FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), introduced in 2011, encourages a proactive approach to improve safety in food manufacturing. For F&B companies, it is extremely important to take this regulation seriously and design health and safety processes accordingly.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 48 million people in the U.S. get sick and 128,000 are hospitalized (every year) because of foodborne diseases. This is a significant public health concern that can be prevented by embracing the right health and safety processes.
Another area of concern is the environmental impact. One report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization pegs global food waste at 1.6 billion tonnes and the resultant carbon footprint at 3.3 billion tonnes!
Additionally, Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations (21CFR117.130) emphasizes the need for health and safety (H&S) leaders to proactively conduct a hazard analysis and take risk-based preventive control measures.
The hazard evaluation process must take into account the effect of the following on the safety of the finished food product:
- The formulation of the food
- The condition, function, and design of the facility and equipment
- Raw materials and other ingredients
- Transportation practices
- Manufacturing/processing procedures
- Packaging activities and labeling activities
- Storage and distribution
- Intended or reasonably foreseeable use
- Sanitation, including employee hygiene; and
- Any other relevant factors, such as the temporal (e.g., weather-related) nature of some hazards (e.g., levels of some natural toxins)
We believe the future of safety management in the F&B industry will be data-driven, with the help of carefully chosen digital transformation tools. If you’re a safety leader in the food manufacturing industry, read this whitepaper to gather insights and ideas on how to make your life a lot easier.
H&S leaders must also pay attention to the following potential issues in the F&B industry:
Contamination: Since food can be contaminated at any time during the production process, companies are expected to document procedures related to any equipment disassembly procedures and the use of chemicals. Employees are also required to use proper protective materials such as gloves, hairnets, and face masks to protect the food from getting infected by bacteria or pathogens.
Machinery Use: Workers must be trained to use the equipment and follow guidelines. They must be aware of where the emergency shut-offs are located and wear personal protective equipment as needed. It is also crucial that equipment operators don’t wear any loose clothing or jewellery, since loose items can end up contaminating the food being processed.
Maintenance: The machines should be kept clean during use and must undergo regular maintenance to protect the manufacturing process as well as the employee. Machines are identified as one of the greatest risk factors in the food processing sector due to broken seals causing harmful oils to be released, affecting the food as well as the employee. Unscheduled downtimes due to faulty equipment can pose a risk to the business as well as cause injury to the employee or contaminate food. Preventive maintenance is crucial to prevent such hazards.
Preventing Sabotage: Since the terrorist attack of 9/11, the FDA has taken cognizance of bioterrorism and the consequent risk to public health security. This requires businesses to put in place enough safety checks and access controls to prevent deliberate contamination of products using chemical, biological or radioactive materials.
Waste Management: Considering the risk of pests in food waste and the consequential environmental and health risks, the food industry must put in place an effective and compliant waste management system.
Labeling: Labeling is a very important part of the food processing industry. Considering the risk allergens can pose, the labels should clearly indicate the ingredients and follow regulatory norms to avoid product recalls.
Implications of Covid-19
In the post-Covid-19 scenario, to address the additional risks posed by coronavirus variants, FDA introduced the Employee Health and Food Safety Checklist for Human and Animal Food Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This covers:
- Maintaining social distancing
- Wearing masks
- Practicing good personal hygiene
- Cleaning and sanitizing surfaces regularly
- Daily checks and interviews with employees
In 2020, the focus of the FDA shifted sharply from food safety to employee safety. On the other hand, the pandemic put further pressure on the food and beverage manufacturers to be more resilient to address supply chain risks, consumer-related challenges, facilitate product tracking, and be prepared for government oversight. Also, with the growth of e-commerce, packaging requirements started changing, which meant the addition of new processes.
There is a need for additional tracking and monitoring of employees as well as sanitization efforts to ensure adherence to the new SOPs. Further, reporting of illnesses became even more critical to prevent any outbreaks. This involved isolating not only the affected employee’s workspace but also tracing other zones the person may have visited and the other employees they may have met. This brought up the need for areas to isolate the patient, dealing with absenteeism till recovery, and resuming work only on complete recovery.
We should also note that the COVID-19 risks are in addition to the common health and safety risks employees face in the food processing industry. Some of these common risks are:
- High Noise Levels: The machines utilized in the food processing industry often operate at high noise levels
- Ergonomic issues The repetitive motion required in some of the tasks can cause musculoskeletal disorders in the employees
- Slips, Trips, and Falls: The negligence in periodical cleaning of different areas for health and hygiene can create slippery surfaces, creating a risk of falling and injury
- Chemical-related challenges: In addition to pest control chemicals, refrigerants pose the risk of ammonia pollution which can be highly poisonous even in small quantities
- Machinery hazards: Food processing equipment can cause injuries that can lead to amputations or even prove fatal
- Biological Hazards: Workers in poultry and hog farms can be susceptible to allergies and even viral infections
ComplianceQuest EHS to improve Food & Workplace Safety in F&B Industry
Safety management has become very complex in the food and beverage industry. Manual or legacy systems are incapable of handling these complexities and need an automated solution that can enable end-to-end safety management. A holistic, enterprise-wide approach can help to successfully mitigate risks and work towards an incident-free food processing business. Such businesses where safety plays an important role and the aim is to reduce incidents to zero should put in processes to:
- Identify risks and prioritize mitigation by risk level
- Assess the effectiveness of existing health and safety practices
- Review and upgrade safety policy documents on an ongoing basis
- Make sure health & safety requirements are communicated to all relevant stakeholders
- Drive Continuous Improvement (CI) of Health & Safety Management with a next-generation EHS solution
The EHS solution from ComplianceQuest is robust, scalable, and built on the cloud-based Salesforce platform. ComplianceQuest EHS seamlessly integrates with your company’s EQMS, CRM, ERP and other business systems. This ensures that the EHS platform serves as the single source of truth for all H&S data and metrics.
Overall, it helps health and safety leaders with the following:
- Health and Safety Incident Management: From intake to resolution, reporting, and continuous improvement, it automates the entire incident management process. Employees can report incidents, near misses, and observations quickly, track the mitigation efforts taken and be assured of the organization’s commitment to their safety and well-being.
- Risk Management: Safety leaders can identify employee, business, and environmental risks, prioritize them based on severity and take further action to mitigate, eliminate or accept.
- Environmental Management: To manage ongoing environmental events
- Sustainability: Manage the creation, collection, and reporting of Key Performance Indicators
- Supplier Management: To identify and mitigate risks originating from suppliers, train or find alternative suppliers to onboard.
- Training Management: To keep employees abreast of safety needs and empower them to report
If you wish to have a holistic approach to health and safety management in your organization, contact us now: https://www.compliancequest.com/contact-us/
Or, ask for a demo: https://www.compliancequest.com/online-demo/