10 food safety facts you probably already know

elliott phenium food safety mascot in chef hat with tomato and carrot, pink background

While there may be many aspects of food safety that are clear and seemingly obvious, as good service providers we all have a legal duty to ensure the food we produce, sell or serve is safe. So, check out this run down of food safety facts and relish in the fact you probably already know most of them. Or better still, use it as a test for your kitchen staff! Either way, here’s 10 facts you probably already know about food safety.

1. There are three ways food can become contaminated.

Food contamination can be physical, chemical, or biological. Physical contamination means that food has been handled or prepared incorrectly and therefore bacteria has entered the food. 

Chemical contamination is when harmful pesticides or sprays are used which creates unsafe food. Biological contamination means pests, rodents or microorganisms have infiltrated the food. 

2. 600 million people fall in from foodborne illness each year. 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances can cause more than 200 different diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers. Around the world, an estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people – fall ill after eating contaminated food each year, resulting in 420 000 deaths.

3. A foodborne illness that passes from animals to humans is called zoonotic.

Whilst we don’t know the exact origin of COVID -19, we know it was a disease that started in animals before spreading to humans. These types of diseases are called zoonotic (pronounced zoh-uh-NAH-tik). Cows, bats, and camels are among the animals that have spread diseases to humans in the past. The COVID-19 disease is also zoonotic, with the first cases popping up in December 2019 in Wuhan, China. The affected humans were all connected to a nearby market that sold live animals.

4. There is a surveillance system that reports on a foodborne illness outbreak.

When two or more cases of a similar illness occur it can be known as a foodborne disease outbreak. The Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System is responsible for collecting and reporting data about foodborne disease outbreaks in the United States. This ensures that when large incidents occur (such as the covid 19 outbreak) there’s enough data to understand the impact it could have. 

5. Food safety is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

In the US, The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) governs the overall principles of food safety and produces new legislation and guidance on food safety principles. 

In addition, HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) is the training that helps identify potential food hazards and introduce procedures to prepare and sell food safely. 

It relies on keeping up-to-date records and reviewing your procedures to ensure they reflect how you work, whilst also demonstrating the basic principles of temperature control and other important food safety checks.

6. Certain types of foodborne illnesses are more prevalent than others

Diarrhoeal diseases are the most common illnesses resulting from the consumption of contaminated food, causing 550 million people globally to fall ill and 230,000 deaths every year.

7. Children are more susceptible to foodborne illness.

Whilst we probably already consider children to be more at risk of foodborne illnesses, due to their immature immune systems and developing personal hygiene practices, there is also hard data to back it up. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125,000 deaths every year.

8. We are all responsible for food safety.

By law, food businesses whether suppliers, distributors or restaurants need to ensure they maintain good food hygiene. From regular cleaning checks to food temperature logs, many of these requirements need to be documented and monitored. Whilst a great deal of emphasis is placed on those distributing, preparing and serving food, even outside of the food service industry it is important for consumers to understand food safety. From the way foods are stored at home to the way they are prepared in a domestic kitchen, if you are serving food you should have an understanding of food safety. 

9. There are multiple legislative updates to food safety.

The most recent update to the Food Safety Modernisation Act is the New Era of Food Safety guidance. The document includes four key elements; tech-enabled traceability, smarter tools, new business models and retail modernization and finally, food safety culture. 

Another recent update is Section 204 of the Food Safety Modernisation Act which will establish additional record-keeping requirements for certain foods, including dairy, seafood and ready-to-eat products.  Section 204 will require companies to capture data and store it for two years. 

10. Foodborne illness can take up to 3 weeks to appear.

Most illnesses develop soon after consuming the unsafe food, in some instances it can take up to three weeks to appear.  For mild foodborne illnesses, symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting can last more than three days, but more serious incidents can go on indefinitely and need to be treated in hospital.

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