In addition to our well known capability in HR / Employment Law and Occupational Health & Safety, Sentient are now able to provide advice and information relating to food safety. AND it is high time that we provided comments in this area within our Information Update programme. So here goes -
A reminder of why this is important
Professor Pennington blamed failures of food hygiene systems for the E-coli outbreak in South Wales in 2005 which resulted in the death of a five-year old boy and made at least 150 people ill. This outbreak, like that in South Lanarkshire in 1996, was traced back to poor practices within a butcher’s shop. In the recent case this was exacerbated by poor practices within the associated abattoir.
The 2006 Food Hygiene Regulations incorporated the requirements for food businesses to develop food safety management systems based on the requirements of HACCP. Larger businesses are required to have fully developed HACCP systems whilst smaller businesses may have less formal systems.
EHO's are looking closely at how food safety systems are working in a business as they do their inspections - and would you want the consequences of a food poisoning incident focussed on your business?
What does this mean for food businesses?
Any organisation involved in the manufacturing, preparation, selling or serving of food must make sure robust food safety systems are in place. It is also vital that you check they are working. Key questions to regularly address are:-
Are you confident that your food safety management system appropriately covers the hazards within your business?
Are your controls effectively dealing with the hazards you have identified?
Does everyone know what to do if something goes wrong?
Are you maintaining the appropriate records?
A number of the recommendations from Professor Pennington’s recent report concerned food hygiene inspections. He emphasised more attention be given to the auditing of the food safety systems and that all EHO visits should be unannounced. Additionally the inspecting officers should include discussions with employees not just with managers. Although the report was prepared for the Welsh Assembly the recommendations made are likely to be taken up by all food authorities.
If you think an independent audit of your systems would be useful - before the EHO calls, or would like to discuss any other food safety issue give us a call or e-mail our food safety specialist firstname.lastname@example.org. We also now run food hygiene training courses so get in touch to see how we can help.
Fat Duck restaurant – are there lessons to learn?
You may recall another high profile case at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant earlier this year. Whilst the illnesses reported to be associated with the restaurant appear to be viral and not a result of food poisoning the investigation carried out by the local authority revealed deficiencies in how illness amongst employees was managed within the business.
Do you have a ‘Fitness to work’ procedure in place which details when your employees must not work and when they can return to work after being ill? Are you confident that your staff will tell you when they are ill?
These are just some of the important considerations employers within the food catering, manufacturing and retailing sectors need to consider.
If you do not have full systems in place you need to take action now. If you have them, make sure that you audit them to make sure they are working correctly.
Please get in touch if you would like any assistance or further information or advice.