Food Safety – Global concern summary

John Surak  

Food safety is the responsibility of all individuals in the food chain. Food safety starts on the farm, continues with the food manufacturers and the distributors, and ends with the consumer

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points or HACCP is an effective tool to prevent food from being contaminated with food safety hazards. HACCP is not a stand alone system.  It must be supported by a foundation that allows HACCP to work.  This environment is described in the Good Agricultural Practices or the Good Manufacturing Practices. Another term used to describe this environment is Prerequisite Programs. 

In 2005, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) published the latest standard that describes the requirements for a food safety system.  This standard, ISO 22000, links together the following requirements to ensure food safety:

  • HACCP
  • Prerequisite programs
  • A formal management system.

If further gains in public health can only be achieved by updating food regulations. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences addressed this issue in 2003. They conducted research at the request of the US Congress, the Food and Drug Agency and the Food Safety Inspection Service. The report makes recommendations which include:

  • Regulatory emphasis must focus on prevention, reduction or elimination of foodborne disease hazards
  • HACCP plans should be developed that are specific to a product and a processing line.
  • Statistical process control linked to continuous improvement must be a part of food safety regulations.  The concept of continuous improvement is central to food safety.
  • Microbiological samples provide an organization and the regulatory agency with a score card of performance. 
  • Future significant gains in food safety can only be realized with the implementation of more effective process control measures.
  • The US food processing industry must move from an inspection based system to a process control based system to ensure the production of safe food.

Summary

  • Food processing regulations should be updated using the recommendations of the National Academies of Sciences.  These recommendations focus on developing a more preventative approach to regulating food production
  • Food processors should update their food safety systems to make the compliant to ISO 22000.

The complete article will appear in the October issue of Quality Progress.

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