Food safety is a top priority for manufacturers. They must implement policies and follow rigorous guidelines in production and processing environments to ensure that all items released to market are safe for public consumption. A failure to comply with such measures can lead to foodborne illnesses, which may in the worst of circumstances lead to loss of life. Further consequences of such incidents can include a reduction in public confidence, serving to damage the brand’s reputation for a long time.
To understand some of the top causes of compromised food safety, and what best practices can be employed in food production environments to combat these issues, let’s take a closer look.
Types of Food Safety Hazards
Those enrolled in food safety training will be interested to know the most commonly identified food safety hazards. These can be categorized into four areas, each based on some of the most common causes of compromised food products. These categories include:
- Biological hazards: contamination of food by microorganisms that might come from the air, water, animals, or the human body, including parasites and viruses
- Chemical hazards: harmful substances found in food naturally (ex: mycotoxins), added intentionally (ex: the preservative sodium nitrate), or added unintentionally during processing (ex: pesticides)
- Physical hazards: foreign objects found in food products, such as glass, plastic, bone, etc.
- Allergenic hazards: an allergic reaction to specific proteins found in a food product, most commonly associated with milk, eggs, nuts, soy, wheat, and shellfish
A Closer Inspection of Microorganism Contamination and Foodborne Illness
Foodborne illnesses are a top of mind concern to industry professionals due to the far-reaching, devastating nature of the damage that can occur as a result of an outbreak. Foodborne illnesses are primarily caused by microbial contamination of water and food ingredients. A well-known recent example includes the widespread recalls in 2019 of romaine lettuce due to contamination with E. coli bacteria—also commonly found in undercooked ground beef, unpasteurized milk, and contaminated water. Other well-known microbe contaminants known to compromise food safety include:
- Listeria: most commonly found in deli meats, hot dogs, unpasteurized milk, and raw cheeses
- Salmonella: occurs in eggs, poultry, meat, as well as in unpasteurized milk and cheese
- Norovirus: most commonly associated with produce and shellfish
- Campylobacter: found in raw poultry and contaminated water
A Look at Some Best Food Safety Practices for Preventing Microbe Contamination
Food safety hazards associated with microbe contamination can be prevented by implementing a few key strategies and handling procedures, including:
- Thorough cooking or pasteurization of foods to kill microorganisms
- Use of vacuum sealing and other packaging technology to hinder bacteria growth
- Diligent management of storage temperatures to reduce microbe growth potential
- Rigorous sanitation practices at every step of production to prevent cross-contamination
- Buying only from approved suppliers
The most diligent manufacturers will also implement a clear food safety plan, resulting from a thorough risk assessment of the establishment’s own production methods. The plan is a written document containing clearly proposed strategies for monitoring identified risks, with improvements or corrections applied as needed.
Are you interested in taking specialized training to earn your food safety diploma?
Contact the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences for more information on its Food Technology, Safety and Quality certification program!