Food safety regulations
Food safety regulations refers to the laws and administrative rules that regulate to protect and maintain food safety. Food safety laws and regulations are sets of government mandates that apply to suppliers, producers, and customers. These laws regulate and control all procedures in the entire food supply chain including supply, production, and distribution of food products to ensure the production process of safe food, and help protect consumers from deceptive and dangerous acts that can lead to any foodborne hazard or illness.
Any food law is built over hours and hours of investigation, research, and food safety analysis of past events. This is how the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) of 2011 was established.
There are hundreds of federal regulations in effect in the US. Some of the most significant ones include:
- Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act; 21 U.S.C. 9). A federal law was established in 1938 to regulate the manufacture of cosmetics, food products, drugs, and medical equipment. Additionally, it also implements food label policies for the mentioned products. The main objective of this law is to prevent the manufacture and release of misbranded and unsafe food, dietary supplements, and cosmetics to the market.
- Sanitary Food Transportation Act (49 U.S.C. 57). This law involves regulatory control over sanitary standards and sets of food safety guidelines for any logistics and food storage warehouses that handles human and animal food. It helps prevent any establishment of keeping unsanitary conditions that may lead to any foodborne disease.
- Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C.). This law gives the Federal Trade Commission the authority to probe questionable acts in the economy, including the food industry, which may involve unfair competition or deceptive operations.
- Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011. This law is the most recent reform in the Federal government’s approach to food safety. The FSMA includes 7 major rules for more efficient and effective control of food safety. The inception of this law came as the regulatory response efforts to change the focus of food businesses from solving food safety challenges to preventing them from happening.
- In addition to safety, food laws also ensure that consumers will get the products that they need as to how food manufacturers advertise them. Laws relating to adulteration, misbranding, and counterfeits in food are stated in several federal laws such as the 21 U.S.C. 331 or the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Such laws consider the declaration of wrong information such as weight, nutritional information, and wrong ingredients as a federal offense. It also includes prohibitions against the adulteration or intentional contamination of foods that can be harmful to uninformed consumers.
Like any other law, food safety regulations and laws are not absolute. They cannot ensure that foodborne hazards and malpractices are 100% eliminated from the whole food industry. This is where the role of food businesses is critical. Consistent compliance must always be practiced and monitored at all times.
To ensure that your food services are compliant with the most relevant Federal food safety laws, your team must establish a seamless food safety system. Implementing a successful food safety system includes establishing SOPs, conducting food safety tests, conducting regular audits, and establishing excellent record keeping systems.
[Related content: Food Service audit standards and best practices]
Hospital food service and dietary health is considered one of the more complicated systems within the hospitality sector. In this setting, chefs work closely with clinical dieticians to ensure the food served is nutritious and safe while also creating interesting menus that feature diverse and healthy meals. Patients need the right nutrients in order to heal, especially those prescribed therapeutic diets.
In turn, clinical dieticians must perform kitchen audits to ensure standards are being met, operations are optimized and ingredient choices maximize nutritional values and patient outcomes. Offering an enhanced food service experience for patients and their families, therefore, may be a differentiator in an area where public perception often identifies a lack of quality and service. Hospitals do not always live up to their ideal state as centers for healing. Improving nutritional outcomes for patients through healthy food initiatives is a growth area where healthcare providers, suppliers and public health organizations can find greater alignment.
Food safety SOP’s need to ensure that assets are stored at the right temperature and humidity so that all foodborne disease is prevented. Within most hospital settings, continuous asset monitoring is already in place for the protection of medicines, vaccines, blood products and other medical supplies and biological samples. The compliance standards for medical products and their environments are more stringent than those for food safety. Also, safe temperature ranges for food and medicines differ. While asset protections must be in place for both foods and medicines, the application of standard SoPs, automated workflows and monitoring practices must serve the specific needs of each individual asset type. Chefs and clinical dieticians have different requirements to pharmacy or facilities management. Alert management and corrective workflows must be set up to serve the distinct application in which they function.
Seven Principles used to develop HACCP Plans
The National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Foods (Committee) reconvened a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Working Group in 1995. The primary goal was to review the Committee’s November 1992 HACCP document, comparing it to current HACCP guidance prepared by the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene. Based upon its review, the Committee made the HACCP principles more concise; revised and added definitions; included sections on prerequisite programs, education and training, and implementation and maintenance of the HACCP plan; revised and provided a more detailed explanation of the application of HACCP principles; and provided an additional decision tree for identifying critical control points (CCPs).
Preventing problems from occurring is the paramount goal underlying any HACCP system. Seven basic principles are employed in the development of HACCP plans that meet the stated goal.
These 7 principles include
- hazard analysis
- Critical Control Points identification
- establishing critical limits
- monitoring procedures
- corrective actions
- verification procedures, and
- record-keeping and documentation.
Under such systems, if a deviation occurs indicating that control has been lost, the deviation is detected and appropriate steps are taken to reestablish control in a timely manner to assure that potentially hazardous products do not reach the consumer/patient. In the application of HACCP, the use of microbiological testing is seldom an effective means of monitoring CCPs because of the time required to obtain results. In most instances, monitoring of CCPs can best be accomplished through the use of physical and chemical tests, and through visual observations. Microbiological criteria do, however, play a role in verifying that the overall HACCP system is working. In order to assure food safety, properly designed HACCP systems must also consider chemical and physical hazards in addition to biological hazards.
For a successful HACCP program to be properly implemented, management must be committed to a HACCP approach. A commitment by management will indicate an awareness of the benefits and costs of HACCP and include education and training of employees. Benefits, in addition to enhanced assurance of food safety, are a better use of resources and provide timely response to problems. (More information about HACCP).
The HACCP system for food safety management is designed to identify health hazards and to establish strategies to prevent, eliminate, or reduce their occurrence. However, ideal circumstances do not always prevail and deviations from established processes may occur. An important purpose of corrective actions is to prevent foods which may be hazardous from reaching consumers. Where there is a deviation from established critical limits, corrective actions are necessary. Therefore, corrective actions should include the following elements:
- determine and correct the cause of non-compliance
- determine the disposition of non-compliant product and
- record the corrective actions that have been taken.
Specific corrective actions should be developed in advance for each CCP and included in the HACCP plan. As a minimum, the HACCP plan should specify what is to be done when a deviation occurs, who is responsible for implementing the corrective actions, and that a record will be developed and maintained of the actions taken. Individuals who have a thorough understanding of the processes, products and the HACCP plan should be assigned the responsibility for oversight of corrective actions, reporting and follow-up. As may be required, experts may be consulted to review the information available and to assist in determining disposition of non-compliant products and services.
Typically, the records maintained for the HACCP System should include the following:
1.A summary of the hazard analysis, including the rationale for determining hazards and control measures.
2. The HACCP Plan
- Listing of the HACCP team and assigned responsibilities
- Description of the food, its distribution, intended use, and who is the intended consumer
- Verified flow diagram
- HACCP Plan Summary Table that includes information for:
- Steps in the process that are considered CCPs
- The hazard(s) of concern
- Critical limits
- Monitoring required and frequency
- Corrective actions
- Verification procedures and schedule
- Record-keeping procedures
- A brief summary of position responsible for performing the activity and the procedures and frequency should be provided
3. Supporting documentation such as SoPs and validation records
4. Records that are generated during the operation of the plan
The successful implementation of your HACCP plan is facilitated by commitment from top management. The next step is to establish a plan that describes the individuals responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining the HACCP system. Initially, the HACCP coordinator and team are selected and trained as necessary. Implementation of the HACCP system involves the continual application of the monitoring, record-keeping, corrective recovery procedures and other activities as described in the HACCP plan. Maintaining an effective HACCP system depends largely on regularly scheduled verification activities. The HACCP plan should be updated and revised as needed, but should at the very least be annually reviewed.
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Further reading: Food service audit standards and best practices