It is critical that employers take all due precautions to eliminate the spread of illness or contamination through unsafe handling of foodstuffs. SHEQ MANAGEMENT reports.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States cite five highly infective pathogens, which can easily be transmitted by food workers and cause severe illness. These five food-borne pathogens, also known as the “big five”, include Norovirus, the Hepatitis A virus, Salmonella Typhi, Shigella spp. and Escherichia coli (E.coli) O157:H7 or other entero-hemorrhagic or Shiga toxin-producing E.coli.
Other less-infectious pathogens, which can also be transmitted by food employees to consumers through contaminated food, include Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella spp., and Streptococcus pyogenes.
Thorough hand washing is necessary, but alone it might not always successfully remove pathogens from heavily contaminated hands, and infected employees may not always be identified and removed from food preparation activities. The responsibility for providing appropriate protective equipment therefore rests with the employer.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) in the food and beverage environment includes rubber aprons, rubber (or other protective) gloves, rubber boots, body covering, head covering, and face covering; such as masks or visors. Clothing specifically manufactured for use in freezer rooms is also available and provides protection from frost burn.
One of the focuses of OSH Expo Africa 2015, to be held between May 12 and 14, will be on safe food handling. It will highlight protective and other equipment used in the food and beverage industry to enhance health and safety of both workers and consumers.
Among the products on show will be three types of gloves from Honeywell Safety Products, namely; Dexpure gloves, Tuffshield Deep Blue gloves and Chainex gloves. Dexpure gloves are ideal for use in the agri-food industry for the final phase of the processing of fish, meat and poultry, dairy products, cheese and biscuits. Tuffshield Deep Blue gloves provide protection against extreme cut risks, encountered in slaughtering, food preparation and the fish preparation industry. Chainex gloves are used when working with knives or cutting and/or punching tools.
Dromex will also be exhibiting its gloves for cold room use. DuPont will be exhibiting its garments made of Tyvek and Tychem, which are designed to help prevent contamination from dust particles, bacteria, spores and parasites carried on regular clothing, or the human body, during the processing of food.
Employees working in the food and beverage industry are notoriously prone to slip-hazards on wet or contaminated floor surfaces. Coba Plastics will be showcasing a wide range of safety matting solutions developed for the food and beverage sector.
There are also companies, such as Aspirata, that have experts in the field who can help their clients to adhere to industry-specific legal obligations to ensure safe, quality food and immaculate hygiene. With a network of offices throughout South Africa, Aspirata’s team of hygiene, food-safety and quality specialists and practitioners can assist the industry in complying with its legal obligations.
Aspirata offers the following services:
• Food hygiene, food safety and quality systems audits;
• Legal compliance audits;
• Hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) prerequisite programmes: auditing;
• Abattoir and dairy audits;
• Client-specific second- and third-party audits;
• Hazard and risk assessment;
• Food, water and swab sampling;
• Food poisoning: epidemiological investigations;
• Food adulteration and sabotage investigations;
• Due diligence evaluations/investigations;
• Food safety and quality: forensic investigations;
• Customer/consumer complaint investigations; and
• Broiler chickens: humane rearing practices and food safety audits.
Furthermore, Aspirata provides industry-specific training and development programmes.
South Africa is a major exporter of food-related products, which account for about eight percent of all exports, highlighting the need for increased food safety awareness and certification among local suppliers and producers. If our country is to continue its successful food exports to markets in the United States and the United Kingdom, which are considered to be the leaders in food safety standards, it is imperative that the industry adopts high levels of food safety standards.