution for your business.