All consumers have the right to expect safe, hygienically prepared and good quality food. This is the reason that the handling of food requires care to prevent the hazards. Good Hygiene Practices are the set of requirements to prevent contamination of food in order to provide safe food to the consumers. Food borne illnesses can result from contamination due to improper practices like when there is
- lack of environmental hygiene and poor sanitation
- mixed and inappropriate transportation
- poor storage
- poor personal hygiene,
- unsafe source of food
Contaminants are identified as being
- Biological: bacteria, viruses or parasites that are present in air, food, water, soil, animals or humans
- Physical: Foreign bodies in food are usually due to accidental contamination and / or poor handling practices, these are visible particles like; pebbles, stones, metal, glass, wood, insects, soil, dirt, jewelry, hair, fingernails etc.
- Chemical: chemicals used for cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces, pest control chemicals, paints and water treatment chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides and also a group of some naturally occurring harmful chemicals like Mycotoxins.
Food safety includes food handling, food preparation, food storage & food distribution according to the standardized procedures and guidelines as stated in compliance to Food Safety and Standards Regulations. It shall also be deemed to be the responsibility of the food business operator to ensure adherence to necessary requirements. Besides the steps outlined here, FBO must identify activities and take necessary steps to ensure food safety and also make sure that safety procedures are identified, implemented, maintained and reviewed periodically.
Environment hygiene is of utmost importance as contaminants can enter food at the initial production stage itself if the surroundings and the environment where they are produced are unsafe. All food establishments must be located away from
- areas which are prone to pest infestations
- where wastes, either solid or liquid, cannot be removed effectively
Hygienic production of food sources
- You need to control contamination from air, soil, water, feed-stock, pesticides, veterinary drugs or any other agent used in primary production
- Protect food sources from fecal and other contaminant
Handling storage and transport
- Use appropriate storage materials and equipment. Equipment and containers that come in contact when handling food or used for storage, preparation, processing, packaging and serving shall be made of corrosion free materials which do not impart any toxicity to the food and should be easy to clean and /or disinfect
- Protect food and food ingredients from contamination by pests, chemicals, microbiological or physical or other objectionable substances during handling storage and transportation
Cleaning, maintenance and personal hygiene; these three are most important for preventing cross contamination. There should be adequate facilities for cleaning and disinfecting utensils and equipment. Premises must be maintained and kept thoroughly clean. Personal hygiene must be emphasized at all times and properly supervised.
The following points on Good Hygiene Practices as per Schedule 4 of Food Safety & Standards (Licensing & Registration of Food Businesses) Regulations, 2011 will give you more insight about the requirements:
Establishment Design and Facilities must be such that it minimizes risk to ensure food safety. Nature of operations and associated risks must be identified. Premises and equipment should be so maintained that risk of contamination is eliminated.
- Location can be a potential source of contamination as obnoxious odour, fumes, excessive soot, dust, smoke, chemical or biological emissions and pollutants from surroundings can enter food.
- Internal design, structures and layout of the premises rooms and equipment should be such that they prevent contamination.
- Material of equipment should be durable, movable and capable of being disassembled for cleaning.
- Premises and equipment should be easy to maintain, clean, disinfect and monitor
Facilities that directly or indirectly impact food safety must be strictly adhered to like
- water quality: water should be potable grade for food processing and water must not become the source of contamination during cleaning. Pipes should be clearly marked to indicate potable or non-potable water
- air quality: ventilation systems natural and /or mechanical including air filters, exhaust fans must be designed and constructed so that air does not flow from contaminated areas to clean areas.
- drainage and waste disposal : disposal of sewage and effluents (solid, liquid and gas) must conform to requirements of Factory / Environment Pollution Control Board. drainage, waste disposal system should be constructed in such manner that there is no risk of contamination to food or water
- temperature control: facility for transporting and storing food under temperature control must be provided. Cold storage facility must be available if required
- personal hygiene facilities: all food handlers must have adequate and suitable clean protective clothing, head covering, face mask and gloves. There must be adequate hand wash facility
- lighting: natural or artificial lighting must be adequate to enable the employees/workers to operate in a hygienic manner. Lighting fixtures must wherever appropriate, be protected to ensure that food is not contaminated by breakages of electrical fittings.
- Storage: ensure effective protection from contamination during storage. Segregate storage for raw, processed, rejected, recalled or returned materials or products which will be distinguishably marked and secured. Separate areas for storing raw materials and food printed packaging materials, stationary, hardware and cleaning materials / chemicals.
Especial care must be taken to prevent contamination if the premises are temporary or it is a mobile facility.
Control of operations
Control of food hazards through the use of HACCP (Hazard analysis and critical control points) is a systematic and preventive approach to food safety. It prevents biological, chemical, and physical hazards in production processes that can cause the finished product to be unsafe. It also designs measurements to reduce these risks to a safe level. Through HACCP process, the food business operator must ensure that there is no potential contamination from surroundings, improper time and temperature controls.
- Key aspects of hygiene control systems: FBO must develop a detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the processing of food as well as its packaging, dispatch and storage. This will help to pinpoint problem and control damage faster. Specific process steps must be set up to prevent microbial cross contamination, physical and chemical contamination of any kind.
- Incoming material requirements: specification need to be identified and applied, where possible inspected and sorted before processing of food.
- Packaging: design and packaging materials will be such that it provides protection for all food products to prevent contamination and damage. Labelling will be carried out as per Food Safety & Standards (Packaging & Labelling) Regulations, 2011.
- Water in contact with food and used as an ingredient must be potable. Ice and steam that come in direct contact with foods must be made from potable water and special care must be taken to handle, store and use them so as to prevent contamination.
- Management and supervision: there should be adequate personnel according to the size of the business, the nature of activity and type of food processed. The Food Business shall ensure that technical managers and supervisors have appropriate qualifications, knowledge and skills on food hygiene principles and practices to be able to ensure food safety and quality of its products, judge food hazards, take appropriate preventive and corrective action, and to ensure effective monitoring and supervision.
- Documentation and records: appropriate records of food processing / preparation, production / cooking, storage, distribution, service, food quality, laboratory test results, cleaning and sanitation, pest control and product recall shall be kept and retained for a period of one year or the shelf-life of the product, whichever is more.
- Recall procedures must be in place for complete recall, handling and communication so that there is no damage to consumer.
Maintenance and sanitation
- Cleaning methods and procedures must be appropriate keeping in mind the type of product to be cleaned, like raw food must be cleaned separately. Vegetarian food and non- vegetarian food must be washed and cleaned separately.
- The kind of machine that is being cleaned; a separate method would be adopted for cleaning hidden residual food and pest control chemicals.
- Cleaning programmess must be methodical, their frequency as per FSSAI regulations and cleaning must be monitored so that only suitable and effective methods are used.
- Pest control systems must effectively prevent access, must not harbor pests that cause infestations. Monitoring, detection and eradication methods must be in place.
- Waste management to be carried out systematically, with daily removal of food and other waste. Waste storage must be located away from food processing area and covered. Method, frequency and effectiveness must be defined by FBO according to regulations.
- Monitoring Effectiveness: to ensure that all methods in place are effective there must be a periodic audit of the whole system according to the SOP must be able to fill gaps in the GMP / GHP system. The FBO shall voluntarily carry out microbial testing either in an in-house laboratory or an accredited lab or lab notified by FSSAI.
- Health status of employees must be checked for communicable diseases and surface injuries, especially to hands or other parts of the body that come in direct contact with food items.
- Personal cleanliness: Clothing must be clean, head covered, face mask, gloves and different footwear must be supplied for wearing inside processing area. Nails and hair must be short and clipped regularly.
- Personal behavior: smoking, spitting, chewing, sneezing, coughing, and eating near food preparation areas must be discouraged and never overlooked.
- Visitors: There must be stringent rules and guidelines for entry in food preparation areas and must be allowed entry only with protective clothing with full adherence to personal hygiene
- Design of conveyances and bulk containers must be such that there is proper segregation of products to prevent cross contamination, Transport must have time, temperature and humidity controls available inside the vehicle and monitored
- Appropriate for type of packaging: Food must be transported in packaging that is food grade or appropriate for the food according to regulations
- Use and maintenance of conveyance must be scheduled appropriately. Avoid mixed use of transport and transport must be thoroughly cleaned after prior usage and corrective measures to prevent contamination must in place.
Product information and consumer awareness
- Lot and batch identification on food packaging must be as per Codex standard and FSSA rules
- Product information must bear adequate information to enable the next person in the food chain to handle, display, store prepare and use the product safely and correctly
- Labelling must be as per Food Safety & Standards Regulations, 2011.
- Consumer education: Labelling instructions must be adequate and informative about the nutrition value for consumer to make safe and healthy choices.
- Awareness and responsibility: Training is one of the most important aspects of GHP. Lack of training of employees is the cause of most food safety hazards and incidents. Hence all workers must be aware of the hazards and trained to be responsible
- Training Programs must be scheduled from time to time so that all employees are aware of the
- nature of food and its ability to sustain growth of harmful micro-organisms
- manner in which food is handled/packed correctly
- extent/nature of processing or further preparation before final consumption
- conditions under which the various types of foods will be stored
- expected length of time before consumption
- Instructions and supervisions: Food handlers must be instructed and trained in food hygiene and food safety aspects along with personal hygiene requirements commensurate with their work activities, the nature of food, its handling, processing, preparation, packaging, storage, service and distribution. Routine supervision and checks are needed to ensure that food hygiene and food safety procedures are being carried out effectively.
- Refresher Training programmes must be routinely scheduled and updated so workers are always aware.