One of the easiest ways to identify hazards is to review food safety compliance data. But where should you start? In this post find out a practical approach to using readily available food compliance data to help identify, assess and control risks in a food business regardless of size or food category.
Identifying Food Hazards
The identification of food hazards is a fundamental step in managing risk within a food business. This seems pretty basic but unfortunately, many organisations do not implement this concept effectively. Not only is hazard identification and assessment one of the guiding principles for HACCP but it is fast becoming a typical regulatory requirement in food law across the globe.
So why would a food business want to identify hazards anyway? Outside of compliance, the correct identification of food safety hazards and implementation of preventive controls can stop consumers from getting sick or in the worse cases – dying, limit the occurrence of food recalls and protect the business from litigation and brand damage.
Food Recalls and Outbreaks
Every day we read about food companies who are subjected to recalls or food poisoning outbreaks. For the majority of the time, the reported issue is nothing new or emerging. So why have these food companies not learnt from other people’s mistakes?
Often hazards are only identified based on the knowledge of the person or the HACCP team completing the risk assessment. This can be most dangerous when the person or team is inexperienced or lack a clear methodology in hazard identification.
If a hazard is not initially identified by a business how can they be expected to implement a suitable control measure?
Food Safety and Compliance Data
As stated previously, one of the easiest ways to identify hazards is to review food safety and compliance data. This data can originate from both internal and external sources but often navigating through this process can be a challenge for many food organisations. Let’s look some of the different sources that we can review.
1. Customer Complaints
Customer Complaints help us to identify areas in our business where things are going wrong. If you get complaints about the same things over and over, you have not identified and/or addressed the root cause. It may also be that the preventive action you identified is not being implemented effectively.
Non-conformances can be the first sign of failures or cracks in our business. Use the information to establish trends and address the root cause before the problem turns into a major issue.
3. Food Safety and Recall Alerts
Food Safety and Recall Alerts are published by governments world-wide. They should be a trigger for you to review how likely the issue is to occur in your food business. For example, if you package food that contains allergens and food that does not, the multitude of recalls about ‘undeclared allergens’ should trigger the implementation of regular label reviews, production process reviews and enhanced cleaning verification.
4. Regulatory Infringement Notices
Regulatory Infringement Notices serve to inform you of two things. Firstly, these notices let you know what inspection authorities are targeting and secondly, provide a warning for you to check your level of conformance against that issue in your own business.
It is important to recognize the critical role that food compliance data plays in ensuring food safety. By collecting and analyzing data, food safety professionals can identify potential hazards and take corrective actions in order to prevent contamination. This post has highlighted different resources that you can access to help with this process.