Our family loves traditional gatherings celebrated around overloaded lunch tables with every imaginable dish prepared and shared to suit our individual tastes, including my niece’s latest vegan obsession running in tandem to her allergy to peanuts.
A recent food poisoning catastrophe which nearly ended in a family fatality brought my relationship to food safety sharply into focus. It took me on a journey of discovery in food safety throughout the processing and manufacturing food chain.
What I discovered is that we all share a great responsibility towards food safety, especially during the packaging, transportation, storage, cleaning, preparation, cooking and serving of food.
Top 10 Benefits
Why do we have food safety regulations? Let’s look at some persuasive answers:
1. Benefits a Country’s Rule of Law
Setting food safety standards and regulations for the benefit of the food industry and its consumers ensures industry compliance and provides recourse to the rule of law should a disaster occur. The 1996 outbreak of Mad Cow Disease in England and its human contracted variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease still plagues the UK blood donor supply industry today.
2. Prevention of Disease and Death
Food poisoning and other foodborne contamination of bacterial, viral or parasitic agents can lead to gastroenteritis, dehydration and other more serious health problems such as kidney failure and death. No one wants to put our life at risk every time we lift a fork or spoon to our mouth.
3. Prevents Food Contamination
Humans can get sick from food that is not processed under strict food safety regulations. For example, Escherichia coli (E. coli) can be caused by beef contaminated with feces during slaughter, unpasteurized milk and apple cider, alfalfa sprouts and contaminated water.
4. Benefits Industry Standards
Food safety regulations are required to be standardized for compliance throughout each step of the food chain from production, storage and distribution, to sale and service of the consumer and must include regulations for receiving, re-packing, food storage, preparation and cooking, cooling and re-heating, displaying products, handling products when serving customers, packaging, cleaning and sanitising, pest control, transport and delivery.
5. Informed Behaviours and Decisions
Not only processes must be managed for food safety regulation, but people must also be managed for teamwork and efficiency too. For example, issues occur when restaurants try to minimise food wastage or a large shopping centre puts refrozen chicken onto the shelves.
6. Benefits the Transportation Industry
Proper food storage delivers the best food quality by retaining flavor, colour, texture and nutrients and reduces the onset of food-borne bacteria. It is also impacted by the time required to move it from the farm, to shop, to our homes and depends whether food is perishable (meat, eggs, fruit, vegetables), semi-perishable (grains, dry mixes) or non-perishable (sugar, canned goods) and how they are handled and transported.
7. Benefits the Packaging Industry
Packaging is not only about appealing design so the consumer will make a purchasing decision. It protects food products from physical damage, minimises food waste, reduces the amount of preservatives used in food and provides labelling for nutritional and allergy information and the products ‘sell-by’ date.
8. Manage Correct Food Storage
Food poisoning bacteria multiply at pace when high-risk foods are not maintained at temperatures below 5 °C or above 60 °C or when raw and cooked foods are not stored separately. Multiple factors can impact this principle, including national energy disruptions to refrigeration supply as outlined by ASC Solutions and where there are inadequate backup systems in place.
9. Control of Food Preparation
Food safety can be compromised just by one person not correctly washing their hands after using the toilet or not cleaning their workstation adequately. Regular monitoring of food safety regulations of manufacturers, processors and packagers ensures against disasters occurring such as the deadly listeriosis outbreak reported by News 24 that killed more than 180 South Africans in 2018 from contaminated processed meats by one of South Africa’s largest packaged foods company.
10. Benefit the Management of Our Daily Health
Management of food processing staff is vital to bring education, understanding of quality standards and the reduction of risk to our daily health. As the world becomes more informed about food safety so a population’s health and longevity increase, decreasing operating costs within the medical industry.
Written by Mercédes Westbrook