Copyright © Global Coalition for Sustained Excellence in Food & Health Protection, 2011 and ALL subsequent years: Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s authors and/or owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Global Coalition for Sustained Excellence in Food & Health Protection with appropriate and specific reference and/or link to the original content.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Demystifying Food Safety Assurance

True mysteries pertain to realities more profound than the task of assuring the safety and quality of food.

Food safety quality assurance is not complicated because hazard control is complicated; the assurance of safe food is only made complicated because of various human distractions and malpractices. If the industry wakes up to this realization, it could get on with the real business of assuring the safety of food and its consumers. A new day is here. You can now rise to the dawn of SSQA and refuse to be intimidated.

 The “It Says So Right Here” Intimidation:

When you are new to the field, even to some long-time practitioners, certain food safety management proposals can be intimidating. It gets worse when you run across auditors of your system who eagerly throw “the standard” or "compliance" books at you. A good number of these auditors major on minors with a temper tantrum that insists on: “It says so right here” without giving you a reasonable explanation of why “it says so right here”. You need to recognize all temper tantrums and deal with them methodically but never lose your focus on the long established and developed measures for assuring the safety of food as it applies to your operation.

I agree that ensuring the safety of food is a never-ending task as it should be. However, the task is not mystical or enigmatic. Practical food safety assurance techniques have long been developed and successfully utilized in the industry. Adopted approaches in the assurance of safe food need to be scientific, methodical, pragmatic, practical and consistent. The approaches must also be efficient and effective. In all of these aspects, the industry has no shortage of expertise.

Proven methods for controlling the usual hazards in food have been established from the days of food preservation alchemy. Many books have been written on food preservation that describe various processes including: fermentation, heat processing, refrigeration, freezing, evaporation, dehydration, irradiation, sanitation, good hygiene practices, etc. There may be the argument that, in more recent years, advances have been made in the development of newer methodologies such as gas treatments, high pressure processing (HPP), the use of ultra violet light, synthetic and natural anti-microbial preservative, etc.

A brief historical search shows that the most predominantly used methods (cooking/pasteurization, HPP and irradiation) are not completely new ideas:

Pasteurization: Nicolas Appert, the inventor of canning, and Louis Pasteur are often credited with the now old knowledge that treating food with heat could preserve it. The first commercial milk pasteurizers were reportedly produced in 1882, using a high-temperature, short-time (HTSTprocess. The idea was of course known and tested before 1882. 

HPP: Patterson, in a review published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, stated: “The idea of using high pressure in food processing is not new. The first report of high pressure being used as a food preservation method was by Hite (1899). He reported that milk ‘kept sweet for longer’ after a pressure treatment of c. 600 MPa for 1 h at room temperature. Hite et al. (1914) also reported that while pressure could be used to extend the shelf-life of fruits, it was less successful with vegetables.”
Patterson, M. F. (2005). Microbiology of pressure-treated foods. Journal of Applied Microbiology,
98, 1400–1409.

Irradiation: The published chronology of food irradiation by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency stated that, in 1905, scientists received patents for the use of ionizing radiation to kill bacteria in food.

Almost all of the presumed “new” methodologies or developments are based on the age-old knowledge that food-borne microbiological contamination causes spoilage and/or illness. Microbiological contamination is, of course, not the only hazard in food. Examples of the other hazards are listed in the U.S. FSMA-HARPC proposal (PUBLIC LAW 111–353—JAN. 4, 2011, 124 STAT. 3885 – Section 103). They include: chemical, physical, radiological, natural toxins, pesticides, drug residues, decomposition, parasites, allergens, unapproved food and color additives. Naturally occurring, unintentionally introduced, intentionally introduced, etc.

As we have seen, microbiological hazards and even the non-microbiological hazards are almost all (if not all) controlled through long established methodologies and practices. The successful control of all food hazards requires good practices (by humans) in the agricultural, primary production, secondary manufacturing and delivery operations. Such good practices are not derived only from simply knowing the rules (i.e. the regulations and other guidelines) without knowing the reasons behind the rules. A good knowledge of how to mitigate all applicable hazards is essential for key company personnel who must pass the knowledge of the related good practices to all personnel at all levels through on-going training programs. 

So, with the support of SSQA-Based Programs, let’s get on with the real business of assuring the safety of food and its consumers. There are no food safety mysteries with which we must contend if we stop being the detractors with our numerous schemes to defraud one another. We have the knowledge and the means to perform this task of assuring the safety of food and its consumers. We simply need the commitment along with a strong sense of moral obligation and social responsibility.

Together we must do everything we can to ensure our protection and satisfaction as consumers: This is the DAWN OF A NEW ERA.

Additional References:

History of Food Irradiation – U. S. Environmental Protection Agency -

High pressure processing as an alternative food preservation
Technology and its applications for fruits and vegetables -

Innovative Food Science and Emerging Technologies -

Food applications of natural antimicrobial compounds -

Food Preservation – A Biopreservative Approach -

Use of pulsed ultraviolet laser light for the cold pasteurization of bovine milk -
Posted by Felix Amiri
Felix Amiri is currently the chair of GCSE-Food & Health Protection, and a sworn SSQA advocate.

No comments:

Post a Comment