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Managing food safety

30 May 2021

In June 2021, the Cold Chain Federation is publishing the first ever complete handbook on managing food safety specifically for temperature-controlled storage and distribution. Tom Southall explains.

By bringing together the latest information on legal requirements, best practice recommendations for managing the key food safety risks in the cold chain and insights into likely future considerations, the guide meets the industry’s need for a holistic, comprehensive and up-to-date cold chain food safety reference guide.

Endorsed by global food safety certification leader BRCGS, Ensuring Food Safety in the Cold Chain will be made available as part of BRCGS’s online library platform, Participate, for sites and certification bodies subscribed to the BRCGS Global Standard for Storage and Distribution, as well as via the Cold Chain Federation website.

Why have the Cold Chain Federation produced this guidance?

We have produced this guide in response to feedback from our members for the requirement for a comprehensive guide on food safety focussing on the specific issues facing by businesses operating in the cold chain.

Other guidance, where it exists, tends to focus on general warehousing, but the requirements for cold chain businesses can be unique and are often overlooked. The guide aims to help businesses drive for the highest standards of food safety in their facilities and to support enforcement agencies to better understand the cold chain.

How can businesses make best use of this guide?

Ensuring Food Safety in the Cold Chain has been written as a complete guide to food safety issues in the cold chain, however each of its 9 chapters can also be used individually as a reference.

This guidance has been written to support chilled and frozen food storage and road freight delivery operations and can also be used to support training and give employees at every level access to further information.

To help in this practical application, the guidance is written to indicate which parts are mandatory, good practice or best practice and can be used by our members to check their processes to ensure they meet the latest legal requirements and also adhere to the updated requirements for the BRCGS Storage and Distribution Global Standard.

How should a food safety and quality management system be applied?

A cold chain business’ food safety and quality management system is its roadmap for the successful delivery of the business’ food safety policy. 

It should cover governance by setting out the collection of rules, standards and activities which maintain and regulate the system. The system should also set out plans for internal audits; ensure that any changes to business practice are assessed for their impact on food safety; and consider the impacts on food safety of potential business continuity issues. 

The system should put in place well-defined monitoring and controls for storage, transport and transfer activities including loading, unloading and product handling. But it should also look further to incorporate management of suppliers and traceability to avoid unexpected disruption, additional costs and risks to safety and security. 

A critical part of any food safety and quality management system is planning for the management of incidents so that situations can be dealt with safely, with the safety and legality of the food protected.

How can a cold chain business manage food safety hazards?

The three main categories for hazards are physical, chemical and biological, any of which represent a potential hazard in the cold chain. Issues on hazard and risk assessment are the third biggest cause of non-conformances raised against BRCGS Storage and Distribution, so it is important for every cold chain business to make sure their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system is robust. 

HACCP, originally developed to ensure that food for astronauts was safe for journeys into space, has evolved into a crucial system which sits at the heart of modern food safety. As well as conducting a hazard analysis and identifying critical control points, the HACCP should establish critical limits for each critical control point and associated monitoring requirements, corrective actions, verification procedures and record-keeping procedures.

Our new cold chain food safety guide sets out a simple, step-by-step guide to the practical application of HACCP in the cold chain.

Tom Southall, policy director, Cold Chain Federation

For more information, visit www.coldchainfederation.org.uk