Back to Basics – What actually makes food safe or unsafe?

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Back to Basics – What actually makes food safe or unsafe?

This is the question that European and Irish retailers are asking of themselves and their suppliers. European food safety legislation 852/2004 requires Food Business Operators (FBOs) to develop HACCP systems but what does this actually mean to people?

The production of safe food invariably comes down to three basic things in the majority of Food Businesses:
1 The control of contamination
2 The control of growth of microorganisms
3 The kiling of bacteria if the process is capable of doing so

Point 1 above is controlled by focussing on three simple things: Premises, Plant and People. 300 years ago when pigs were killed on the side of the street, people cleaned up after themselves as they knew before the advance of modern microbiology that dirt attracts rodents and all other nasty things. In modern food processing this is where the attention is now being focussed. Pre-operational hygiene inspections at 5am or 6am are becoming the norm in deciding whether these companies are suitable suppliers or not. There is no excuse for dirt, never has been, and never will be as dirt is visible. Visible organic matter left on a food contact surface for 10 hours at ambient temperature can cause a lot of damage.

Point 2 above is controlled by focussing on two simple ideas; temperature control and time control. These are quite easy to control as modern refridgeration allows us to set temperatures in any room to +/- 1deg. Time is controlled by dating and labelling of food.

Point 3 is controlled by proper cooking if cooking is a step in the process.

By looking after these three basic things, the food will invariably be safe. Simply Back to Basics. Sometimes the complexity of legislation unintentionally may take our focus off the basics.

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