What is a food safety programme?

A food safety programme (FSP) is a written system that identifies the hazards to food within a business. It describes the actions that need to be taken by the food business to control and manage these hazards from food receipt and all the processing activities until it is served or delivered.

The primary purpose of a FSP is to safeguard consumer health and to protect your business. Utilising a simple programme is well worth the effort. In most instances, a documented FSP comprises three parts and will likely formalise your proposed good practices.

The first part includes:

  • A description of your business
  • Names of the staff that are responsible for food safety
  • An outline of the foods that you prepare or handle

The second part includes a hazard analysis and control plan which describes:

  • Your food handling activities such as receiving food, storing food, cooking, chilling, packaging, transport and delivery
  • What hazards can occur and cause injury (biological, chemical and foreign object food safety hazards)
  • How you will prevent or manage the hazards
  • What checks and balances you will undertake
  • What corrective actions should be taken when a hazard is detected This allows potential hazards to be corrected early, before someone becomes ill or injured
  • What records you will keep

What are food safety Hazards?

A food safety hazard is a substance or foreign agent that has the potential to cause food to be unsafe, ie. it can cause illness or injury. Hazards can be classified into three main areas listed below

Biological Hazards

Living organisms like bacteria, viruses and parasites. Specific examples of such organisms include:

  • Food poisoning bacteria such as Salmonella spp., Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli, Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens
  • Food-borne viruses such as hepatitis A and noroviruses
  • Food-borne parasites such as Cryptosporidium parvum and Giardia lamblia
  • Moulds such as Aspergillus flavus.

Chemical Hazards

Food can become contaminated with unwanted chemicals such as cleaning agents, pesticides, fungicides, fertilisers and veterinary chemicals. For example, food could become contaminated with cleaning agents if care is not taken to store and use the chemicals correctly. Natural toxins can also be found in some products such as green potatoes, fungi, poisonous fish and shellfish.

Physical Hazards

Food can become contaminated with physical objects such as glass, metal, plastic, insects, adhesive dressings and jewellery. If these things are found in food, they may introduce microbial hazards and may result in physical harm to the consumer, for example, choking, laceration and broken teeth.

The third part describes good hygiene practices such as:

  • Allergen control practices to prevent cross contamination
  • Employee training
  • Personal hygiene practices
  • Cleaning and sanitising
  • Facility and equipment maintenance
  • Thermometer calibration
  • Pest control procedures, etc.

In other words, your food safety programme should document clearly the procedures and practices what you do. In short, to meet minimum requirements a business must have the following programs in place:

  • A food safety plan / hazard analysis
  • Hygiene monitoring
  • Cleaning,
  • Employee training
  • Calibration of thermometers / gauges to ensure their accuracy
  • Product traceability and labelling
  • Verification processes including internal audit and reviewing the FSP to ensure it is adequate and current
  • Record keeping
  • Product labelling, if applicable

Why develop a food safety programme?

A Food Safety Programme is a legal requirement for most food businesses providing food to vulnerable people in Australia, and can protect your business from:

  • Being the cause of a food-borne illness
  • Causing severe allergic reactions from food allergens
  • Losing customers due to a reputation of improperly handling food

Is a food safety programme based on HACCP Principles?

According to  Standard 3.2.1 of the Food Standards Code (‘the Code’), Food Safety Programmes in Australia must be based on HACCP concepts, more commonly known as HACCP principles.

‘HACCP’ stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, and is a system developed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. It is used worldwide as a means of controlling food safety across many types of food businesses.

The seven principles of HACCP are

  1. Conduct a Hazard Analysis
  2. Identify Critical Control Points
  3. Establish Critical Limits
  4. Monitor Critical Control Points
  5. Establish Corrective Actions
  6. Record Keeping
  7. Verification

Where can I get a free food safety programme?

You don’t need to pay for a simple food safety programme. There are many free templates available for you to use. Check out the following link as a start:

http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/_Documents/industry/childrens_services_voluntary_FSP_Template.doc