In the food industry, it is essential to be able to safeguard the food quality at all times. E.g. in the Netherlands article 19 of the General Food Law (ALV) defines the responsibilities of food producers for the marketing of safe food. It defines, among other things, the procedures that must be started in order to withdraw from the market a foodstuff that does not meet the food safety requirements.

Food safety: a matter for the food industry or the regulator?

The company itself is primarily responsible for determining whether a deviation is harmful or unfit for the consumer. The regulator is focused on enforcing compliance.
If you bring a food product to the market that is not safe, you must take measures. This can be a product recall.

Of course, recalls do not always involve companies that deliberately break the law. Often, they are caused by unconscious mistakes, carelessness and/or lack of knowledge. Many companies take too little account of product liability. The result: product liability claims, high costs for recalls and reputational damage. A recall for an average food company or wholesaler starts at around 250,000 euros. Penalty clauses by the food retail sector cause the amounts to rise to amounts in excess of 1 million euros. Recall insurance does not always provide a solution, for example the policy states that a payment will only be made if the recall is imposed by the regulator (in the case of the Netherlands this is NVWA), while the recall is “imposed” by the food retailer. Another point is the reputational damage incurred. The producer then discovers that his policy contains small print, for example, that payments will only be made if the recall has been imposed by the supervisory authority (e.g. in the Netherlands this is NVWA).

What can food producers do?

Crucial points to minimize the chance of a recall are the training, language skills and state of mind of the personnel who are in direct contact with the product. The general state of maintenance of the premises, the inventory and especially the condition of the sanitary areas, are also good indicators. In short, a good hygienic design of everything in the production area, including floors, drains and gutters. Listeria monocytogenes in particular are a danger in drains and gutters (especially if there are cracks).

A large-scale study showed that of the 10,000 samples taken from floors and gutters, Listeria was found in 40% of cases. Sources of (re)contamination include floors that remain damp for long periods. Machine parts that are cleaned precisely on the floor are then a source of recontamination. Residues of contamination left on the floor during cleaning and splashed up again during rinsing can also lead to recontamination. *

Cross-contamination is caused by means of transport (especially wheels of trolleys and stackers) used in different areas within production, or by people entering different production areas.

Hygienic internal transport of waste and by-products in the food industry

There is an alternative to the water chutes used in the food industry. This solution is hygienic and ensures that waste and/or residual flows are transported hygienically from your high care production environment through a closed stainless steel pipe system to a central point elsewhere in the plant. This offers several advantages. Not only in the area of reducing cross-contamination, but also the possibility of better valorizing waste or by-products. Other benefits include reducing manual internal transport, saving space and no longer needing forklifts to pick up waste, resulting in a safer working environment. Several leading players supplying the most demanding food retailers such as McDonalds have already chosen this alternative.

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