The importance of food hygiene for businesses
All twenty two local authorities in Wales have now implemented a food hygiene rating system that has been developed in partnership with the food standards agency. The food hygiene rating scheme has replaced the “scores on the doors” system that some Councils in Wales such as Swansea were implementing and the intention is that consumers in Wales will now have a clear, easy to understand way of determining the cleanliness of establishments that they choose to eat in.
- 5: Very good
- 4: Good
- 3: Generally satisfactory
- 2: Improvement necessary
- 1: Major improvement necessary
- 0: Urgent improvement necessary
So what can companies do to get an optimal rating? Staff training is probably the most important factor involved. Without proper instruction in food hygiene companies cannot hope to meet the criteria involved in getting even a mediocre rating. There are several levels of training to consider. Initially it’s desirable to consider HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control points) perhaps more relevant to the manufacturing of food rather than the preparation of the finished product. It’s nonetheless still important. HACCP is designed to protect the integrity of all stages of the food supply chain from cultivation to presentation. There are seven principles involved in an effective HACCP plan.
Principle 1: Conduct a hazard analysis. Identify potential hazards that could effect the supply chain. These hazards could be biological, chemical or physical anything that has the potential to render food unfit for human consumption.
Principle 2: Identify critical control points. A critical control point is a point in the procedure where a control can be applied to prevent a hazard. For example this could be metal detection to remove contaminants at the source of production.
Principle 3: Establish critical limits for each critical control points. A critical limit is a maximum or minimum level at which a hazard is acceptable. For example in the USA the FDA consider one once of rat feces in every thousand bushels of cereal acceptable! Another example is the temperature at which food is stored.
Principle 4: Establish monitoring methods. Methods of monitoring hazards should be in the companies HACCP plan. Regularly taking the temperature of food for instance.
Principle 5: Have corrective actions in place: If a deviation is detected at a critical control point as a result of monitoring there should be a plan in place to rectify the issue.
Principle 6: Establish procedures to ensure that the process is working.
Principle 7: Keep rigorous records
Having an in depth knowledge of the subject of HACCP is definitely useful for businesses, it provides the knowledge necessary to put in place an effective plan to manage food hygiene for an establishment. However staff at all levels need up to date training in the correct preparation and presentation of food.
Training for staff would begin at a level 1 food hygiene course. This is a basic introductory course aimed primarily at those involved with the serving of food. It gives information on minimising the potential for contamination. Following on from this the next course to take would obviously be a level 2 food safety course. Most companies seem to treat this course as a minimum standard. It’s suitable for both serving and preparing food and is an ideal course to send staff on to improve a companies food hygiene rating. The level 1 course is three hours long and the level 2 course is six hours long? Do your staff need this training? Some advice that we’ve received in the past is, in a commercial setting if you offer someone a biscuit with their tea, if you pass them the pack of biscuits you wouldn’t need any formal training. However take those biscuits out of the pack, put them on a plate and hand the plate to someone and you really should have received at least some basic training in food safety.