To wrap up Focus on Food Safety for 2008, I want to pick up on an idea that I planted in my first column, which is that there are ways to combat microbial pathogens within a food processing environment.
If your company relies on an outside contractor for sanitation services, ensure it shares in any claims your company may face in the event of a food-borne pathogen recall that can be traced to your plant’s sanitation. If your company relies on an in-house sanitation team, buy your chemicals and equipment from a major supplier who can provide high-quality chemicals, equipment, training and reporting. Good, on-going training is critical for the sanitation crew, as it ensures that you always get the biggest bang for your buck. Last but not least, validate the cleanliness of equipment daily and take immediate remedial action promptly.
Take the high road on microbial quality when it comes to the raw materials you buy. Specify and source the best quality you can possibly afford. Validate the microbial quality on a regular basis and take action if ingredients are out of specification. The old clichés “garbage-in, garbage out” and “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear” clearly apply in this case. However, if you have to push the envelope on quality, as we all do from time to time, be extra vigilant. Once raw materials compromised in microbiological terms are in your plant, they also compromise the overall cleanliness of your plant. Take measures to preserve the quality of the raw materials before they are processed. This protects your investment in your inventory as well as your plant’s cleanliness. Manage your raw materials such that they are always used well within their best-before or expiry date.
Adhere to well-written processing specifications that identify both critical control points (CCPs) and quality control points (QCPs). During processing, compliance to CCPs should be checked by quality assurance and operations personnel on a rotational basis at least twice each hour. CCP data must be traceable to specific cases or pallets of clearly labelled finished product. And have a quality assurance supervisor review CCPs and QCPs before goods are released. Any product that is not clearly in compliance with a CCP must be placed on hold and thoroughly tested to ensure compliance. I highly recommend that ready-to-eat products be on a strict hold-release program to ensure that they are safe and wholesome.
Ron Wasik, PhD, MBA, is president of RJW Consulting Canada Ltd. Contact him at [email protected]