Unlabelled Chemicals – a danger to your food business

Welcome to week 5 of the Food Safety HACCP Challenge.  This is another one of those no-brainers but still one that I regularly observe in food auditing. This week’s #FSHChallenge is to complete a check of chemical containers within your food business.

Hazards of unlabelled chemicals

Unlabelled chemicals are not only an occupational health and safety hazard but also a food safety hazard.  This is even truer when you use water spray bottles in your business and also have colourless cleaning chemicals in production. Some of the food safety hazards associated with unlabelled chemicals include:

  • Production staff may accidentally use the incorrect chemical and spray chemical directly into or onto food.
  • The incorrect chemical food additive is added to your food product.
  • The wrong cleaning chemical may be used for the wrong cleaning activity.
  • There is no traceability available for the chemical.

When your food business has unlabelled chemicals on site, you are also leaving your business open to receiving non-conformances during your 3rd party food compliance or regulatory audits.




How to achieve this challenge

Step 1: Walk around your food business and look for any unlabelled chemicals. Make sure that you check the following areas:

  • Production floor
  • Storage areas
  • Maintenance sheds or designated areas
  • Bathrooms / toilet facilities
  • Lockers, cabinets or random cupboards

Step 2: Take corrective action immediately by removing all chemicals found.

Step 3: Investigate why they were unlabelled in the first place.  Ask questions of relevant staff.

Step 4: Implement a preventative action to make sure that the issue doesn’t happen again. These can include things like locked chemical cabinets or providing an adequate supply of pre-printed chemical spray bottles (if decanting from bulk supply).

Step 5: Always go back and do a follow-up check to determine that the preventative actions have been implemented and are working.

Report your Success

Let me know how you went with this Food safety HACCP Challenge by leaving a comment below this post. I would love for you to share your experience especially if you have some useful suggestions on how to avoid unlabelled chemicals. Share this post on twitter or instagram using #FSHChallenge

6 thoughts on “Unlabelled Chemicals – a danger to your food business”

  1. I am having an issue at my work lace where having been a manager before understood the HACCP stance on unlabelled bottles, but informing the management of this issue was told “but we know what’s in the bottle” in a business with over 120 staff members, it’s clearly foolish to assume everyone knows what’s in the bottle.
    So I decided to speak to the General manager about it also, to just be informed of the same excuse of “we know what’s in the bottle” with a further excuse of “its fine if we don’t move it from where we have placed it.”
    This business is a huge restaurant chain and while the chemical (if it is what they say it is) is consistently used on many things. This doesn’t stop someone miss-using it due to confusion with what it is. Hence I am dumbfounded by the reactions of the people put in charge of the safety of the staff and the customers. It builds worry of lax of judgement in other areas of satefy.
    I am unsure on what to do about this as I have told the GM and don’t want to aggrevate people who could see me as argementative or against them!

    1. Amanda Evans-Lara

      I would reference (in writing to management) the relevant legal requirement in your country of manufacture. All you can do is bring the issue to the attention of the management. If they choose not to abide by the law, that is a risk the business owners/management team makes.

  2. I was having a continued problem with unlabeled secondary containers popping up in between my monthly internal inspections. I found out there was a supply of empty containers in the supply closet. We have since put a lock on the utility closet and removed all empty containers to a secured area in the office. Employees must now ask for a bottle and a label.

  3. Unlabeled chemicals are also in violation of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard, which says that any secondary container must identify and have sufficient warning information taken from what was on the original container. So I’m compliant on all fronts. 🙂

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