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Food Safety: Up to Standard

Navenia Wellington

Thursday, May 13, 2021

In a family, the taste and presentation of a meal may differ based on who cooked the meal; this holds true even if they were taught how to cook by the same person. In fact, the taste and presentation may differ each time, even when prepared by the same individual. Another thing that may differ, dependent on the individual, is the state and condition of the kitchen after meal preparation. Some individuals may practise “clean as you go”, while others do not. The differences that may occur, from person to person, highlight the importance of standards, particularly with regard to food safety.

According to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a standard is a repeatable, harmonised, agreed and documented approach of doing something. Its ultimate goal is to make life simpler by ensuring repeatability, reliability, efficiency and effectiveness of operations. Standards are a great training tool, providing consistency of information for employees at any level. There is also a level of customer protection in the use of standards. This is because when a standard is followed correctly, products and services deliver on claims, performed as specified, and are reliable and safe. Therefore, food safety standards are those formalised requirements that food business operators must abide by in order to safeguard human health.

In a home situation, certain inconsistencies may not cause a negative impact (well, aside from the annoyance of cleaning up after a messy cook), but in a large-scale food preparation area inconsistencies create risk. For example, the habit of leaving meat to thaw overnight in the kitchen may be a poor practice that is done in the home. While family members may experience foodborne illness, it would be isolated to the household. Put that same poor practice in an industrialised kitchen and it will be a different result. The use of standards ensures that food safety risks are managed. Standards are put in place to ensure consistency and are applicable to any food operation, regardless of size or complexity. Do you sell peeled fruit to commuters? Standards are applicable to you. Cook shop on the corner? Standards are applicable to you, too.

There are a number of food safety standards and the choice is dependent on the food business operator and their intended customers. However, there are common factors throughout these standards. They are food safety policy, leadership commitment, good practice requirements, hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP), prerequisite programme, and risk assessment.

There is no denying that there is a cost to quality and food safety; however, an important consideration is that poor food safety practices will increase that cost and reflect poorly on the brand. With food safety, a big-picture view must be taken: That is the assurance given to customers of a safe product and maintenance of the integrity of the brand. Regardless of size or complexity of operations, food safety standards are applicable.