How to improve food safety?

Discover what food safety is, what the major food contaminants are, and what you can do to improve the level of food safety at your company!

What is Food Safety?

Food safety is the practice of handling, preparing, and storing food in a way that prevents food contamination or poisoning. Its aim is to protect people from contracting a foodborne illness.

Why is Food Safety important?

Food safety is the key to sustaining life and promoting good health. This concept influences not only the life of the individual consumer, but also the existence and success of food manufacturers, the national economy, the health care system, and trade. Companies that do not respect food safety standards may be subject to serious prosecutions and even closure. Not to mention damage to their reputation, product recalls, financial losses, and compensation claims.

Even though we have grown in understanding of food safety concepts, the statistics are still unsatisfactory. According to the World Health Organization, each year about 600 million people get sick from eating contaminated food and 420,000 of them die.

What are the major food contaminants?

We may split food contaminants into 4 categories:

  • chemical,
  • biological,
  • foreign bodies,
  • allergenic.

Chemical contamination occurs when food produces or comes into contact with toxic chemicals, like cleaning products or preservatives.

Biological contamination means food is infected by living organisms or the substances they produce. In this group, we discern bacteria, viruses, parasites, protozoa, fungi, and prions. They are responsible for more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Bacteria most often found in food products include Salmonella, Campylobacter, Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli, Listeria, and Vibrio cholerae.

Foreign body contamination means a physical item penetrating the food during the production or preparation process. Physical objects in food pose a choking hazard and frequently are responsible for biological contamination as well. Not to mention the damage they cause to the company's reputation. Finding a foreign body in food is an extremely distressing situation for the customer, who may never forget the company liable for exposing them to such a risk. The most common physical contaminants include insects (33%), hair (24%), rigid plastics (10%), and flexible materials like films and bags (7%).

Allergenic contamination happens when food that causes an allergic reaction comes into contact with another product. For example, if the same belt is used for transport of both normal and gluten-free bread. For someone suffering from a food allergy, consuming even a tiny amount of such a product can lead to a fatal reaction.

woman is shopping and examining the food product label

What are the food safety regulations?

Food safety regulations are not global. They differ from region to region and from country to country. Each government poses different standards for what is “safe” for its citizens.

Often countries also have to obey broader regulations. This is the case for the countries united within the European Union. The European law sets certain norms that all the united countries have to obey, for example, safety requirements for materials and articles intended to come into contact with food (e.g. EC 1935/2004, EU 10/2011). However, there are also regulations on a country level, which may vary from one location to another.

The same holds true for the United States, where federal law establishes certain standards the states have to obey. However, there are also regulations on a local level, whereby each state constitutes its own laws.

Therefore, in each part of the world, you may find different food safety regulations, regulatory bodies, and certifications. However, they share in common the interest in providing their citizens with products they can trust and eat without the fear of falling ill.

In the United States, the major regulatory document establishing such rules is The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), whereas in Canada you will find The Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA).

In Europe, the main presiding food safety agency is The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

In Australia and New Zealand, you abide by the code of The Food Standards Australia New Zealand, while in China the main regulatory document is The Food Safety Law of the People's Republic of China.

Argentina’s major regulatory body in this respect is The National Food Safety and Quality Service (SENASA). In Brazil, there are many agencies and ministries that share jurisdiction for ensuring food safety, for example, The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food Supply, The Ministry of Health, and The National Agency of Sanitary Surveillance (ANVISA).

How to improve food safety?

Although each country manages food safety procedures on its own, there are still a lot of points in common to reach a higher level of food safety. What can you do?

  • Properly sanitise all surfaces, equipment, and utensils. Sanitation consists of two steps. The first one is cleaning, understood as the process of removing unwanted substances (such as soil, dirt, and infectious agents) from the object or environment. The second one is disinfection. It ensures a microbe-free environment.
  • Maintain a high level of personal hygiene. Pay special attention to washing your hands.
  • Design your food premises with care and choose solutions that facilitate the maintenance of cleanliness and hygiene. 
  • Create cleaning schedules and follow them.
  • Clean restrooms and other hygiene facilities for staff. Ensure there is hot and cold water for washing, as well as soap or other cleansing agent.
  • Provide your staff with protective clothes. Make sure they wear the hair neatly tied back or wear a hair net. Take off the jewellery.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. Remember about sanitisation and separating cooked foods from raw and/or dirty materials.
  • Incorporate pest prevention and control procedures into your food safety plan.
  • Use chemicals with extreme care and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Use belts and auxiliary equipment approved for food contact. Check if they abide by such regulations: EU1935/2004, EU10/2011.
  • Consider innovative solutions that may help you catch the danger before it leaves the factory. Megalinear XMD and Megaflex XMD, for instance, are structured with a special compound that makes the belt particles detectable by metal and X-ray detectors. In this way, you reduce the risk of product contamination caused by wear and tear of the belt.

Are food safety declarations obligatory?

In the majority of countries, they are optional. However, to show your competence and earn the trust of your consumers, they are recommended. If you’re transparent about hygiene standards at your company and compliant with certification bodies, you show your commitment to keeping the welfare and security of consumers.

Contact our experts

Would you like to improve the food safety level at your factory? Contact our experts and learn how the belt design may influence the security of your production and consumers.