Information & Support

Managing Food Safety Risks

Handwashing

Washing of hands can minimise the risk of cross-contamination, foodborne illnesses and food poisoning by food handlers.  Hand washing removes germs, dirt and harmful bacteria (i.e. E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and viruses) on the surface of the hand so it cannot be transmitted to the food.

Food handlers must wash their hands:

  • Before commencement or re-commencing of work;
  • Before working with cooked/ready-to-eat products;
  • After handling of raw food;
  • After toilet, cigarette and lunch breaks;
  • After touching face, body and hair; and
  • After sneezing and coughing.

Businesses must provide hand washing facilities that are easily accessible and located in areas where food handlers need to wash their hands, for example, food preparation areas and toilets. The hand wash facility must provide:

  • Warm potable running water;
  • Adequate supply of soap;
  • Paper towels or approved hand dryer; and
  • Container for used towels.

To prevent cross-contamination after washing of hands, the hand washing facilities must be hands-free (sensor, knee or foot operated lever).

Protective Clothing

Protective clothing protects food handlers from injuries and also minimises cross-contamination of food or food contact surfaces. Protective clothing consists of gloves, hairnets, aprons and closed shoes. To minimise the likelihood of cross-contamination:

  • Protective clothing must be changed daily or when it may contaminate the food being handled;
  • Adequate storage room is provided for personal belongings and clothing;
  • Designated work clothing (i.e. aprons) should not be worn in toilets, lunchrooms or outside the production facility; and
  • Gloves must be changed between handling ready-to-eat product and raw products

Cleaning and Sanitising

Cleaning is a process that removes visible contamination such as food waste, dirt, and grease from surfaces using water and detergent. Sanitising is designed to destroy microorganisms and reducing the numbers present on a surface to a safe level.  All surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed before the sanitation step, as sanitisers are not as effective in the presence of food residues and detergent.
The general cleaning process involves the following steps:

  1. Pre-clean – wipe down or remove food scraps;
  2. Wash – using hot water and detergent to remove particles, grease and dirt;
  3. Rinse – removal of the detergent, loosened dirt and grease;
  4. Sanitise – use of a sanitiser to reduce bacteria on the surface;
  5. Final Rinse – rinse off the sanitiser (not applicable for a no-rinse sanitiser); and
  6. Dry – leave the area to air dry

Swabbing

Effectiveness of cleaning and sanitation of food processing areas can be verified by swabbing surfaces after they have been cleaned and dried. Swabs must be held at 4°C during transportation to a NATA Accredited Laboratory for testing.

To swab correctly wipe the swab in a zigzag motion across the surface area. The zigzags should be close together to cover as much of the surface area as possible, as illustrated below. If using a cotton bud for a swab, the bud should be rotated as it is wiped across the area. Once the swab has been drawn over the surface area once, re-swab at a 90°C angle to the original swab and place the cotton bud in the transport vessel.

It is critical to ensure the swabbing pattern technique is done correctly for accurate results.  

Allergens

Food allergy is an important health issue and it is the responsibility of food businesses to minimise the risk of the potential harmful effects of food allergens through an effective allergen management program.

  • Australia has one of the highest allergy prevalence rates in the world.
  • Food allergy now affects 1 in 10 infants, and 2 in 100 adults in Australia.
  • Allergens are food proteins that can cause serious health issues, potentially life threatening for some individuals
  • There are 11 common allergens noted by the Food Standards Code - peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, sesame seeds, fish, shellfish, soy, wheat, sulphite and lupins to be declared on labels.

More information on allergens can be obtained from FSANZ
        
Food intolerance and allergy are two different conditions but can have similar symptoms such as dizziness, swelling of lips and throat, nausea, feeling bloated, itchy skin and eyes, diarrhoea and vomiting.

Food intolerance is a condition in which a person is unable to digest a particular type of food. Intolerance to foods can be unpleasant and complicate dietary habit but it rarely causes death.
Food allergy is a condition in which a person’s immune system reacts to a particular food. This can cause serious complications or, in extreme cases, death.

Control of Allergens

  • Processed and/or packaged products containing allergens or traces of allergens, must meet allergen labelling requirements specified by the Food Standards Code;
  • Businesses that process with ingredients containing allergens, must assess the risks of handling and cross contamination of allergen containing products;
  • The allergen risk assessment can be conducted using validation systems e.g. Vital 2;
  • For fresh, unpackaged products sold at retail premises, retailers must be able to provide allergen information to customers upon request; and
  • Appropriate signage is also recommended.

Other measures when processing with allergens may include:

  • Segregation of allergen containing foods, ingredients and processing aids from allergen-free products;
  • Processing allergen-free products before allergen-containing products;
  • Washing surfaces, equipment and utensils after processing products containing allergens;
  • Swabbing surfaces for testing to ensure that they have been cleaned effectively;  
  • Colour coding equipment and utensils when multiple allergens are present on the premises;
  • Labelling every product that contains allergens according to the requirements of the Food Standards Code; and
  • Review of ingredient supplier specifications to assist in product labelling

Facility Design

A well designed facility will allow sensible and safe traffic flow of people and equipment. The design can also assist in keeping the facility clean and minimising the likelihood of cross-contamination. To prevent cross-contamination, the facility must be designed so that the traffic flow direction is one way starting from the receival of raw materials to the finished end product. The following should be considered when designing a food premises:

  • Physically separating the areas where raw products are handled from ready-to-eat products;
  • Control of positive air flow from finished product (especially RTE products) to raw product handling areas;
  • Control of condensation; and
  • Prevent entry of pests, dust, fumes, smokes and other contaminants.

Controlled Visitor Entry

All businesses should control the entry and exit of visitors to the premises. A visitor induction procedure will ensure that visitors understand the business’s food safety practices so that the safety of the food produced at the time of the visit is not jeopardised.

Visitors should, where appropriate, wear protective clothing and adhere to personal hygiene, good manufacturing practices and other procedures that are essential to maintaining food safety.