The recently introduced Primary Production and Processing (PPP) standards have created a new series of national food safety standards across all food groups, including dairy and meat. These standards are aimed at strengthening food safety and traceability across the whole food supply chain “from paddock to plate”. In response to these new standards we have created some guidelines as a starting point to auditing your current food safety program with a particular focus on the processing of dairy and meat products. Here are five points you should consider.
All your contact details and information on the nature of your business must be given to your local enforcement agency. The only exception is if your details have already been provided under an existing food business registration system. To further this, a dairy processing business must also have a system to identify the immediate supplier of dairy products and ingredients and the immediate recipient of dairy products. This traceability is a measure to help locate any problems in the chain, where they originated, and how they can be fixed. As well as being a mandatory law it is a safeguard for your business against unwarranted accusations of contamination.
Currently, a new proposal (P1014) has been created to bring in, among other things, federal measures of traceability to the meat industry to match those already found in dairy legislation. This will allow regulators to investigate food safety matters throughout the meat supply chain with more transparency and under a seamless unified regulatory body.
Businesses need to limit the amount of time that potentially hazardous food is at temperatures between 5°c and 60°c, as this greatly limits the growth of food poisoning bacteria in food.
If the food has to be cooked or processed to make it safe, then processing plants are expected to conduct this to the highest standard. For example, minced meat and chickens must be cooked right through to kill all food poisoning bacteria.
Milk must be pasteurised by a process that provides a lethal effect on any pathogenic microorganisms. The normal process is heating to 72°c and maintaining that temperature for no less than 15 seconds. Although any equally lethal temperature and time combination is acceptable. Milk that is heated then must be cooled immediately in a manner that prevents or reduces the growth of microbiological hazards.
All dairy products other than cheese have the same guidelines as milk and all allow for an equivalent lethal processing procedure other than temperature control, if that measure has proven effectiveness. Cheese Processing advises either the same measure used for milk or these following three measures:
- By having a temperature of no less than 62°c for no less than 15 seconds. Then storing the cheeses at a temperature warmer than 2°c for 90 days. Or if,
- The curd is heated to a temperature of 48°c or more, it has a moisture content of less than 36% after being stored at no less than 10°c for 6 months or more. This process is common in extra hard grating cheeses such as Parmesan, Romano and Asiago.
- There is also a separate more complicated protocol for Gruyere, Sbrinz, Emmental and Roquefort cheeses that allows them to use raw milk that has not been processed. This is laid out in clause 1 of Standard 4.2.4A.
You should also always check your state or territory laws for any extra provisions in the processing of dairy and meat produce.
One of the key factors in temperature control is having the right insulation grade in your walls and doors to ensure that the environment remains stable at the temperature you desire. In a previous blog we also talked about the efficiency that can be made by running variable frequency drives on your refrigerating units. But of all the threats to a stable temperature an open door provides the biggest one and thus the largest associated cost in trying to keep the temperature down. It is therefore important that when you select your doors you consider operational speeds, and insulation values that will counter most heat intrusion. High-speed Doors and Compact Sectional Doors can provide a good solution to meeting these demands.
3. Health and Hygiene Requirements
Under Australian standards food processing facilities are required to:
- Tell all food handlers about their health and hygiene responsibilities.
- Make sure people who have or are carrying a contagious food transferrable disease do not contaminate the food.
- Ensure that a food handler with infected lesions or discharges from eyes, ears or nose does not contaminate food.
- Provide sufficient hand washing facilities and make sure they have exclusive use for hands, arms and faces.
- Make sure that no person on th premises contaminates the food.
As for cleaning, sanitising and maintenance processing facilities must ensure:
- Food contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitised to keep harmful microbes at a safe level.
- Food premises, fittings and equipment all need to be clean and in condition.
- Premises must be kept free of animals and pests.
All of these measures should be part of your food safety control plan. Implementation of easily available and functional cleaning equipment, clearly defined and signed protocol and well segmented areas are all key to avoiding contamination. Keeping a tight seal on areas is crucial because a single leak can have enormous repercussions. Doors, windows and air vents should be regularly checked and maintained so that all entries and exits are adequately sealing the environment. Consider selecting traffic doors that are manufactured specifically to meet the health and hygiene demands of the Dairy and Meat Processing sectors. Also consider the segmentation of eating areas from hand washing stations and the general warehouse. Double action, self closing Swing doors are often used for these situations because they are easy to operate, quick to close and offer a tight seal. If you are interested in learning more about hygiene protocol, feel free to read our previous blog on the topic.
A hazard in food processing consists of something that has the potential to cause and adverse health effect in humans. Hazards consist of the following three categories:
- Microbiological – Food poisoning bacteria such as salmonella, E coli and listeria monocytogenes; foodborne viruses including hepatitis A and noroviruses; foodborne parasites and toxin producing moulds
- Chemical – Cleaning and sanitising agents, agricultural and veterinary chemicals, contaminants.
- Physical – Foreign matter such as glass, insects, metal, packaging materials, metal and rat droppings.
5. Validation and monitoring of Controls
Each business must take responsibility for their food safety program and their ability to control the hazards listed above. You can check your controls by matching them to state and federal legislation or keeping in line with industry guidelines and standards. Controls that fit under these two criteria do not need to be validated.
If you implement controls not found in Australian standards and guidelines then you will need to get them validated as effective at eliminating or preventing a particular hazard. Should you change any of your controls after validation they will need to be re-validated. The introduction of new equipment is such an instance where re-validation is needed.
On top of validation, your food safety program must involve systematic monitoring of your controls. The aim of this monitoring is to check whether each control is managing its hazard as expected. Your food safety program must indicate how each control will be monitored such as temperature charts, pH or pest inspections. You must also document all these measurements and keep accurate records of all your monitoring measures.
If you found those 5 brief guidlines useful and would like a more in depth guide to contamination policy control please click on the link below to download our free eBook.