Is Your Food Product Making Customers Sick?
Those that love cooking tend to view it as an art form, which in many ways is spot on. However, in addition, cooking is very much a science, with principles, that if not followed, can have consequences. One of which, is making you feel sick. Now, it’s one thing for something you’ve prepared making you or even someone close to you ill, but when you’re running a food business, the stakes are much higher. As the business owner, food safety is your responsibiilty
What is the Risk to You if Your Food Product Makes Someone Sick?
It’s up to you to ensure you are following food safety practices and that your food product is safely and hygienically prepared. So the consequences for making a customer sick can be suitably harsh. These consequences range from fines and penalties to a suspension of trading, to an outright ban of your product altogether.
But perhaps the biggest risk is the potential damage that could be done to your brand’s reputation. Sickness and the like will fade and stiff penalties can be paid and recouped, but the damage to your company’s reputation due to lack of food safety can be insurmountable.
What Can Go Wrong?
When you’re cooking for yourself and a small number of people such as your family, the risk of making someone sick is fairly small. However, the risk increases within a food business for a couple of reasons:
The first, is simply down to probability. As you’ll be preparing a greater number of food products, the risk of creating a food product that makes someone sick increases. The way to combat this is to have a precise system in which your product is made as uniformly as possible.
What’s more, it’s crucial to be as fanatical about cleanliness as you can. Ensure that the area where the food product is prepared is always clean, and there are adequate facilities for you and any employees to rigorously was their hand and clean utensils. You’ll also need a system for effectively disposing of waste while minimizing the risk of contamination.
The second reason for an increase in risk is that the number of people involved in the preparation of food increases within a food business. Typically, when cooking casually, the number of people involved is minimal. It may just be you, or you’ll have 1 or 2 other people helping out – max. However, in a business, not only could you have employees, but you’ll likely have suppliers, transportation, and retailers that handle your products at some point. There are so many points where the handling of the food is out of your control and hence the risk of compromising food safety is consequently high.
To prevent potential problems, it’s important to do your due diligence with anyone who’s going to handle your food product ahead of time. With your employees, make sure they’re competent and hold food safety certificates. With any companies you contract, pay them a visit to observe, first hand, how they operate and the environment in which your food will end up. To paraphrase a popular saying, the buck stops with you.
Why You Need Accurate Shelf Life Testing
Shelf life testing determines how long a food product retains its quality and remains safe to eat. It’s how a product’s ‘best before’ and ‘use before’ dates are generated. By undergoing shelf-life testing, you will greatly reduce the likelihood of your products making a customer sick.
When you submit your food product for testing, it is tested in a variety of ways, such as at different temperatures, levels of humidity, and over extended periods of time. By doing this, you’re emulating the different ways your product could be treated by contracted companies in your supply chain, as well as your customer. Understanding how your product reacts in different scenarios will allow you to give accurate instructions on how to store and consume your products if they are to remain safe to eat. Shelf life testing is a key part of ensuring food safety.
Once you’ve done this, you’ve gone some way towards protecting your company by provided guidelines on how your products are best consumed, and it’s up to the other parties involved to follow them
Why You Need an Accurate Ingredients List
In addition to shelf-life testing, you need to protect yourself by providing an accurate ingredient list. That way, consumers can tell if anything in your food product is likely to make them feel ill and avoid them accordingly. As well as ingredients, it’s crucial to explicitly state if they contain any common allergens such as nuts, soy, gluten, etc.
It’s also important to visit suppliers, contract manufacturers, packaging companies, transport providers and anyone else involved in your distribution to ensure they have adequate measures for preventing cross-contamination with products that contain allergens.
If allergens are present, they must be indicated on the product label. Not doing so could be a serious violation of food safety laws
What are the Government Rules on Food Safety?
As previously stated, the consequences for a company that makes consumers sick can be stiff, and the results can be anything from a fine to your food product being banned. This is because it’s the government’s job to protect consumers from unscrupulous, or just plain lazy, companies that would otherwise cause the public harm.
To this end, it has created a set of food safety guidelines which are enforced by Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ). These guidelines are split into three main areas: The food business, food handlers, and the food premises.
- The food business is the registered business itself in which food products are created, and by definition is responsible for the compliance of food handlers and the food premises.
- Food handlers are the people within the business responsible for handling the food in any capacity while it’s under the care of your business. This includes receiving the ingredients for your food products, storing them, retrieving them, using them to create your products, and then the subsequent packing, storage and distribution of said product. All food handlers are expected to have the correct food handling certifications for your state. It’s also important that your food handlers have the facilities that will allow them to handle food hygienically, such as comprehensive handwashing facilities.
- Finally, the food premises are where your food products are created. Its layout must adhere to FSANZ guidelines which minimise opportunities for food contamination. Regardless of whether you’re using your own premises, renting one, or are contracting out the manufacturing of your products, it’s your responsibility to ensure your premises comply with governmental standards. Your food premises need to be designed and constructed to be conveniently and thoroughly cleaned and sanitised. This includes its water supply, sewage and wastewater disposal, ventilation, lighting, and fixtures and fittings.
How to get help?
Although the number of measures needed to make your business compliant with government guidelines may seem overwhelming at first, you won’t have to navigate them all by yourself. The first thing to do is contact your local council to find out the specific guidelines for your town and state.
In addition, you should always feel free to contact us, as well have the expertise to advise you on your specific business and what measures you need to take to protect your customers and your business going forward.