From Farm To Fork
The eight Food Hygiene stages below define eight recognized crucial stages in food production paying particular attention to the contribution that each stage has on the overall quality of the end product with respect to food quality and hygiene.
So let’s define the eight stages of correct food production and preparation.
1. The handling of Farm animals and Crops
Farm animals, and crops must be handled and cared for humanely & professionally by trained professionals and with proper supervision by qualified Vets or agronomical expert supervisors.
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In vegetable and fruit production it is important to use fresh water for the irrigation of foods. In areas which have sufficient rain this might not be a problem but in some countries some less reputable growers may be tempted to use semi treated sewer water.
Also, crop spraying must be done with permitted pesticides only and in dosages which conform to the guidelines under the statutes of the law.
Crops must be picked, transported and stored professionally to ensure the crop arrives undamaged to the shop shelves. Livestock must be reared in suitable conditions.
Their environment must be controlled to ensure that they are reared free of disease. Milking parlors must be thoroughly cleaned and CIP and SIP (cleaning in place and sterilization in place), must be carried out in a wash cycle within the udder cups and piping of the milking system after every milking session.
Udders should be washed with warm water before milking to ensure that all feces and debris is removed from the udder. The milk of cows receiving anti biotic should be not be sent to the collection tank. Likewise, a sample of milk should be squirted from each teat to ensure that the milk is flowing freely and not coagulated.
Any coagulation would indicate the presence of mastitis, or infection of the udder. In such cases the milk must be discarded. Sore or inflamed udders or teats should also be treated and any milk from them discarded until the condition has cleared up.
All milk collection tanks should be chilled until the time of milk collection by the tanker And thoroughly cleaned after collection with an appropriate milk cleaning detergents.
Animals should be reared humanely in clean conditions with an eye to rearing strong healthy animals. All illnesses should be dealt with promptly. Eating and drinking troughs need to be kept clean and flies and other parasites should likewise be controlled.
Crops should be grown on land which is suitable for the growth of food crops. Care should be taken to check for parasites that may threaten the quality of the harvest and chemicals used on crops should be used according to legislation and manufacturer recommendations and according to the correct time restrictions.
Likewise packing must be done professionally and harvested crops must be stored in proper, clean facilities and must be packed and shipped correctly.
The of raw materials- animals and crops must be transported in a way which complies with state legislation and ethical codes. Animals which are being transported to reputable slaughter houses will be handled with care because well organized establishments will not accept sick or injured animals for fear of introducing bacterial infestations into their line.
Some farmers may try to sell sick or injured animals to second rate slaughter houses when an animal is falling sick or has been seriously injured. Meat such as this will be sold to disreputable butchers who are looking to buy meat cheaply.
Meat such as this will not have any documentation nor will it have been passed as safe for consumption by veterinary officials. In some countries horses are brutally slaughtered in secret corals away from public view and their meat is sold as beef. Such meat is dangerous.
[infobox style=”alert-danger”]If you know of any such activities, hear about or suspect illegal slaughter it is most important to report it: [highlight type=”label” style=”warning”]to the police[/highlight], [highlight type=”label” style=”warning”]to the local health and safety office[/highlight] and to the [highlight type=”label” style=”warning”]area head veterinary authority[/highlight].[/infobox]
3. Processing plants
This stage includes slaughter houses, packing stations and factories. All of these sites should be authorized by appropriate food regulatory bodies, have a valid food manufacturers license, issues to state and national specifications, and comply with GMP, ISO 9002 and HACCP’s standards.
All authentic, safe products should have the name address and telephone number of the processor or manufacturer clearly printed on the packing.
- GMP=Good manufacturing procedures
- HACCP=Hazard analysis and critical control points
- ISO=International standards organization
At This point I would like to explain why it is so important to buy meat which has been slaughtered in authorized establishments. After an animal has been slaughtered certain physiological reactions occur within the muscles of the corpse, such as rigor mortis.
These reactions cause the temperature of the meat to elevate to around forty degrees centigrade. This happens over a period of several hours. This means that over that period particularly, the muscles becomes a perfect breading ground for a multitude of pathogenic bacteria.
Authorized and regulated slaughter establishments will but the meat into a cooler wind tunnel that is specially designed to cool the meat to below sixteen degrees centigrade. Thus, the multiplication and spread of harmful bacteria within the meat is prevented. This is why it is so important to buy meat from a safe source.
Also, qualified vets will examine critical areas of the body such as the heart and other internal organs to look for signs of parasitical and bacterial infestation, such as tuberculosis and on the basis of his findings he will deem
- if the meat is safe for human consumption and
- if the meat has to be frozen at very low temperatures to destroy bacterial spores.
4. Food Distribution Networks
Distribution of food must be done according to National, state and city regulations. Likewise deliverymen must be clean and well presented. Transport & shipping containers must be clean inside and out and be designed specifically to transport the type of food in them, EG. Frozen, chilled.
Where appropriate container temperatures should be checked before off loading produce that you ordered. Make sure that thermometers and thermostats are placed correctly within the container and not inside a package/box. This is a technique used by many delivery men to make the ambient refrigeration temperature inside the van seem colder than it actually is.
The thermometers are in place to show the ambient temperature of the container to you. It is your right to check it.
By putting the thermometer inside a box containing frozen meat the driver can give the impression that the ambient temperature is lower than it actually is in reality. Should a driver refuse to show you the end of the thermometer he may well be hiding the fact that he is hiding it inside a box or inside a piece of meat.
Look for holes in boxes that should not be there. If you notice such cases talk to other businesses who receive from the same supplier and ask them if they see the same thing. You might consider reporting your findings to the authorities or changing suppliers. Remember to always tell your new supplier why you stopped working with the previous one.
This will send out a clear message that you will not tolerate such practices and that you indeed do check. If you should find a package like this you should take the following action:
- take a picture of the box,
- refuse to accept the delivery.
- report the incident to the city hygiene authority and to the head office of the company in question stating that a photograph has been sent to the appropriate municipal office.
5. Delivery and storage
Food should de delivered in good condition with undamaged packaging. It should be stored in suitable conditions for that type of food & in a way that prevents cross contamination with other food sauces. This includes food storage in the home of the consumer.
In some countries it is common practice for drivers to transport dead bodies at night to funeral parlors for extra money. If you should see delivery vans of companies that you work with working at strange late hours it may be worth while investigating further and reporting your findings to all the appropriate authorities with photographic evidence if possible.
Remember, the health of your clients is at risk.
6. Preparation of food before cooking
Food should be prepared along clean guidelines. Meat should be thawed in refrigerated conditions and kept separate from vegetables, dairy products, eggs etc. By keeping the meat in a closed container during the defrosting processes you reduce the risk of cross contamination considerably.
Fresh vegetables should be cut on separate clean cutting boards and knives should be thoroughly washed with soapy water and a scrubbing brush before being used to cut other foodstuffs. In Professional kitchens there should be separate work stations for unclean vegetables, raw meat, dairy confectionaries and salads.
Factories and processing plants should have GMP, ISO9002, and HACCP certification and comply with city/municipal regulations and be able to provide the relevant paperwork as proof.
7. Cooking, Roasting, Baking
Cooking the food will kill most bacteria but keep in mind that some bacterial toxins survive high temperatures so it is most important remember to keep food hot until eaten or Alternatively chill in small containers and freeze as quickly as possible. Bacteria cease to be active at temperatures of less than 4 degrees centigrade.
Serving food is often the stage when most people let down their guard. Food should be served at a temperature of above 70 degrees centigrade or at a temperature of 5 degrees centigrade. Food serving dishes, thermo-porters, pates and cutlery should be spotlessly clean after being washed thoroughly at a temperature of above 70 degrees centigrade.
By checking all these stages as thoroughly as possible you can cut your risk of getting food poisoning considerably.