Via Food Science and Technology : Food business operators have legal, commercial and moral obligations to provide safe food.
Hygiene is the name given to practises and conditions conducive to preserving health. Food Hygiene is more than cleanliness, it is the practise of properly cooking, chilling, handling and cleaning food. It is the major factor in preventing cross contamination between raw food or dirty equipment and premises and ready to eat food. Cross contamination can lead to food poisoning and food illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses.
Food business operators can control food hygiene by the HACCP process in their premises, which is required by law. This process can be enforced by rejecting food that has been contaminated in any way or appears to have been obtained from unreliable sources. This can be assessed by undertaking a supplier risk assessment.
Foods can be split into different categories depending how they support the growth of bacteria, but they all need to be treated with good food hygiene practices. High risk foods are most likely to be the vehicles of pathogenic bacteria and the cause of food poisoning incidents, for example ready to eat foods, eggs, cream, gravy, shellfish. Raw fruit and salads were considered low risk but are now being regarded in a different way as food poisoning outbreaks, such as E.coli 0157, can be associated with them. Low risk foods are preserved foods, powdered foods, cakes and acid foods.
Decontaminating food, such as salads, by washing also requires the training of staff in effective cleaning and disinfection of food premises and equipment, good personal hygiene especially hand washing, cross contamination prevention and maintenance of good personal hygiene at all times. Cross contamination from unwashed hands can cause food poisoning.
For example, thorough hand washing is essential after handling raw foods and before touching other food or equipment, or having a break away from the manufacturing area. Food Poisoning can come from faecal contamination or transference of bacteria from the face and nose.
Preventing organisms, such as bacteria and viruses, from multiplying to an extent that would cause illness in consumers or the premature decomposition of food can be achieved by chilled storage, lowering the water activity by a drying process and using preservatives. Destroying any harmful bacteria in the food by thorough cooking, requires temperature control and monitoring of the cooking process.
There are rules and regulations which control food hygiene; the Food Safety Act 1990 is the main tool governing food production and this can be enforced to govern food hygiene by various regulations.
Food business operators can be assisted in achieving food hygiene principles by using a reputable testing laboratory to ensure the microbiological safety of the food. Microbiological testing can be carried out on finished products, raw materials and swabs of the production area to check the critical control points in the HACCP process. These tests will detect pathogens, spoilage bacteria and will help establish shelf-life and a robust supply chain.
Bad food hygiene can result in a cost to the food business operator. Food recalls due to contamination can result in bad publicity and therefore poor sales and if they cause a bad outbreak of food poisoning, this can result in a court appearance and a fine or imprisonment.