Food and hygiene

BIOLOGICAL HAZARDS IN FOOD

Zarina Mohd, process project manager at Integrated Food Projects, discusses biological hazards in food production and highlights the importance of the processing stage during the manufacturing process.

Biological hazards are organisms, or substances produced by organisms, that are harmful to human health – these can include bacteria, viruses, yeasts and moulds. Our health can be affected by these organisms, with consumption often resulting in infection, intoxication or even death. The most effective way to control biological hazards is by prevention throughout the food production process.

Foodborne Illness

Foodborne illnesses and product recalls due to bacterial pathogenic contamination are still grabbing the headlines in the UK. Food spoilage through the action of microorganisms, if not controlled and prevented, can be devastating to both consumer’s health and as a result, the balance sheet of food producers. It is much safer and cheaper to invest in preventing events of foodborne outbreaks compared to the cost afterwards.

There are many different types of bacteria, including:

  • Campylobacter is the most common cause of food poisoning in the UK.
  • Cases of foodborne illness from Listeria are rare but yet contaminated sandwiches have resulted in the death of five hospital patients in the UK recently this year. Listeria is a bacterium that causes an illness called listeriosis.
  • Food poisoning from inadequate cooking and through cross-contamination also spread by a group of common bacteria known as Salmonella.
  • Most varieties of E. coli bacteria are harmless but a few strains e.g. E. coli O157:H7 can be very harmful.

Food and hygiene

The supply of safe food begins with a good understanding of hygiene requirement during the processing and packaging of food products. The implementation of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) will help prevent biological hazards in food production facilities. Food manufacturers should always adhere to microbiological guidelines on acceptable or expected microbial levels when applying best practices.

The aim of this blog is to bring focus to the processing stage, as a preventive control to combat biological hazards. Biological hazards find their way into food in a number of different ways, such as meat products being infected at source. However, most food poisoning incidents occur as a result of unhygienic behaviour by humans coupled with inappropriate food handling practises – this means they are preventable!

Integrated Food Projects is a member of The European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group (EHEDG), which supports the principal goal of safe food practices by improving hygienic engineering and design in all aspects of food production, including construction and layout of the food manufacturing buildings. We engineer processes that promote hygienic design and take measures on prevention of cross-contamination. Infectious organisms or their toxins can contaminate food at any point of processing, however there are various food processing technologies and innovative techniques on the market, such as thermal and non-thermal processing methods, which can control the biological hazards.

Microbial Control

We need to understand the existence and weaknesses of pathogenic microorganisms in order to defeat them, such as their need for water and nutrients to multiply. The danger zone also needs to be understood; where bacteria double every 20 minutes. In 12 hours one bacteria cell can provide a colony containing 107-10cells.

Processes such as pasteurisation kills the heat susceptible organisms and their spores, and sterilisation refers to the process of eliminating all forms of microbial life. These process controls require a basic understanding of thermobacteriology, which is the relationship between bacteria and heat. Thermal processing is the most common and conventional way for controlling microbial growth. Non-thermal processing of food such as high pressure, radiation, UV light, pulsed electric field, ultrasound and ozone are also widely use for the inactivation of microorganism. Recipe formulation is another method of preventive control, which could include reducing the water activity or pH, or even adding preservatives.

Food Manufacturing Standards

Almost every product on the grocers’ shelves in the UK is supplied by large-scale food manufacturing industries. The making of finished packaged foods can involve various production stages including slicing and cutting, mixing, marinating, grinding, etc. The hygienic design of equipment plays an important role in controlling the microbiological safety i.e. designed to be cleaned effectively without difficulty, simply because microorganisms cannot multiply on clean dry surfaces!

There is so much that can be explored when discussing biological hazards. I just hope this blog provided us all with a fair understanding of the importance and effectiveness preventative actions can have in reducing harmful organisms impacting negatively on the food production process.

For more information on biological hazards in food, contact a member of our team today.

OUR CLIENTS

Integrated Food Projects have partnered with Kettleby Foods on a number of high-profile multi-million pound capital projects since 2003/4, helping the business to develop and grow. Throughout that time they have provided cost-effective and efficient solutions on development projects both at our existing ready meals production facility and also in creating a new satellite facility. The projects at our existing facility were managed without impact on our ability to service our own clients, and all projects have been delivered within budget, in a timely fashion and to the requisite standards of safety and quality. Their team work ethos and professional approach ensure successful projects and I would utilise Integrated Food Projects in the future without hesitation.

- Jarrod Thorndyke, Production Director

I have worked with Integrated Food Projects on many capital expenditure projects since 2004, the latest being the development of the new plot of land adjacent to our main site. They successfully employed a project delivery process to ensure the integration of a leased modular building solution with the development of the site infrastructure to improve logistics and Health and Safety. Their staff are always positive and enthusiastic and have fostered a team-work approach ensuring another successful project delivered. I look forward to working with them again in the near future.

- Engineering Manager, Major UK Ready Meals Manufacturer