Introduction to Food Safety Systems

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Introduction to food safety systems

In 1990, it was estimated that food borne illness caused the loss of 8 million working days and food scares cost the UK food industry more than £350 million annually, through plant closures and £250 million in lost sales (Aston and Tiffany 1997, p1).

Aston and Tiffany go on to add, that around this time food hygiene policies began to emerge from within food organisations to tackle the increasing number of food concerns. These policies served the purpose of setting and maintaining standards in terms of food hygiene and safety, and commanded both employee and management commitment if to prove successful. They claim the greater weighting of responsibility for implementation falls on the ‘management’ of food operations (Aston and Tiffany 1997, chapter 2, p5).

This is a claim echoed by author Richard Sprenger in his text for food safety courses-Hygiene for Management. According to Sprenger (2005, p283), food product safety is ultimately a management responsibility and is regarded as an absolute requirement by the customer. If left unchecked, poor food safety control can lead to outbreaks of food borne illness and poisoning, and in some severe cases, death. According to the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (2003), as cited on the web at http://www.parliament.uk/post/pn193.pdf (accessed 20/11/2007), salmonella causes the greatest number of deaths, with 119 deaths in 2000 alone.

In the UK in 2005, the number of reported food poisoning cases was 78,734. Regionally, statistics show England and Wales having 70,407 cases, Scotland reporting 6,918, and Northern Ireland with 1,469 notified cases. Source of food poisoning statistics: Health Protection Agency Centre for Infections/ Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre, Health Protection Scotland and Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre Northern Ireland, as cited on the web at http://www.foodlink.org.uk/factfile_c.asp?file=1&chapter=12 (accessed 30/10/2007).

The purpose of this study is to evaluate the contribution food safety systems (FSS) make to food safety in a live food operation. The two food safety systems evaluated for this assignment; (1) design, construction and layout of food premises and (2) cleaning and disinfection/sanitising procedures, are, like all food systems, part of a process to monitor and control potential hazards which may cause harm to consumers.

This paper particularly aims to address the role of the manager in ensuring effectiveness of food safety systems, and suggest recommendations for improvement. In this context, importance is depicted through the role of the Quality Assurance Officer at a sample meat processing/abattoir plant.

To examine the relationship between design, construction, layout, cleaning, and disinfection procedures in a live food operation, the author visited a meat processing plant in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. An interview was held with the plant’s Quality Assurance Safety Officer, the technical manager responsible for food hygiene and safety.

From the statistics in the opening paragraph, readers can see the lowest reported case numbers for food poisoning coming out of Northern Ireland; can this mean food processors and operators in Northern Ireland are doing something different from their counterparts in the rest of the UK? Perhaps the procedures are more rigorous and regulated in Northern Ireland, or the statistics may simply be down to their being less people per head of population in Northern Ireland when compared with the other regions in the UK.

The author seeks to investigate to what extend cleaning and sanitisation procedures are carried out in relation to construction, design, and layout of premises for the prevention of food contamination and poisoning, and to evaluate the rational of claims such as Sprenger et al, in respect of managerial responsibility being paramount in ensuring FSS effectiveness.

Managing food safety, a systems approach...
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