Food Safety in the Spotlight

The spread of COVID-19 has affected supply chains and international trade across the world. During this time, concerns among food safety stakeholders and consumers regarding hygiene and safe production protocols have skyrocketed.

However, there is no study to date that conclusively reports COVID-19 spreads via food products. Still, foodservice operators were among the first workers in frontline employment sectors to experience the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the relentless need to make as much product as possible in 2020 to feed the growing retail demand for baked goods, extending production runs while maintaining hygienic conditions in bakeries has been a challenge for the industry. Now, more than ever, using the latest sanitation tools and automation, and adopting industry best practices for sanitation has become increasingly important to ensure hygienic conditions and product quality as well as food safety.

Establishing New Standards

Peg Ray, technical services manager, AIB International spoke to European Baker & Biscuit about their recently introduced Pandemic Prepared Certification, an initiative meant to reassure customers of the high sanitation standard compliance of the bakery that earns it.

“We developed the Pandemic Prepared Certification because the food and beverage supply chain were ill-prepared for a global pandemic and the associated disruption it created in nearly every aspect of business operations world-wide. As an initial response, we interviewed companies that had working plans and discovered that none had incorporated the necessary information and guidance regarding pandemic into their plans. While most companies had a crisis management plan, very few had considered including a pandemic scenario,” Ray said. The specialist explained how businesses were forced to grab bits of information as it became available and attempt to incorporate it into their operations. With the avalanche of information being transmitted from numerous regulatory sources, AIB decided to research, collate and consolidate this information, while then supplementing it with their own industry expertise in managing food safety systems to create this standard. “This led us to develop and launch the Pandemic Prepared Certification, which is a prescriptive standard that marries workforce protection measures with the established food safety protocols with which the food and beverage supply chain were already familiar.”

Critical Control Points

AIB says the standard is very robust with critical components that must be met to successfully achieve certification. A pre-assessment audit is recommended prior to seeking the actual certification audit to help the site ensure that they are prepared to meet all the prescriptive requirements. As part of the standard, there may be an additional investment for the required personal protective equipment worn by the workforce to stop transmission of the virus. Additionally, some engineering modifications may be needed for pre-entry health check areas and for workstations if partitions are needed between workers in close proximity. The most challenging component of the standard, according to the specialists, is ensuring that the crisis management team has developed the required protocols needed to support both workforce safety and food safety during a pandemic. “The pandemic has created supply chain issues that directly affect food safety.  Examples include how alternate suppliers of ingredients and packaging are evaluated for approval when primary suppliers couldn’t deliver. Food fraud became an increased threat, so how a facility is prepared to identify and prevent resulting potential food safety issues is evaluated. Planning for outside laboratory capacity to allow for continuation of critical food safety and environmental testing is also included,” Ray explains.

You can read the rest of this article in the November – December Issue of European Baker & Biscuit magazine, which you can access by clicking here.

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