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Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potentially severe health hazards. Food can transmit disease from person to person as well as serve as a growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning. Debates on genetic food safety include such issues as impact of genetically modified food on health of further generations and genetic pollution of environment, which can destroy natural biological diversity. In developed countries there are intricate standards for food preparation, whereas in lesser developed countries the main issue is simply the availability of adequate safe water, which is usually a critical item.

Regulatory agencies

European Union

The parliament of the European Union (EU) makes legislation in the form of directives and regulations, many of which are mandatory for member states and which therefore must incorporated into individual countries' national legislation. As a very large organisation that exists to remove barriers to trade between member states, and into which individual member states have only a proportional influence, the outcome is often seen as an excessively bureaucratic 'one size fits all' approach. However, in relation to food safety the tendency to err on the side of maximum protection for the consumer may be seen as a positive benefit. The EU parliament is informed on food safety matters by the European Food Safety Authority.

Individual member states may also have other legislation and controls in respect of food safety, provided that they do not prevent trade with other states, and can differ considerably in their internal structures and approaches to the regulatory control of food safety.

United Kingdom

The UK Food Standards Agency is the body responsible for food safety policy and legislation, with enforcement carried out by 'Food Authorities' which are the local authorities and, in respect of imports, port health authorities. The Agency provides guidance and information to food businesses as well as enforcement bodies, and mounts publicity campaigns aimed at informing the public about food safety.

The official control of food is governed by criminal law, with the main primary legislation in the form of the Food Safety Act 1990. There is a raft of subordinate regulations, many of which implement European Union directives and regulations, prescribing requirements for hygiene, limits for contaminants, controls over the use of additives, and labelling requirements, together with other matters related such as food quality and authenticity.

Regulatory control by food authorities is based on inspection of premises supplemented by sampling of food for analysis by public analysts (chemical analysis for composition, contaminants, additives, food quality, labelling etc) and food examiners (microbiological examination for bacteria).

United States

Federal level regulation

The Food and Drug Administration publishes the Food Code, a model set of guidelines and procedures that assists food control jurisdictions by providing a scientifically sound technical and legal basis for regulating the retail and food service industries, including restaurants, grocery stores and institutional foodservice providers such as nursing homes. Regulatory agencies at all levels of government in the United States use the FDA Food Code to develop or update food safety rules in their jurisdictions that are consistent with national food regulatory policy. According to the FDA, 48 of 56 states and territories, representing 79% of the U.S. population, have adopted food codes patterned after one of the five versions of the Food Code, beginning with the 1993 edition.

In the United States, federal regulations governing food safety are fragmented and complicated, according to a February 2007 report from the Government Accountability Office. There are 15 agencies sharing oversight responsibilities in the food safety system, although the two primary agencies are the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which is responsible for the safety of meat, poultry, and processed egg products, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for virtually all other foods.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service has approximately 7,800 inspection program personnel working in nearly 6,200 federally inspected meat, poultry and processed egg establishments. FSIS is charged with administering and enforcing the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, the Egg Products Inspection Act, portions of the Agricultural Marketing Act, the Humane Slaughter Act, and the regulations that implement these laws. FSIS inspection program personnel inspect every animal before slaughter, and each carcass after slaughter to ensure public health requirements are met. In fiscal year (FY) 2008, this included about 50 billion pounds of livestock carcasses, about 59 billion pounds of poultry carcasses, and about 4.3 billion pounds of processed egg products. At U.S. borders, they also inspected 3.3 billion pounds of imported meat and poultry products.

State and local regulation

A number of U.S. states have their own meat inspection programs that substitute for USDA inspection for meats that are sold only in-state. Certain state programs have been criticized for undue leniency to bad practices.

However, other state food safety programs supplement, rather than replace, Federal inspections, generally with the goal of increasing consumer confidence in the state's produce. For example, state health departments have a role in investigating outbreaks of food-borne disease bacteria, as in the case of the 2006 outbreak of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (bad E. coli bacteria) from processed spinach. Health departments also promote better food processing practices to eliminate these threats.

In addition to the US Food and Drug Administration, several states that are major producers of fresh fruits and vegetables (including Californiamarker, Arizonamarker and Floridamarker) have their own state programs to test produce for pesticide residues.

Restaurants and other retail food establishments fall under state law and are regulated by state or local health departments. Typically these regulations require official inspections of specific design features, best food-handling practices, and certification of food handlers. In some places a letter grade or numerical score must be prominently posted following each inspection. In some localities inspection deficiencies and remedial action are posted on the Internet.

China

Food safety is a growing concern in Chinese agriculture. The Chinese government oversees agricultural production as well as the manufacture of food packaging, containers, chemical additives, drug production, and business regulation. In recent years, the Chinese government attempted to consolidate food regulation with the creation of the State Food and Drug Administration of China in 2003, and officials have also been under increasing public and international pressure to solve food safety problems. However, it appears that regulations are not well known by the trade. Labels used for “green” food, “organic” food and “pollution-free” food are not well recognized by traders and many are unclear about their meaning. A survey by the World Bank found that supermarket managers had difficulty in obtaining produce that met safety requirements and found that a high percentage of produce did not comply with established standards.

Traditional marketing systems, whether in China or the rest of Asia, presently provide little motivation or incentive for individual farmers to make improvements to either quality or safety as their produce tends to get grouped together with standard products as it progresses through the marketing channel. Direct linkages between farmer groups and traders or ultimate buyers, such as supermarkets, can help avoid this problem. Governments need to improve the condition of many markets through upgrading management and reinvesting market fees in physical infrastructure. Wholesale markets need to investigate the feasibility of developing separate sections to handle fruits and vegetables that meet defined safety and quality standards.

Australia

Australian Food Authority is working toward ensuring that all food businesses implement food safety systems to ensure food is safe to consume in a bid to halt the increasing incidence of food poisoning, this includes basic food safety training for at least one person in each business.Smart business operators know that basic food safety training improves the bottom line, staff take more pride in their work; there is less waste; and customers can have more confidence in the food they consume.Food Safety training in units of competence from a relevant training package, must be delivered by a Registered Training Organization (RTO) to enable staff to be issued with a nationally-recognised unit of competency code on their certificate. Generally this training can be completed in less than one day.Training options are available to suit the needs of everyone. Training may be carried out in-house for a group, in a public class, via correspondence or online. (To find Food Safety Training available search Google or contact the local Health Department )Basic Food Safety Training includes:

• Understanding the hazards associated with the main types of food and the conditions to prevent the growth of bacteria which can cause food poisoning

• The problems associated with product packaging such as leaks in vacuum packs, damage to packaging or pest infestation, as well as problems and diseases spread by pests.

• Safe Food handling. This includes safe procedures for each process such as receiving, re-packing, food storage, preparation and cooking, cooling and re-heating, displaying products, handling products when serving customers, packaging, cleaning and sanitizing, pest control, transport and delivery. Also the causes of cross contamination.

• Catering for customers who are particularly at risk of food-borne illness, including allergies and intolerance.

• Correct cleaning and sanitizing procedures, cleaning products and their correct use, and the storage of cleaning items such as brushes, mops and cloths.

• Personal hygiene, hand washing, illness, and protective clothing.

People responsible for serving unsafe food can be liable for heavy fines under this new leglislation, consumers are pleased that industry will be forced to take food safety seriously.

Manufacturing control

HACCP guidelines

The UK Food Standards Agency publishes recommendations as part of its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) programme. The relevant guidelines at http://www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/csctcooking.pdf state that:

"Cooking food until the CORE TEMPERATURE is 75 °C or above will ensure that harmful bacteria are destroyed.

However, lower cooking temperatures are acceptable provided that the CORE TEMPERATURE is maintained for a specified period of time as follows :

  • 60 °C for a minimum of 45 minutes
  • 65 °C for a minimum of 10 minutes
  • 70 °C for a minimum of 2 minutes"


Previous guidance from a leaflet produced by the UK Department Of Health “Handling Cooked Meats Safely A Ten Point Plan” also allowed for:
  • "75 °C for a minimum of 30 seconds
  • 80 °C for a minimum of 6 seconds"
as well as the above. Secondary references for the above may be found at:

Note that recommended cooking conditions are only appropriate if initial bacterial numbers in the uncooked food are small. Cooking does not overcome poor hygiene.

Consumer labeling

United Kingdom

Food stuffs in the UK have one of two labels to indicate the nature of the deterioration of the product and any subsequent health issues:

Best before indicates a future date beyond which the food product may lose quality in terms of taste or texture amongst others, but does not imply any serious health problems if food is consumed beyond this date (within reasonable limits).

Use by indicates a legal date beyond which it is not permissible to sell a food product (usually one that deteriorates fairly rapidly after production) due to the potential serious nature of consumption of pathogens. Leeway is sometimes provided by producers in stating display until dates so that products are not at their limit of safe consumption on the actual date stated (this latter is voluntary and not subject to regulatory control). This allows for the variability in production, storage and display methods.

United States

With the exception of infant formula and baby foods which must be withdrawn by their expiration date, Federal law does not require expiration dates. For all other foods, except dairy products in some states, freshness dating is strictly voluntary on the part of manufacturers. In response to consumer demand, perishable foods are typically labeled with a Sell by date. It is up to the consumer to decide how long after the Sell by date a package is usable. Other common dating statements are Best if used by, Use-by date, Expiration date, Guaranteed fresh , and Pack date.

Issues associated with sell by / use by dates

According to the UK's Waste & Resources Action Programme, 33% percent of all food produced is wasted along the chill chain or at the consumer . At the same time, a large number of people get sick every year due to spoiled food. According to the WHO and CDC in the USA alone there are every year 76 million of food bourne illnesses leading to 325'000 hopitalizations and 5000 deaths

UK government to replace sell by / use by dates?

According to the UK minister Hilary Benn the use by date and sell by dates are old technologies that are outdated and should be replaced by other solutions or disposed of altogether.

How to enhance food safety

There is a number of ways to enhance sell by and use by dates. These include better education of consumers on how to use, transport, and store fresh food products, but also by enhancing the use by and sell by dates by adding to the package smart indicators such as TTIs (Time Temperature Indicators). These show through a visible color change whether the product is still fresh. TTIs are already in use by retailers and food producers in France (Monoprix and Carrefour), Switzerland (Kneuss), and other countries in western Europe.

Codex Alimentarius

In 2003, the WHO and FAO published the Codex Alimentarius which serves as a guideline to food safety.

See also



References

  1. Satin, M., Food Alert: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Food Safety, Facts on File, Inc., September 2008, 2nd ed.
  2. I. A. Shiklomanov, Appraisal and Assessment of World Water Resources, Water International 25(1): 11-32, 2000
  3. World Bank and China Agriculture Press. 2005. [1] China’s Compliance with Food Safety Requirements for Fruits and Vegetables: Promoting Food Safety, Competitiveness, and Poverty Reduction.
  4. Andrew W. Shepherd, 2006. [2] Quality and safety in the traditional horticultural marketing chains of Asia. FAO, Rome
  5. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs237/en/
  6. http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/kitchen-bin-war-tackling-the-food-waste-mountain-1698753.html
  7. http://www.onvu.com/_en/media_highlights.asp?25729ddc-6b63-48c7-8341-38dddd59b5fd


Further reading



External links






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