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Why Food Safety Compliance Is So Important (Toebreaker July 2008)

Food safety compliance has become an increasingly important issue in the Food Services Industry, reflected by a significant increase in media and regulatory attention, and associated penalties for targeted organisations.Companies in the food services industry all process, use and sell food in different ways, however, food safety and compliance issues all remain the same.

A recent investigation by The Independent into the hygiene standards of Britain's top ten food chains has revealed some shocking facts about our favourite restaurants. As local authorities rated the food safety of restaurants, an alarming number failed to meet the legal standards regarding basic hygiene and safety principles, including popular restaurants such as Yo! Sushi, Pizza Hut and Pizza Express.

Under British law, restaurants need to be inspected by environmental health officers every two years, who then rate the restaurants by giving out stars ranging from zero to five. Restaurants with a low star rating have very poor food safety standards, as well as incurring an increased risk of food poisoning. The results of the star ratings showed that take away restaurants scored the lowest star average of 2.4 stars, while pubs came second place with 2.7 stars and restaurants third on 2.8 stars. Schools and hospitals proved to boast Britain's cleanest kitchens, scoring an average of 4 out of 5 stars.

The results of The Independent investigation were released at the start of Britain's Food Safety week as the nation is becoming more and more aware of the importance of maintaining high food safety and quality standards. Britain's Health Protection Agency estimates that about 4.5 million restaurant-goers in England and Wales alone suffer food poisoning each year, an alarming figure which has prompted the Food Standards Agency to embark on a campaign highlighting the importance of food safety.

This investigation highlights the importance of constantly performing food safety checks and inspections, and when doing so, companies should ensure that their inspection procedures include the 3 main factors that can cause food contamination, and these are:

  • Professional Personal Hygiene
  • Time and Temperature Control of Foods
  • Cross Contamination Prevention

  1. Professional Personal Hygiene

    Food services companies must observe high standards of personal hygiene, since personal hygiene is not only important for the protection of food, but also for the company image. However, personal hygiene is a concern that is often overlooked, and poor hand washing, for example, is one of the main causes for food borne illness.It is essential that companies set out specific rules and regulations regarding personal hygiene procedures, such as, hand washing, safety hair nets, glove use, employee illness policy (e.g. sickness, cuts etc), uniforms and other safety procedures. Food handling staff need to be trained and educated about the importance of these safety procedures, if not they will fail to understand why these procedures should be followed meticulously. Given that it is not easy to measure compliance on these safety procedures, organisations should have designated workers to monitor these procedures.

  2. Time & Temperature Control of Foods

    Bacteria in food multiply rapidly in what is known as the "danger zone" (60°-5°), thus food workers can minimize the risks of bacterial growth by limiting the time spent in the danger zone during any of the food handling stages. It is advised that food should not be exposed to this temperature range for more than two hours. Furthermore, it is also recommended that professionals use a food thermometer to measure temperature (and time) in order to limit the potential growth of bacteria.

  3. Cross Contamination Prevention

    Cross-contamination is the transfer of potentially harmful substances to food and can occur at any time during the food handling process through the contact between; food to food, utensils to food and hands to food.

The food services industry is one with a high level of staff turnover, therefore, food safety policies and staff training that deal with issues such as personal hygiene, time and temperature control, and cross-contamination prevention are crucial in order for safety and quality standards to be maintained. Companies should not only establish written food safety procedures, but also constantly measure their compliance and take corrective measures.

In conclusion, food safety is not just about maintaining a clean working environment, and non compliances can occur in any stage during the food handling process from receiving, storing, cooking, cooling and reheating, or serving. So make sure you implement adequate training, safety and monitoring procedures to keep your working environment as safe as possible!

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Impressed with the breadth of issues and implementation the CMO COMPLIANCE Governance, Risk & Compliance platform has addressed.

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Impressed with the breadth of issues and implementation the CMO COMPLIANCE Governance, Risk & Compliance platform has addressed.

Michael Rasmussen, Corporate Integrity LLC