There are many regulations for the food industry, which set out basic requirements to make sure that our food is safe to eat. One of the new requirements of the Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations 1995 establishes risk assessment as the starting point of food manufacturing management's responsibility for food hygiene and safety standards.
Risk assessment means making an assessment of any risk to a food product during its production. This involves working out what chances there are of a food product being damaged or made incorrectly.
Useful definitions include:
- Risk: The likelihood of occurrence - for instance, what could happen and when it could happen.
- Assessment: To form an estimate of something.
Remember that risk assessment is:
- Thinking about what could happen.
- Planning how to prevent it from happening.
These regulations involve identifying Critical Control Points (CCPs), which could be any part that could affect the finished quality of the product.
- Weighing of ingredients
- Time - chilling, cooking, setting
- Shaping or division of dough
- Temperature - in storage, cooking, etc.
- Consistency of mixtures
- Hygiene - of equipment, ingredients and handlers
To establish a HACCP system for a product, a detailed analysis of the possible hazards needs to be undertaken. Critical Control Points can then be identified and appropriate control and monitoring systems put in place. These could include...
- Thermometers on fridges/ovens
- Timing devices on ovens/chilling units
- Alarms which ring if any of these devices show a fault
- Visual checks
- Micro-biological tests on food and equipment
As long-winded as this process seems, it is essential to ensure that each product tastes, smells, looks and feels exactly the same so that the customer knows what they are getting.
Food needs to be made to a particular recipe. Just image enjoying your favourite chocolate bar and then the next time you buy it, it has twice as many nuts and only half the caramel! Not good. Not good at all!
For more information on HACCP, see the Learn-It on Food Production Systems in the Systems and Control topic.