No business in the food sector can afford an outbreak of food-borne diseases. As well as the obvious health and safety implications, an outbreak can cost money and lead to serious legal issues and brand damage. Ensuring food safety and excellent hygiene at all times is the most effective way to minimise risks.
Understanding food-borne diseases
People can contract a food-borne diseases after consuming contaminated food. The food might be contaminated by pests, might not be stored correctly or may not have been properly cooked. The resulting disease is variously referred to as food poisoning, food-borne disease or food-borne infection.
Food poisoning is unfortunately very common. Indeed, many of us have encountered some form of it. All you have to do is eat contaminated food! In Ireland, The Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Advice Line received 3,202 complaints by consumers relating to food, food premises and food labelling in 2016. The poisoning can be caused by viruses, chemicals, parasites or bacteria.
Most people know all too well the symptoms of food poisoning. Diarrhoea and abdominal cramps are the most common – and unpleasant – symptoms. People may also suffer from fever, vomiting or a sense of nausea. The intensity of the symptoms depends on the disease.
Types of food-borne diseases
There are many different types of food-borne diseases, with the most serious being caused by salmonella. Salmonella causes salmonellosis, which can last up to a week. Although a very unpleasant disease, most people make a full recovery from it.
Other common types include norovirus, e-coli, and mad cow disease. Norovirus affects the stomach and intestines, leading to gastroenteritis. It makes its presence felt within to days, with most people recovering a few days after symptoms become apparent.
Some e-coli strains can lead to severe food poisoning. In worst-case scenarios, this can develop into Haemolytic Syndrome, which could be life threatening.
Mad cow disease can spread when cattle are fed the remains of other cattle. If people consume the resulting beef, they may develop the CJD, which attacks the brain and spinal cord.
Economic Impact of Food Safety Outbreaks on Food Businesses
An outbreak of food-borne disease has a detrimental impact on any business or company working in the food sector. One incident could result in significant costs and brand damage. Instances of food-borne disease are on the increase because the more globalised nature of the food trade, as well as the more complex production and supply chain processes. Obviously, it costs money to implement a comprehensive food safety strategy. But can you really afford to ignore the risks?
- An effective food safety programme brings the following advantages:
- Reduced financial risks
- Avoidance of legal and other costs associated with a disease outbreak
- Protection of company reputation and brand
- Protection of staff and customers
- Enhanced customer loyalty and resulting increased sales
- Legal compliance
Preventing food-borne diseases
By implementing stringent food quality standards, you can help reduce the risk of your staff or customers being exposed to a food-borne diseases.
Adhere to regulations
As well as implementing best practices when it comes to food hygiene, you need to be aware of the relevant regulations and standards. You must comply with these at all times. Familiarise yourself and your staff with HACCP and the HARPC standards, as well as any national or local regulations. And also research global standards, such as those developed by the World Health Organization.
Proper food-handling procedures
It makes sense that protecting food is key to preventing food-borne diseases. Ensure all staff are trained in proper food-handling procedures, such as separating raw and cooked meats. Otherwise, bacteria and viruses in the raw food could spread to the cooked, consumed food.
Apply strict hygiene standards when handling food. If unsure, consult the relevant regulations. All food preparation and serving areas must be cleaned and disinfected, for example. And be careful when using water to clean surfaces. If the water itself is contaminated, it will enable the spread of disease!
Ensure that all food is stored correctly. Room temperature creates an ideal environment for food-poisoning micro-organisms, so make sure you store food at the correct temperature. And remember that not all food should be stored at the same temperature.
Stringent pest control
In any food business, stringent pest control measures are essential. Pests can increase the risks of food-borne diseases. Some pests, such as flies, rodents and cockroaches, can spread diseases via their droppings. Or they might carry dangerous micro-organisms on their bodies. As the pests travel through your premises, so do the micro-organisms.
Excellent hand hygiene
When handling food, you must ensure that your hands are clean. Excellent hand hygiene is one of your best weapons in the fight against food-borne diseases. If the hands are contaminated, they will spread disease.
All staff must clean and disinfect their hands before and after handling food, especially if they are working with raw food. And remind people to wash their hands after visiting the restroom! Correct use and disposal of gloves will also help prevent the spread of diseases.
If you have any concerns about food-borne diseases in your business, contact Rentokil.
(1) Ribera, L.A.; Palma, M.A.; Paggi, M.; Knutson, R.; Masabni, J.G.; Anciso, J. Economic analysis of food safety compliance costs and foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States. HortTechnology 2012, 22, 150–156