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Food Safety Plus proudly attended the 2017 Early Childhood Learning and Development Conference. This Conference was the largest gathering in Western Australia of thought leaders, educators, researchers and other critically important practitioners and contributors in early childhood learning and development.

From newcomers to the field, to experienced professionals, this Conference was great opportunity to help advance our shared work on behalf of children during their most critical period of learning and development. The 2017 Early Childhood Learning and Development Conference is relevant to professionals working in the area of:

• Early Childhood Education and Care

• Early Childhood Development and Wellbeing

• Allied Health including Food Safety

• Policy

• Research

Keynote Speakers and high calibre researchers from around the globe convened together for this 2-day mega event in order to provide early childhood professionals with the tools, resources and support they needed to further develop their expertise and contribution in the lives of children.

9 Miles Agro Farm 

The 9 Miles Agro Farm is a commercially oriented, modern high intensive vegetable farm producing quality products conforming to industry’s best standards through the introduction of advanced state-of- the-art technologies.

Breaking ground in late 2012, the farm was constructed in little over a year and is fully operational- growing quality vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum and lettuce, the 9 Mile Agro Farm has taken a leading role in the PNG quality vegetable market. The farm employs approximately 160 workers and produces currently around 16 Mt of prime vegetables weekly.

Food Safety Plus is proud to assist Innovative Agro Industry develop and implement internationally recognised good agricultural and HACCP practices.

Regis Aged Care engaged Food Safety Plus to undertake food safety audits of its 5 facilities in Western Australia.

Food Safety in Aged Care

The food supply in Australia is among the safest in the world. However, when certain disease causing bacteria or pathogens contaminate food, they can cause foodborne illness, often called "food poisoning." The Commonwealth government estimates that there are about 5.4 million cases of foodborne illness annually — the equivalent of sickening 1 in 5 Australians each year. Although everyone is susceptible, the elderly are at greater risk for developing foodborne illness. Since 1995 there have more than 70 foodborne illness outbreaks in Australian aged-care facilities, childcare centres and hospitals with 800 illnesses and 80 fatalities. In the USA, rates of foodborne illness can be 10 to 100 times greater for elderly people within nursing homes when compared to the general population.

As people age, their immune system becomes sluggish in recognising and ridding the body of harmful bacteria and other pathogens that cause infections, such as foodborne illness. Many older adults have also been diagnosed with one or more chronic conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer, or cardiovascular disease, and are taking at least one medication. The chronic disease process and/or the side effects of some medications may also weaken the immune system.

Food Standard 3.3.1 requires Australian food businesses that prepare food for service to vulnerable people to implement a food safety program. In this example a vulnerable person is defined as a person who receives care from aged care facilities including nursing homes, respite care, same day aged care and low care aged care facilities.

Regis Aged Care - one of the largest providers of aged care services in Australia.

In 2014 Regis Aged Care engaged Food Safety Plus to undertake food safety audits of its 5 facilities in Western Australia and has consistently achieved positive audit outcomes. To facilitate effective food safety practices Regis has developed and implemented a food safety program which systematically identifies food safety hazards including physical, chemical (incl. allergens) and microbial hazards. The food safety plan also details procedures such as pre-requisite programs (health, hygiene, cleaning, pest control etc) and specific controls such as:

• Personal hygiene of food handlers

• Time and temperature control.

• Substitution of high risk foods with lower risk alternatives

• Effective cleaning and sanitation of fruits and vegetables to be consumed raw

• Minimise storage times of foods to be consumed without further heat treatment

• Proper cooking of foods

• Effective cleaning and sanitation of equipment, in particular those used for foods that will not receive a further heat treatment eg purees.

Importantly the food safety program is reviewed annually and its effectiveness measured by regular internal audits.

HACCP is a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards based on seven principles.

Food safety is a serious concern for any food business. In the 1960s, the Pilsbury Corporation and NASA jointly developed a model to assess and manage food safety hazards. This model became known as the “hazard analysis critical control point system” and was first specified in the Basic Texts on Food Hygiene, Third Edition, developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex). Codex was created in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop international food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Program. The Codex Alimentarius, or the food code, has become the global reference on food standards.

HACCP was standardised by the Codex Alimentarius Commission held in Geneva, Switzerland on 7 July 1993, with the adoption of Guidelines for the application of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system (ALINORM 93/13a, Appendix II).

There are seven principles of HACCP that need to be used and implemented in any food related business throughout the world. These principles include the following:

Principle 1 Conduct a Hazard Analysis

This process includes recognising any hazards to food safety in a particular manufacturing program. A plan should be put into place to prevent any danger from those hazards, which could include biological or chemical contamination.

The hazard analysis attempts to identify all potential hazards of a product, their sources and the probability of their occurrence. This is one of the most important steps when developing the program, as hazards not identified and therefore not controlled may lead to an unsafe product.

There are 3 main hazards associated with food that can and do result in injury and harm to human health:

• Physical Hazards (foreign objects)

• Microbiological Hazards (bad or spoilage organisms)

• Chemical Hazards (including allergens)

After listing all the hazards reasonably expected to occur at each food handling step, the HACCP team should assess the significance or risk of potential hazards.

Why do we need to determine significance of hazards? Determination of significance is simply a tool that we can use to rank hazards in so that the most critical hazards can be dealt with preferentially. No organisation has enough resources to be able to deal with every possible hazard, only the significant ones.

Control measures, also known as preventive measures, will depend on the type of hazard and their significance. Every significant hazard must have at least one control measure that eliminates or reduces that hazard down to an acceptable level.

Principle 2 Establish Critical Control Points

Principle 1 identified all significant hazards and how to control them. The determination of critical control points is the 2nd principle of HACCP. The Codex guidelines define a critical control point (CCP) as “a step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level”.

The process step at which the significant hazard is removed or reduced to an acceptable level is called the Critical Control Point (or often just CCP).

Principle 3 Establish Critical Limits

For each CCP and control measure the point at which the product may become unsafe must be determined. This point is known as a critical limit; Any breaks in limits will need to be addressed and handled.

Principle 4 Establish Monitoring Procedures

Procedures for monitoring critical limits are put into place to ensure all critical control points are observed for any changes that could lead to risk.

Principle 5 Develop Corrective Action

HACCP is a preventive system to correct problems before they affect the health of the consumer. Deviations from critical limits will occur; therefore, you need to have a plan to make sure those deviations do not lead to unsafe products. Planned corrective actions are the way to avoid any injury or illness to consumers from the hazard.

Principle 6 Establish verification procedures

Verification is a program separate from monitoring to ensure that the HACCP system is achieving the food safety performance expected. Verification activities are used to demonstrate the HACCP plan is being complied with and is effective. These activities may include:

• Internal audit and external audit

• Microbiological and chemical testing

• Review of records

Principle 7 Establish Records and Documents

Documents and records enable you to demonstrate that the preliminary steps and principles of HACCP have been correctly applied.These documents should include:

• The HACCP Plan, Objectives, Scope, Regulatory & Customer Requirements

• HACCP Development Team Meeting Minutes

• Finished Product Descriptions

• Process Flow Diagrams

• Hazard Analysis

• CCP Determination and Validation

• Critical Limit Determination

• CCP Monitoring Procedures, and

• Corrective Action Procedures

Records enable you to demonstrate that the HACCP Plan has been effectively managed and implemented. These include:

• CCP Monitoring Records

• Corrective Action Records

• HACCP Training records and competency assessments for operators, supervisors and managers

• Verification Records

• Team Meeting Minutes

Getting Started

There are many ways to start your journey to HACCP success. Some you can do yourself and others may require the services of industry professionals. Importantly do not waste your money buying off the shelf templates; they are not worth the paper they are printed on! Templates are not tailored to your business and do not consider specific hazards relevant to your business and industry. It is well worth the relatively small cost of engaging a food safety and HACCP professional.

Planning and conducting an internal audit can be a stressful time for auditors. Many first time auditors wonder:

• Where do I start?

• How much time will I need

• What do I need to audit?

• Who will I interview?

Following a step-by-step process goes a long way to alleviate this stress.

STEP 1 – Type of audit

As an internal auditor you will need to know what type of audit you are going to conduct. For example:

• Audit of organisational processes as part of business improvement

• Audit of compliance to Australian, international standards, legislation such as the Food Act

The amount of time required to plan and prepare will vary considerably depending on the audit type and its requirements.

STEP 2 – Where do I focus my audit?

Most organisations have an ‘audit schedule' that describes when each area or activity within an organisaation is to be audited. An effective auditor will look to become familiar with the procedures and activities in the area to be audited. A review of the flow diagrams, hazard audit tables, site plans, relevant procedures, and previous audit reports will provide information on the nature and scale of activities carried out. This will help an effective auditor target the audit activities, records, equipment and processes.

You may also wish to consider:

• Customer feedback

• Supplier performance

• Re-work and downgrade

• Corrective actions and non-conformances

• Previous audit reports

Finding out where this information is kept and speaking with the staff responsible for a process is a starting point in developing the auditor’s understanding of the ‘big picture’ - that is, how the organisation operates, its risks and controls. This will also assist you in determining your objective for the audit.

STEP 3 – Putting a plan together

As if the above wasn’t enough to think about, you as an auditor now have to consider how you will manage your time during the audit. This is referred to as an audit plan and can be as simple or as complex as you and/or your organisation requires. With this in mind, your plan of activities can be via an electronic appointment, email, formal document attached to an email etc. Some points of information the person being audited will want to know is:

• Date of the audit

• Time of the audit (especially how long)

• What are you auditing them against (organisation procedures, HACCP, Food Standards Code

• The food business processes and locations you will be auditing

• The name of the auditor

• Records, reports etc. you would like them to have available as evidence

STEP 4 – Choosing the day of the audit

When choosing the day and time of the audit, it is a good idea to find out what else is going on in the business. For instance you might need to consider when external audits (certification/accreditation, regulatory, financial) being conducted, peak times/shut downs and end of financial year a good time to audit?

These points need to be considered to ensure that staff are available and attentive so you can get the best out of the audit.

STEP 5 – Conducting the audit

By doing your homework and reading the relevant procedures you will be well prepared for the audit. From this understanding, you will be able to ask questions a way that makes sense to the person being audited.

When ready to begin the audit you will need to hold an 'entry interview' where you explain to the supervisor / manager of the area about the audit process and answer any question they may have.

During the audit it is likely you would review:

• the facilities and equipment where food is handled and processed

• records e.g. food receipt, cleaning, thermometer calibration, pest control, refrigerator temperature checks and training

• that digital thermometers are working and accurate

• that food grade sanitiser is available and is used.

• how allergens are managed

• that food handlers have adequate skills and knowledge in food safety.

Internal auditors are generally free to talk with a good cross-section of staff involved in the process being audited. Speaking solely with management will not give you a good perspective on what is happening.

You will conclude your audit with an exit interview where you provide feedback. Remember your role as the auditor is to collect information and evidence then report it back to the decision makers within your organisation

STEP 6 – Audit Reports

A good report is one that attracts the intended reader’s attention. Most organisations have audit report templates in place with main categories of information required listed. A good report enables a person who was not present during the audit to understand what was audited and where improvements may be required. A tip is to keep it simple and easy to read. In our case we want our reports to be read by top management. It is important that senior management see your reports as a valuable resource.

Food Safety Auditing and Quality Assurance

To be effective, the food industry needs to meet various safety requirements. How you meet these requirements are assessed by auditors who understand regulations and are properly competent in the management systems approach. Our food safety auditor training courses aim to prepare you to how to audit and keep in compliance with the constantly changing legislative and food safety challenges. 

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