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The Importance of Food Safety in Live Essay

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Updated: Apr 8th, 2022

Introduction

All living things require food for healthy growth and development. Despite its importance however, food can easily transmit disease-causing pathogens from one organism to another, in this case, people. According to Redman, food can also serve as a host or medium for growth and development of pathogens especially bacteria that cause food poisoning and conditions such as typhoid and cholera (59).

Therefore, to avoid hazards caused by food poisoning, authorities have adopted various regulations and standards that have to be followed to ensure food safety. Sherrow defines food safety as the discipline that deals and gives guidelines on appropriate ways of food handling, preparation and storage to avoid illness associated with improper food handling (23).

Food safety involves five key principles that include prevention of contamination, separation of raw from cooked foods, cooking food in the right temperature and length of time, proper storage and use of safe and clean water for cooking purposes.

The above-mentioned principles are part of an elaborate system that details handling of food for safety. The food control system is an internationally recognized system that details various elements that are involved in food handling and to ensure safety and fitness for human consumption.

Elements of Food Control System

The principles forming the food control system are generally described for every nation to adopt and modify according to its requirements. There is need for an effective national control system to ensure the safety of domestic consumers. Additional, they help national governments in ensuring that the foods entering international trade as well as those imported are safe and meet the quality and safety standards set nationally and internationally.

Hopper adds that the main objectives of a food control system are to protect the public of a particular country by reducing chances of the occurrence of food-borne illnesses, protecting consumers from dangers posed by mislabeled, unclean and unwholesome food and also contribution to economic growth and development through maintenance of consumer confidence (98).

The elements of a national food control system include a food law system, a food control strategy, food control functions, inspection services, laboratory or analytical services and compliance or enforcement services. According to Clute, the above-mentioned elements help in regulating safety of food that is produced, processed and marketed within a country including food that is imported.

Food law and regulation system

The successful implementation and maintenance of an effective food control system depend on adequate food legislation that is in place. Legislation which may also be referred to as food law consists of definitions of unsafe food and recommendation of effective tools that will be used to rid the market of unsafe foods and punitive measures of parties violating food safety standards. The regulation system gives a clear mandate and authority to those that are in charge to combat food safety problems.

In addition to legal powers and measures for ensuring food safety, the food law system creates competent body that does not combats food safety but has in place the capacity to develop preventive systems. Hopper asserts that an effective food safety law system needs to be updated to include evolving food safety needs for instance the growing need to aggressively enforce labeling requirements (102).

Hopper recommends that governments should include Codex standards as well as other countries’ experiences when drafting food safety regulations (108). That way, a national food regulatory system can meet both national and international standards.

Food control strategy

An effective food control strategy requires a sound control system that has both policy and operational coordination at the national level. The food law discussed in the section above normally determines the details of the food control strategy. The strategy is more or less the blue print that guides a national authority on the ways through which provisions of the food safety law are implemented. There is need to refine the strategy from time to time to seal loopholes that may arise due to food control dynamics.

Food control functions

Operational coordination is the main function that a food control system plays at the national level. More importantly however, is the establishment of a leadership function that will be responsible for administrative issues including the implementation of the above strategy. Other core functions of the food control system include the establishment of regulatory mechanisms, a monitoring system, a performance measurement system and a flexible plan that is open to improvement. Additionally, it plays the function of offering overall policy guidance in implementing the food control strategy.

It is important to note that both the food control strategy and the food control functions can be collectively referred to as food control management.

Food inspection services

According to Clute, administration and implementation of food laws will only be successful if there is in place a qualified and efficient inspection service (120). Clute adds that the food inspection service that is in place is the key to successful implementation of food laws (120). This is because, inspectors are in constant contact with the industry and the public. The reputation of a national food control system greatly depends on the integrity and skills of food inspectors.

Normally, the inspection service includes inspection of premises, evaluation of HACCP standards, plans and level of implementation, food sampling, identification of food decomposition and collection and transmission of evidence in cases where food law is breached. Inspection also encourages voluntary compliance through strict enforcement of quality assurance.

According to Hoper, proper training is a key requirement among inspectors if the system is to be efficient especially on the face of increases complexity in the international food movement chain (110). Some of the skills they need come with adequate training in food science technology and a mastery of the industrial process involved in the in food production. Besides, they need adequate training laboratory processes as well as HACCP systems.

Laboratory/ Analytical services

The laboratory and analytical services are a crucial component in the flood control system as they help in food monitoring and provision of epidemiological data. As mentioned earlier, the food control law that applies to a particular jurisdiction mainly guides the location of important facilities such as laboratories.

Depending on the needs and requirements of the national food control system, there could be one or more laboratories, strategically located and under the control of an agency or ministry of health. Hopper says that it is not the number or location of laboratories that matter but their level of equipment and the norms for food control that have been put in place to measure their performance (58).

Key to optimal performance of the laboratories is the adequacy of the facilities that will aid physical, microbiological and chemical analyses of food. Hopper says that the analyses conducted by these laboratories are important as they help in ascertaining the safety of food in circulation in the country (64). Additionally, the results are important in determining compliance and can also be used as evidence in court cases. As such there is need to ensure that staff working in these laboratories is well-trained and highly competent.

Compliance functions

One of the core functions of a national food control system is the compliance function. The law requires that every stakeholder in the food handling chain from production in the farm to the market comply with its provisions. The key to compliance according to Clute is adequate supply of information (79). There is need for concerned leadership to supply adequate factual information to concerned parties to ensure prescribed standards are met.

There is need for food control agencies to put in place information packages and educational programs to address specific training needs of food producers, processors and inspectors. Some of the key people involved in transmitting information are inspectors and laboratory analysts. For better compliance therefore, there is need to effect proper training on these professionals to ensure a high compliance rate effectively helping successful implementation of the flood control system.

Food Safety in Australia

The sections above dealt with food control in general, depicting a typical system of a country in a hypothetical situation. The following section however will focus on Australia’s food control system with emphasis on the Food Safety Australia and New Zealand Act (FSANZ) that seeks to establish a food control system such as the one describes above.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)

The Food Standards Australia New Zealand is the act that establishes a food control system for both Australia and New Zealand (Charter and Smith 33). The act put in place a bi-national food regulator body that works closely with Federal, State and Territory governments to develop and enforce food standards or regulations that will form part of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

The main objectives of the FSANZ act of 1991that established the boy include the protection of public health and safety in the two countries, provision of adequate information about food to help in sound decision-making by consumers, prevention of fraud and deception as well as prevention of deceptive and misleading conduct especially by food safety officials (Charter and Smith 35). The above is in line with the objectives of the national food control system discussed in the section above.

FSANZ is charged with the responsibility of regulating safe delivery of food in the two countries. Precisely, FSANS develops food standards that stipulate the composition, labeling and contaminants that apply to all foods produced in and imported to the two countries. Part of the FSANZ mandate involves the development and variation of existing food standards after which individuals states and territories implement and enforce through their acts.

Normally, the FSANZ board is involved in every stage of change or variation of food standards and must give final approval before any change is adopted by the Food Standards Code. The mandate of FSANZ operates within a ministerial council of the two countries that provides the regulatory framework that guides FSANZ in decision making (Charter and Smith 40).

In both Australia and New Zealand, FSANZ helps in developing standards that define parameters of food manufacturing, processing and labeling. It also aids in the development of standards that define primary production only in Australian territories. Besides, FSANZ has put in place mechanisms that help in surveillance and enforcement of the national food control system, collection and compilation of market intelligence and provision of risk assessment advice on imported foods (Charter and Smith 48).

In a nutshell, FSANZ performs the role of protecting and ensuring the safety of people in the two countries through maintenance of safe food supply regardless of its origin.

Regulation and Requirements of Food Imported to Australia

Under a framework guided by the FSANZ, Australia has in place comprehensive and detailed food import requirements. Food imported to Australia must meet certification or import requirements including quarantine requirements, imported food inspection scheme requirements, import permits and attestations on export certificates, risk category requirement, pre-market clearance, quality assurance systems and import procedure requirements.

According to Rees and Watson, all food that is imported to Australia must meet quarantine requirements as stipulated in the Imported Food Act of 1992 (63). Import requirements dictate that imported food consignments must be cleared before any examination is conducted on it by the Imported Food Inspection Scheme. Additionally, the importer must show that the consignment meets various Australian defined treatments including fumigation and temperature controls.

Under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme, the main body charged with implementing quarantine requirements on imported food is the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS). AQIS carries out various inspections including checking for food labeling compliance and visual food defects. If necessary AQIS may take samples for further laboratory analysis to determine its qualities as defined by the FSAN (Rees and Watson 66).

There is also a requirement to verify import permits and attestations on export certificates. These documents must be attested in the country of origin. Mostly, chicken meat, pork, beef and eggs are permitted under very strict conditions mainly if the food is processed to an extent that Australian authorities think the quarantine hazard has been eliminated.

Depending on the risk category of food, FSANZ advises AQIS on the level and frequency of inspection that is required to ascertain its safety. In determining the risk, the Australian authorities have in place an elaborate mechanism through which it determines the risk associated with imported food. Under this, the inspection categories include risk and surveillance.

Labelling

Labelling requirements for Australian foods are contained in the General Food Standards (Rees and Watson 78). Labelling is mainly done in English but multi-language labeling is also allowed so long as the information conveyed is the same as that one in English. The general labeling and other information requirements are outlined in the ANZFSC.

Under these requirements, labels on food packages for retail sale must have a name prescribed on them to ascertain its nature, lot identification, business address, advisory warnings, date, nutritional information, storage directions and country of origin. There are however a few exemptions to the above requirements which include foods sold at fund-raising events and also whole and cut fresh vegetables and fruit (Rees and Watson 80).

Besides, the Food Products Standards may from time to time impose labeling standards as need arises on particular classes of food that pose a threat to the health of the public. Under each of the requirements mentioned above, there are specific requirements that apply to specific imports and that every importer needs to follow depending on the type of food dealt with.

Food Inspection

Before the enactment of the FSANZ act in 1991, Australia’s food standards were not harmonized to reflect a homogeneous approach to food safety. There was a general feeling that the country was relying too much on inspection services and neglecting the implementation of preventive mechanisms that were crucial to food safety.

Additionally, critics alleged that the inspection services in Australia were too decentralized to state governments with the approach blamed on the many loopholes that existed in the food safety system. Enactment of FSANZ however moved a step further and established a comprehensive inspection authority AQIS which mainly concentrated on imports and exports on a national scale.

The country has a rigorous system in place for inspection of all the food that is consumed by the public. Most of the standards implemented by AQIS on imported foods also apply on foods manufactured within Australia.

Like in the case for imported food, AQIS inspectors check for correct labeling on the food containers, the food’s microbiology status and also seek to determine if there was correct use of pesticides and additives. If need be may take samples for further laboratory analysis. Inspection is carried out regularly and inspectors sometimes rely on the compliance history of the producer in allowing some categories of food into the market.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points Program in Australia

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) is an internally recognized program charged with the responsibility of identifying and managing risk (Clute 88). It is important to note that HACCP is versatile program that can be applied beyond food safety issues. When integrated into food safety programs, HACCP’s high degree standards assure authorities and consumers of unparalleled food safety because of the high quality management programs that are part of it.

HACCP Australia mainly offers cost effective solutions to the food safety program already in place. Precisely, HACCP helps in development of site specific systems, implementation and maintenance of the methodologies crucial to its success.

To ensure effectiveness in food safety, HACCP Australia undertakes detailed needs analyses that help in decision-making on what needs to be done to improve the quality assurance system (Hopper 39). HACCP Australia also develops food safety programs tailored according to HACCP standards including subsystems with features such as pest control and recall protocols. HACCP recognizes the importance of training to successful implementation of its subsystems.

Implementation is normally done on a site by site basis and staff that is manning the systems is trained using simple methodologies that take into account their level of skills to ensure healthy and safety of foods consumed by the Australian public. Additionally, there is regular maintenance of the system by highly qualified staff that carries out mini-audits and collects relevant data for efficiency evaluation. One of the main objectives of these maintenance rounds is to carry out sanitation checks and implement refresher courses for the staff.

Besides, HACCP Australia offers customer support and advice to ensure smooth running of food safety standards and also installs vendor safety quality assurance programs.

Works cited

Charter, Edward, and Smith, Jim. Functional Food Product Development, Thomson Learning: Melbourne, 2010. Print.

Clute, Mark. Food Industry Quality Control Systems, Chicago: Springer Verlag, 2008. Print.

Hopper, Marlynne et al. Strengthening national food control systems: guidelines to assess capacity building needs, New York: Springer, 2006. Print.

Rees, Naomi, and Watson, David. International standards for food safety, New York: Willey & Sons, 2000. Print.

Redman, Nina. Food Safety: A Reference Handbook, New York: Cengage Learning, 2007. Print.

Sherrow, Victoria. Food Safety, London: Sage Publications, 2008. Print.

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