Supermarket Manufacturing Food Hygiene & Food Safety

Supermarket Manufacturing Food Hygiene & Food Safety

 23 May 2017

Finding needles amid frozen green beans sold at Morrisons made the news headlines recently. But they are not the only food company to have experienced problems this year – since the beginning of 2017, the Food Standards Agency has issued 16 alerts.  Problems have ranged from possible contamination due to the presence of listeria to the appearance of small pieces of metal within the food.  The Co-Op even recalled its Hollow Milk Chocolate Bunnies in January as a result of possible product tampering since a small battery was found in one of the bunnies.


For manufacturers, such alerts are very bad news.  Quite apart from the health risks, contamination of this kind can result in major financial implications. In 2016, Produce Investments, part of the Greenvale Group, announced that a potato recall the previous year cost the company £600,000. Failure of a potato blanching machine had resulted in small bits of metal contaminating a wide range of potato products including potato salad and ready meals.  Product recalls are expensive, and large quantities of merchandise may have to be destroyed.  After all, who would want to eat food that may be contaminated by the salmonella bacteria?  Then there are the costs of undertaking thorough cleaning and checks of the production process as manufacturing lines may even have to be closed down for a while. 


It is also extremely bad publicity – especially if a consumer is actually hurt or made ill as a result. Consumers often vote with their feet and choose to go elsewhere in the future.


No company is exempt from the risks.  Product recalls for the first quarter of 2017 included high profile names like Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys, Quorn Foods and Thorntons.  Even companies supplying fresh produce have been known to experience problems. 


Engineers within the food industry play a major role in dealing with food contamination and safety issues.  Unless the factories in which they work are kept scrupulously clean, and total attention is paid to hygiene and maintenance, the chances of being involved in a food alert are extremely high. 


All food businesses, irrespective of size, have to take precautions to ensure that the produce they supply meets safety requirements.  The bigger the company, the more stringent the requirements as there are more things that can go wrong.  Constant checking of production lines to ensure that there is no risk of bits of plastic or metal entering food preparation is essential, as is cross contamination.  Cross contamination is the most common cause of food poisoning in the form of harmful germs that spread onto food from other food, surfaces, hands and equipment. 


There are many food safety and hygiene courses available, which should be taken by anyone who works within the food industry, including management in food manufacturing.  The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health is regarded as the world leader in food safety and hygiene qualifications and courses, with advanced courses reaching up to Level 4.


There can be no doubt that the issues of hygiene and safety are taken extremely seriously within the food manufacturing industry.  There have even been suggestions that these issues should be considered even before production of a new line is introduced. Ensuring that every piece of equipment is totally safe, that there is adjacent access to wet rooms for cleaning and hygiene and that even the type of paintwork is assessed for hygiene purposes simply because hygiene standards are constantly evolving. Keeping up to date on training and legislative requirements is an on-going process.


The risks are all too clear – illness and even potentially, death for the consumer, and the destruction of the company involved.   


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