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BRC Issue 8 – Make sure you’re prepared

supermarket shelves

Anyone who supplies the larger retailers will be well aware of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) Global Standard for Food Safety. The Standard is designed to provide the basis for certification for food manufacturers who implement good manufacturing practices and have supporting quality management systems. It can be applied to any food processing or food packing operation where food is handled, processed or packed.

The BRC Standard is updated every few years to take account of new manufacturing practices, areas of concern and often to clarify or simplify points in the previous version. For example, Issue 7 of the BRC standard took into account the ‘Horsemeat Scandal’ of 2013 and included a section on traceability and product authenticity in response.

Product safety and security is high on BRC Issue 8 agenda

Product vulnerability and threat measures are still very much on the agenda in Issue 8.  There has been a major revision of Section 4.2 relating to Site Security and Food Defence. The risk of malicious contamination from internal or external threats must now be assessed at all stages when the product is under the management control of your company – not just through the supply chain. There should be monitoring and control of risk in areas such as storage and intake points; and only authorised personnel should have access to production and storage areas. All staff need to be trained in site security procedures and food defence. A VACCP and TACCP course is ideal for alerting employees to potential risks and advising how to put measures in place to avert them.

Food packaging and labelling

There have been key changes too relating to product labelling and packaging, which is still a major issue. New to BRC Issue 8 is a requirement to ensure that there are processes in place to prevent any obsolete packaging from being used inadvertently. This also includes controls for the disposal of obsolete packaging and other printed materials.

Making sure that the correct packaging and labelling is used for a product is essential, especially where products contain allergenic ingredients. In certain instances, it can literally mean the difference between life and death for consumers. It is also imperative that the correct ‘Use by’ dates appear on the packaging if illness and spoilage are to be avoided.

Food safety culture

Perhaps one of the most significant changes is the addition of a new clause regarding food safety culture . It requires the site to assess its current food safety culture, plan and implement  activities to improve it, and review the outcomes of these activities. The Senior Management of a company will be expected to present their food safety culture plan to the auditor during the audit.  

Plans can cover a number of years but should have activities spaced across it not front and/or end loaded.  Auditors will not be making a judgement on the type of culture, they will be looking for an understanding of the current culture, planned activities, implementation of some activities and a review of their effectiveness. If no plan or implementation is effected, it will represent a major non-conformance against a BRC audit.    To be effective, there needs to be buy-in from everyone in the company and it needs to be led from the top.

Food safety and quality need to be viewed as being as important as hitting delivery schedules and profit targets. Measurement and monitoring can take the form of training, surveys and staff retention.

Whistleblowing and environmental monitoring

Also in Section 1 is another new clause requiring  companies to have a confidential reporting system for  employees that have concerns relating to product safety, integrity and legality to be able to report them anonymously.

Another new clause is the requirement for sites to have a risk based environmental monitoring programme in place for pathogens or spoilage organisms. Because this includes all production areas with open and/or ready-to-eat products it makes it applicable to all sites – high risk, high care, ambient high care and low risk.

This article has highlighted just a few of the many changes between the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety issues 7 and 8. For a detailed examination of all the changes, their interpretation and implementation, Verner Wheelock is running a number of BRC Food Safety Issue 7 to 8 Conversion for Sites courses. The course is tutored by official BRC Approved Training Partner, Eleanor Nicholls, an experienced auditor and longstanding VWA trainer.

Other courses which are ideal preparation for BRC Issue 8 include Managing Food Allergens, Root Cause Analysis, VACCP and TACCP and Legal Labelling as well as Auditing Skills, Supplier Auditing and Lead Auditor.

  

 

Lynn-Anne Allinson is the latest in a number of Verner Wheelock delegates to win the Food Safety prize at the Royal Society of Public Health’s (RSPH) annual Hygeia Awards.

A Raw Materials Specialist at dried foods manufacturer, Symington’s in Leeds, Lynn-Anne received the award for achieving the top marks in the RSPH Level 4 Award in Managing Food Safety and Hygiene (Manufacturing) examination this year.

RSPH Food Safety Award winner

Lynn-Anne Allinson of Symingtons with her Food Safety award

She took the examination after completing an intensive 5-day training course at food industry training specialist, Verner Wheelock, based on the Broughton Hall Business Park in Skipton, North Yorkshire. The prizes were presented by broadcaster Natasha Kaplinsky at a ceremony in London recently.

This is the fourth time that a Verner Wheelock delegate has received the RSPH Food Safety prize in the past five years. Last year it was won by Justyna Pupiec-Adamowicz of Nestle and in 2015 and 2014 it was won by other Symingtons employees Sarah Jolly-Hart and Liane Davis (shared with Verner Wheelock delegate Peter Smith). Verner Wheelock delegates have also won the HACCP prize twice during this time.

After the event, Lynn-Anne said: “I am delighted to have received the RSPH prize. Taking the Level 4 Award in Food Safety & Hygiene has given me added confidence in my knowledge in this area, as well as providing a useful insight into other areas of food manufacturing to which I’ve not yet had exposure.”

Speaking of her experience at Verner Wheelock, she said, “I thoroughly enjoyed the course delivered by Verner Wheelock. The training materials were of an excellent standard, and the tutors extremely knowledgeable in their field. There was a great collaborative learning environment in which both tutors and students all shared their experiences from their different areas of the food industry, which I found beneficial.”

Verner Wheelock has been providing food safety, HACCP and auditing courses to the food industry since 1990. The company also offers specialist courses such as Managing Food Allergens, Legal Labelling, Root Cause Analysis and Ethical Trading Workshops.

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is the UK’s longest-established public health organisation in the UK. Its qualifications are highly regarded within the food and other industries. It was formed in October 2008 through the merger of the Royal Society of Health and the Royal Institute of Public Health.

Food pests and how to control them effectively

mice are food pestsNot so long ago we had an adorable House Martin family nesting outside the window. It was super cute, but what wasn’t not so great is the build-up of droppings on the window sill.  Bird droppings and the faeces of other animals are highly toxic. It’s bad enough outside a domestic property but you can imagine the damage that this type of mess can make in a food processing, preparation or packing environment.  That’s why food manufacturers and caterers need to take steps to keep food pests away from their premises.

Food pests carry pathogens

The trouble is that pests are resilient and persistent critters, they travel easily and they breed like crazy. Allow pests into your premises and they have the potential to spread such pathogens as listeria, Salmonella, E.Coli, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis and gastroenteritis.

The main pests are rats, mice, birds and insects.  They spread disease by defecating and urinating, regurgitating food, and by shedding casings and dying.  The discovery of rat droppings, roosting birds or an infestation of flies can spell disaster for a company if they are discovered during a third-party audit.  The risk to food safety is extremely serious too.

Were you aware, for example, that filth flies can carry over 100 pathogens that can cause disease in humans. Filth flies include drain flies, flesh flies and house flies.  As their name suggests they move from filth to food indiscriminately. They feed on decaying and rotten food, carcases of animals and faecal matter as well as on fresh and stored food and ingredients.

Mice can squeeze through holes the size of a pencil and under the smallest gaps in doorways or skirting.  Rats can gnaw through hardwood wires and cabling (as well as cardboard boxes and other packaging).  Pigeons can get into premises and build roosts. Insects can fly into premises through minute spaces and make themselves at home in nooks and crannies behind and under equipment or in drains.

Warning signs that you might have a pest infestation

Even if you can’t see the pests (many are nocturnal) there are various tell-tale signs that you have unwelcome visitors:

Droppings and urine

Rat and mouse droppings are small, dry and look like brown grains of rice.  Vermin such as these urinate frequently when eating, so the chances are you’ll smell that they’re about too.

Grease marks

Greasy smears and paw prints are another sign of rodent infestation.

Evidence of nesting

Pests build their nests from whatever is to hand e.g packaging. So look for signs of this.

Structural damage

As I mentioned before, they can gnaw through wood and plaster, so look for gnaw and scratch marks.

Damaged goods

Look for signs of nibbled packaging on raw ingredients and spillages. Certain pests, such as weevils, can live within dry ingredients, so always give a good visual inspection before adding to product mixtures.

You know some of the signs, but how do you keep food pests out?

There are some simple things you can do to try to discourage pests in your facility:

  • Make sure all doors to production areas are secured. This means at all times. If you need to go out, close the door behind you. In addition, you should ensure that any doors leading to outside remain closed.
  • Keep insects out by installing window screens. If the window is open to let air in, that’s the only thing it should be letting in.
  • Cover all bins, especially any containing food waste. Empty bins regularly and tie bin bags securely before taking them out to external bins – which should have closed lids.
  • Check the building regularly for any holes and plug them up to stop rodents having access.
  • Make sure any vegetation around the building is cut right back. This will discourage rodents ad insects
  • Don’t allow birds to nest under the roof or eaves of the building.
  • Don’t put fly units over food surfaces. If they are too shallow the insects will drop out of the tray.
  • Ensure that you clean down equipment properly. Remember insects thrive in damp environments and will breed in the smallest of spaces.

Call the pest professionals

You can find out more about pests and pest control on our Level 3 Food Safety and Hygiene or Level 4 Food Safety and Hygiene courses.  If you think you have a pest problem, it’s often best to call in a professional pest control company.  The majority are aware what BRC auditors and Environmental Health Officers are looking for.

Following an initial visit, the contractor will produce a report of their findings.  This will detail current and potential sites of breaches or infestations and their recommendations.

Many also offer comprehensive silo cleaning and deep cleaning of food equipment and production spaces as well as the supply and fitting of insect screens, PVC curtains and doors, brush strips and other proofing solutions such as electronic rodent capture and electronic fly killers.  Given that they will be operating in a food production environment, many also offer pesticide-free solutions to pest control and chemical-free fumigation services.

 

cruise ships have been linked with Norovirus

There have been more than six outbreaks of viruses, especially Norovirus, on cruise ships so far this year.  This might seem a large number, but in actual fact the likelihood of contracting Norovirus on a cruise ship is just one-eighteenth of a percent. You are far more likely to contract Norovirus on dry land.

Nevertheless, cruise liner operators are particularly scrupulous about hygiene.  Ascend or descend any of the stairways and you will find staff cleaning the handrails.  Walk into a restaurant or buffet area and there are hand sanitation stations.  On some ships, they even have a member of staff standing at the entrance with spray gun dispensing sanitiser directly into guests’ hands.  It’s a similar situation before you board the vessel.

To illustrate the point; I was having dinner on a cruise ship recently. The lady on the table adjacent was about to order, but just before she did, she sneezed.  The waiter immediately whisked the menu out of her hands, put it in a cupboard, sanitised his hands and handed her a new menu. The woman was astonished at his reaction, but he was, of course, quite correct to do so.

Norovirus spreads rapidly

Why are they so hot on hygiene? The answer lies in the fact that there are thousands of passengers and staff in close proximity.  An illness such as Norovirus, which causes sickness and diarrhoea, can therefore spread rapidly.

toilet rolls for diarrhoeaNorovirus can be transmitted directly or indirectly.  In other words, person-to-person, or through contaminated water or food.  So, for example, if you touch a door handle, surface or utensil (or menu for that matter) of someone who contracted the virus, you can become infected yourself.  It can also spread through eating contaminated food prepared by infected food handlers.  Norovirus can become airborne via toilet flushing or you can catch it by being nearby somebody vomiting. It takes fewer than 20 virus particles to cause an infection.  Scary stuff!

 

Which foods are best to avoid?

shellfish and saladFood-wise the most likely candidates to be implicated in a Norovirus outbreak are salad ingredients and shellfish.  If shellfish have not been heated above 75?C, they pose a serious risk.  If infected water is used to wash fruit and vegetables, or to make ice, that will also cause the virus to spread.  But it’s not only potable water that can become contaminated.  Waterborne outbreaks of Norovirus have also been sourced in swimming pools and recreational lakes.

Norovirus can survive for long periods outside the human body. Contaminated fabrics can hold the virus for up to 12 days.  It can live for weeks on hard surfaces and potentially for years in contaminated still water.  So, food safety and general hygiene are obviously of paramount importance.

How can we protect ourselves against contracting the virus?

One of the most effective things you can do is wash your hands properly with soap and water. This is actually more effective than using an alcohol rub. You can also ensure all surfaces are sanitised with a solution of bleach and water or other disinfectants. You might also want to side-step the salad and shellfish to be absolutely sure.

What is Shigellosis?

Shigellosis, a highly contagious diarrhoea caused by Shigella bacteria, is often confused with Norovirus. It also has a similar make-up to E.coli bacteria.

Shigella can spread in schoolsShigella bacteria is most commonly seen in schools and child care environments.  It can spread quickly and is generally spread through people not washing their hands after using the toilet or changing a nappy.  They then touch other surfaces or food. All someone has to do is touch the same surface/utensils and then touch their mouth and they can fall victim to Shigellosis.  It can even be spread via sex with an infected person.

The bacteria can affect any food which has been washed in contaminated water.  That’s why it is often referred to as ‘travellers’ diarrhoea’, since it is contracted through contaminated food and water in developing countries.

Did E-Coli kill holidaying couple?

Post-mortem tests carried out on the bodies of a couple from Burnley who died suddenly whilst  holidaying in Hurghada, Egypt, showed high levels of E.Coli  The E.Coli bacteria causes very similar symptoms and is transmitted in similar ways to the Shigellosis virus.

E. Coli is present in the guts of humans and animals and can be transferred through not washing hands after using the toilet, eating undercooked meat, drinking unpasteurised milk and fruit juices or drinking contaminated water etc. You are also more susceptible to illness from E. Coli and other bacteria if you have a weakened immune system; are elderly or very young; or are taking medication to decrease stomach acid levels.

Most strains of E. Coli are harmless and may cause a little discomfort. However severe strains can cause fever as well as stomach cramps, diarrhoea and nausea and can lead to a condition called Haemolytic Uremic Syndrome (HUS). In HUS the red blood cells are damaged and this can lead to kidney failure. This can occur in 5 -10% of people infected with E. Coli.

Learn about food poisoning bacteria and their control

You can find out all about cross contamination and the various bacteria which cause food poisoning on our Food safety courses.  We offer all levels from basic Level 2 Food Safety & Hygiene, Level 3 Food Safety & Hygiene for supervisors to advanced Level 4 Food Safety and Hygiene. All are available as open courses at our training facility.  Alternatively, if you have 5 or more people to train, a cost-effective option is the same course run in-house at your own premises.

 

Click here for more information.

exam techniques

If you left school, college or university several years ago, the chances are you won’t have sat an exam for a very long time. However, exams are a necessary evil if you want to gain qualifications for career progression; or improve your skills in your current role.

It’s natural to feel a little anxious before your exam or test, so here are some top tips to help out.

1) Read the questions

This might seem really obvious, but before you put pen to paper, make sure you read the question. Not just once, but 3 times. This should ensure that you have understood it correctly. When you’re nervous and up against the clock, it’s easy to misread something. For example, if the question says ‘Which of the following are not food safety prerequisites?’, you don’t want to read it as ‘Which of the following are food safety prerequisites?’

Some of the questions in HACCP and Food Safety examinations can seem ambiguous and there can seem to be more than one relevant answer. Reading through carefully often helps to clarify this.

2) Understand what is required

It’s a good idea to search Google for ‘exam questions glossary’ before the big day. This will tell you what is meant by particular words and phrases and what the examiner will expect to see in your answers. E.g. “List the 7 principles of HACCP” is a very different question from “Describe the 7 principles of HACCP.” The first will have fewer marks and you will just be able to provide a simple list. The second will carry more marks and requires a more detailed answer.

3) Allocate your time efficiently

Level 4 Food Safety, Level 4 HACCP and Lead Auditor exams are written papers rather than multiple choice. Each question shows the maximum amount of marks awarded. It’s common sense that you should spend more time on the questions for which you can get more marks.  Don’t waste time writing hundreds of words on a question worth a few marks, even if you could wax lyrical about pests for hours. Spend more time on a question worth 10 or 20 marks.

If you know that the exam is 2 hours duration, allow 5 to 10 minutes reading time and the same again at the end to go over your answers. Then split the remaining time according to the marks structure. Don’t feel you have to answer the questions in the order they appear. It might be sensible to answer the high-ranking questions first, then tackle the rest.

4) Tips for a multiple choice exam

Exams such as Level 3 HACCP, Level 3 Food Safety and Auditing Skills are in multiple choice format. You have a separate answer sheet which is marked electronically. A good tip is to go through the question paper and mark all your answers on there first. You can tick the answers to the ones you know and for ones you’re not sure about you can eliminate the answers you know are correct. Then, once you’ve made your choices, carefully transfer the answers to the answer sheet. You can use a sheet of paper or ruler under the corresponding questions and answers to make sure they’re entered correctly.

5)Blue or black ink?

The answer to this one is that we would always recommend that you use black ink. Exam papers are scanned for marking, so black is much clearer and easier to read. When you sit an examination at Verner Wheelock we provide black pens as standard.

On the subject of writing, try to make your handwriting as clear as possible. If your handwriting is difficult to decipher, you could print instead.

6) Make sure you’re prepared

One of the best ways to prepare for an exam is to try to replicate examination conditions. Make sure you are somewhere quiet with no distractions, then attempt a mock paper within the given time. Study in short bursts of 20 -30 minutes at a time and memorise facts using mnemonics wherever possible.

What if English is not your mother tongue?

You need to let the examination centre know well in advance if English is not your first language. In some cases the examination paper might be available in different languages. Remember that this will need to be ordered in specially, so give them plenty of notice. If the examination paper is only available in English you will be allowed to take a dictionary and thesaurus in with you (paper version only) and you will probably be allowed extra time.

After the exam

Don’t overanalyse the questions and your answers with your colleagues. What happens in the exam stays in the exam. Just take a deep breath and enjoy the rest of the day. The chances are you’re worrying about nothing. As long as you’ve listened to the tutor during your training you should do fine. For example, the pass rate for Verner Wheelock delegates is 98% for Level 3 Food Safety and 97% for Level 3 HACCP.

Good luck!

HACCP principle

The 7 Principles of HACCP are:

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis
  2. Identify Critical Control Points
  3. Determine Critical Limits
  4. Establish Monitoring Procedures of CCPs
  5. Establish Corrective Action Procedures
  6. Establish Verification Procedures
  7. Establish Record-keeping and Documentation Procedures

Principles 1 & 2 – Hazard Analysis and CCPs

So we’ve made sure our prerequisites are in place and we’ve got a HACCP team together. What next? Next we need to go through each procedure and look for any potential hazards that might affect the safety of the food we’re producing. We’re looking for physical hazards, microbiological hazards, chemical hazards and – in some cases- allergenic hazards.

Once we’ve identified these, we need to decide which of the steps in the process constitute Critical Control Points (CCPs). These are defined as ‘a step at which control can be applied to reduce, eliminate or prevent the possibility of a food safety hazard, or reduce it to an acceptable level.’ A common CCP in food manufacturing is the cooking stage.

What is a Critical Limit?

HACCP Principle 3 tells us to ‘determine critical limits.’ These limits need to be applied to the  CCPs. For instance, we have already established that cooking is a CCP. A critical limit for cooking would therefore concern temperature and time. E.g. the product would need to be cooked at a minimum temperature of X°C for a minimum time of X minutes in order to be sure that all potential pathogenic bacteria had been killed or reduced to a harmless level.

When the critical limits have been set, you need to monitor them (HACCP Principle 4). How do you do this? The answer is through observation and measurement. You need to decide WHAT will be monitored, HOW it will be monitored, WHEN it will be monitored and WHO will do the monitoring.

In Principle 5, corrective actions, you must decide how you are going to put something right which has gone wrong. In other words, if there has been a deviation from the critical limit. As an example, you should firstly stop the line or process and segregate the affected product. You then need to get the process back under control within the critical limits you have established. The deviation and its corrective action need to be documented.

What’s the difference between Verification and Validation?

Now we come to the verification and validation of the HACCP plan. Since they sound similar and there is often confusion about what each means, I’ll try to explain. In a nutshell, Verification is defined as the process of establishing the truth, accuracy or validity of something. So, basically, if we’ve said that we’re going to heat a product to X°C for X minutes to kill bacteria, the verification is checking the time and the temperature to make sure we’re actually doing what we say.

To verify the HACCP plan, you need to undertake regular audits of the plan to ensure that it is being followed correctly. This is particularly important if any aspect of the procedure, process or ingredients has changed which could jeopardise the safety of the product – e.g. a reduction in sugar or salt. You also need to review CCPs, your monitoring procedures and any records you’ve kept of corrective actions.

Validation is the assessment of an action, decision, plan or transaction to establish that it is correct, complete, being implemented (and/or recorded) as intended and is delivering the intended outcome. It is asking how you know/can prove something.

For example, how do you know that cooking the product for X minutes at X°C will kill harmful bacteria and make the product safe? You can validate this by using scientific data from journals which have found this to be the case. Additionally, you can undertake in-plant observations, measurements and evaluations or seek expert third party advice.

Find out more on a HACCP course

Verner Wheelock runs courses from basic Level 2 HACCP to advanced Level 4 HACCP. You can attend HACCP training at our training centre in Skipton, North Yorkshire. Alternatively, you can train a number of staff all together with an in-house course at your own premises.

world cupUnless you’ve had your eyes and ears shut for the past few days, you’ll be aware that it’s the World Cup semi-final tonight – and England are playing!!! I’m no football pundit, so instead I thought I’d write a blog about the type of Russian food that England fans might like to try. Here are a few popular dishes…

Beef Stroganoff

beef stroganoffNamed after a Russian aristocrat. It is strips of sautéed beef in a sour cream sauce. There are different variations of the dish. Some include mustard, some include onions or tomato sauce. It is often served with rice or potatoes. “Simples”.

 

Russian Caviar

Who remembers Roland Rat? His favourite dish was, purportedly, caviar and chips. Caviar is, of course a famous Russian dish. It is the roe (eggs) of the wild Sturgeon fish, found in the Black and Caspian Seas. It is definitely an acquired taste since it is extremely salty. One suspects the cockney Breakfast TV puppet would smother his caviar in tomato ketchup. However the purists serve theirs on spoons made of Mother of Pearl to avoid tainting the natural flavour.

blini caviarBlini

Off to a fancy party? While you’re sipping on your prosecco and hobnobbing with a Russian oligarch, you might well be offered some caviar on a blini. This is just a fancy word for a Russian wheat pancake.

 

 

Rassolnik

Got a relative or friend who has seriously out-stayed their welcome? Tell them you’re getting into the World Cup spirit by serving them a bowl of traditional Russian Rassolnik. It sounds truly delicious. A soup made from pickled cucumbers, pearl barley and pork or beef kidneys. Guaranteed to make them head for the Urals without looking back.

Borscht

Whilst we’re on the subject of soup, perhaps the most famous Russian soup is Borscht. Its distinctive deep red colour comes from its main ingredient – fermented beetroot. This is combined with meat stock and sautéed vegetables such carrots, cabbage and onions.

Charlotte Russe

This is a yummy cake or trifle. Traditionally a mould was lined with stale bread dipped in butter and the filling made from a fruit puree or custard. Nowadays the mould is more likely to be lines with cake or sponge fingers. Mmmmmmm.

Zefir

This sweet treat is similar in consistency to marshmallows and is made by whipping berry and fruit puree with egg whites and sugar. A gelling agent is then added. In looks it is very like a meringue, but it retains a soft consistency. Because it is so light and airy it is named after Zephyr, the Greek god of the north west wind.

Ryazhenka

Ryazhenka is a fermented milk product. At first sight it sounds like it would appeal to those who actually enjoyed school milk which had been left by the radiator all morning. Having read a little more into it, it seems like it might taste a little more like condensed milk. Apparently, it’s made by pasteurising milk and leaving it simmering for over eight hours. This causes a Maillard reaction to occur, giving it a caramelised flavour (one of the main focuses for our Creating Thermal Process Flavours course, incidentally).

Vodka

vodkaPerhaps the most famous Russian drink of all! It is, of course made by distilling potatoes or wheat and is traditionally drunk neat and freezer chilled. At 40% ABV (alcohol by volume) it is guaranteed to blow your socks off – and probably your football boots as well.

As they say in Russian ???????? ? ??????! (Come on England!)

 

ice cream coneWell, it looks like this current heatwave will continue for a couple of weeks. I, for one, am not complaining. It’s nice to have some heat after months of feeling like you’re living in a fridge. Unsurprisingly sales of beer, cider, sun lotion and insect repellent have increased over the past week. So too have sales of ice cream and barbecue food, such as burgers, sausages and chicken, as well as salad ingredients.

Good weather means the opportunity for alfresco dining. But it also means that we need to be particularly mindful when it comes to food safety. Here are some tips to keep you on track.

Wash your hands

It might seem an obvious one, but always wash your hands before handling food. You also need to be mindful of washing them after you cough or sneeze into them. Or after touching pets or using the toilet.

Don’t overload the fridge

fridgeDon’t overload the fridge. If the air in the fridge isn’t allowed to circulate, it won’t keep the contents as cool as intended. If the salad and meat is fighting for space with a crate of beer, remove the beer. You can always put this in a bucket of ice to stay chilled. Cold beer is a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than something which is safety-critical.

Another point about temperature control in the fridge – if you’re planning on reheating hot food, keep it in the fridge before you do, but allow it to cool down first. Putting hot food straight into the fridge will raise the temperature.

Ensure food is cooked properly

barbecue meatIf you’re having a barbecue, be sure that the food is cooked all the way through. Always check to see if burgers, sausages, chicken etc. is not pink on the inside. Don’t give in to pressure to get food on the plates. If it takes a few minutes more, people will just have to wait – better to be safe than sorry.

 

Keep raw and cooked food separate

You also need to avoid the danger of cross-contamination by keeping raw and cooked food separate. Don’t offer up a cooked burger to somebody on a plate that previously held raw chicken, for example. The same rule goes for vegetables – wash them first and prepare them on a clean chopping board with clean utensils.

Keep it refrigerated until you need it

Additionally, I know it’s tempting to be well prepared, but don’t get things out of the fridge until the very last minute. Cheeses, anything containing cream, and raw meat should not be left out in the sun for longer than is necessary. Once outside, cover it until you need it. Also, check ‘use by’ dates before serving food up to your friends and family.

And finally…

sausages on barbecueDon’t forget to make sure that the barbecue grill is clean before you cook! Nobody wants to eat food cooked on a rusty dirty barbecue coated in last year’s grease. Give it a good scrub with soapy water and rinse and dry the grill well before you begin.

OK food safety lecture over! (But if you do want to know more about the basics of food safety, why not take our online Level 2 Food Safety course? It’s just £15 plus VAT and you’ll get a certificate at the end of it).

Enjoy the sunshine!

dogsDid you know that there are an estimated 51 million pets in the UK? From Great Danes to Goldfish, we Brits truly are a nation of pet lovers. As any pet owner will know, certain animals – especially cats – can be quite fussy eaters. Getting the right texture, flavour, appearance and aroma is therefore as important to pet food manufacturers as it is for those producing food for humans.

Feeding fussy felines

The UK’s most popular pets are cats and dogs. Whilst there are some vegetarian foods available on the market, they are essentially carnivores. In addition, cats apparently aren’t considered to be able to taste sweetness in carbohydrates, so the focus on meat and savoury flavours  in pet foods is important. We’ve all seen cats take one sniff of some food, turn their noses up and walk away. So how can we encourage them to accept and enjoy the food we are offering?

cat eatingUnsurprisingly it’s all about taste. As humans there are certain foods that we consider delicious or ‘moreish’. More often than not it’s foods that are said to have the ‘umami’ taste. Umami is an invented word, created by Dr Kikunae Ikeda of Tokyo Imperial University in 1908. Its meaning, roughly translated from the Japanese, is ‘yummy deliciousness’ or ‘a pleasant savoury taste.’ It’s neither sweet, salt, sour or bitter.

 

Umami taste is pleasant to pets

pet foodFussy felines and other meat-eating pets are  also particularly attracted to the umami taste. It’s present in products like parmesan cheese, but can be created by cooking meat. The aroma of a steak frying or a burger being grilled might even make you salivate. This is because amino acids are released during the cooking process which makes it smell and taste great. It’s known as the Maillard reaction.

Of course, most pets aren’t fed on steak and burgers. Pet food is generally manufactured from surplus products from the human food chain. The bits we don’t fancy eating, such as chicken feet, udders, brains etc. are still very nutritious. However the challenge is to make these pieces of meat palatable. That’s the job of the flavourist.

Flavours course is  ideal for pet food manufacturers

One of the most well-known and respected flavour chemists is Professor David Baines. He has worked to develop flavours with food and ingredients companies all over the world. Together with flavour application specialist Mr Richard Seal, he tutors a specialist flavours course for us here at Verner Wheelock. Entitled Creating Thermal Process Flavours, it is the only course of its kind in the UK to focus mainly on savoury flavours, and this year runs from 29th October to 2nd November in Skipton, North Yorkshire.

The reason I’m mentioning Professor Baines in a blog post about pet food is that he has considerable knowledge in this area. In fact, one of his very first roles was developing savoury flavours in cat and dog foods. As well as attracting flavourists from snack foods, ingredients and convenience food companies, the course has also proved very beneficial to pet food manufacturers.

 

About Creating Thermal Process Flavours

Creating Thermal Process Flavours  gives flavourists a chance to step outside their normal daily activities and really focus on the components and construction of a savoury flavour, and now also covers sweet brown flavours such as caramel and chocolate. It’s lab-based, so delegates undertake experiments with process reaction flavours, enzyme modified flavours and topnotes. These are combined with in-depth lectures and application and evaluation of their creations. Delegates leave with a toolkit to enable them to recreate the flavours in their own working environment.

Food safety and HACCP applies to pet food manufacturers too

trainingPet food not only needs to be tasty, it also needs to be produced safely. You may not be aware of this, but there are more than 50 items of legislation covering pet food manufacture. There are strict rules governing the ingredients that can be used in pet food. For instance, the levels of pesticides in cereals and residue levels of veterinary products in animal products must be monitored. Also, the EU Feed Hygiene Regulations cover food safety and hygiene, HACCP, storage, personnel, facilities and record-keeping.

Since the methods by which pet food is produced are similar to other food manufacture many of the same rules apply. Personnel still require food safety and HACCP training and need to be ready for audits. Please see our latest training calendar for details of these and other courses we are running throughout the year. Alternatively, why not enquire about our in-house training courses?

Special HACCP course for pet food manufacturers

Did you know that there is an RSPH Level 3 HACCP qualification specifically for animal feed manufacture? If this is of interest to you, please get in touch by emailing claire.lennon@vwa.co.uk  

fresh fruit

It’s finally summer time, so it’s out with the stodge and in with the fruit and salad!

When you’re preparing lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, strawberries, raspberries and the like, you might encounter the odd creepy crawly. However, these can be removed easily. it’s the microscopic bacteria you can’t see that can cause serious food poisoning. That’s where having food safety and hygiene knowledge is important.

Contaminated fruit causes death

pomegranate Hepatitis AThere were reports in the news recently that eating contaminated fruit had killed a 64 year-old woman in Australia. She and 24 others had contracted Hepatitis A from consuming frozen pomegranate seeds. The virus takes around 15 to 50 days to develop. Symptoms include nausea, fever, vomiting and yellowing of the skin.

Hepatitis A and other types of illness linked to fruit and vegetables is often caused by traces of faeces. These can be transferred to the food from a number of sources. Generally it is in the water used to wash the produce. It can come from manure which has got into the water stream if fresh water has not been used.  Alternatively it can come from the hands of staff at the processing facility.

Continual re-use of processing water can result in a build-up of microbes (including pathogens) which have been left behind in the water from the previous load. Therefore final rinse water should always be of drinking quality.

The importance of personal hygiene

hand washingGood personal hygiene is vital if you are involved in processing, packing or handling produce – and also if preparing it at home. You should wash hands thoroughly including under your fingernails and between your fingers. Cough or sneeze away from food and always cover your mouth. Then wash your hands immediately.

If you have cuts, sores, or lesions on your hands, make sure that they are effectively covered and wear clean gloves. Finally, if you are suffering from a virus or diarrhoea, don’t handle food – it’s just not worth the risk.

Cantaloupe melonMelons and Listeria poisoning

One fruit which seems particularly prone to harbouring food poisoning bacteria is cantaloupe melon. It has been responsible for numerous cases of Listeria food poisoning, especially in the USA. Reasons why include the number of times they are turned during maturation. Another is the potential for human pathogens reaching the flesh via the stem scars.

If you’re preparing a melon you should clean the skin using fresh water and a clean scrubbing brush. This is to prevent bacteria from the outside from reaching the flesh when you cut into it. In fact you should wash all fruit, even if you plan to peel it.

raspberriesIf you can’t scrub the skin of a fruit, for example berries, the best thing to do is rinse then in fast-running water. This is better than soaking them since the friction helps to remove bacteria more efficiently.

It goes without saying that you also need to follow the usual food safety rules.  Wash your hands. Prepare it with clean utensils on a clean surface which has not been in contact with raw meat to avoid any danger of cross-contamination and potential illness.

For more information about food safety and hygiene, please click here.