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Farm-to-Fork: Ensuring Food Standards

following food codes in food processing

Food is subject to extensive regulation, with specific guidelines for various stages of its production and distribution. In the European Union, for instance, there are stringent standards outlined in Annex I of EU law No. 852/2004, which focuses on the hygiene of food products. This regulation emphasises the importance of maintaining clean conditions for animals prior to slaughter, aiming to prevent the risk of cross-contamination.

When it comes to food preparation, whether at home or in commercial establishments, there are established standards regarding cooking temperatures. For ground meats, it is recommended to cook them to an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F), while ground or whole poultry should be cooked to a minimum temperature of 74°C (165°F). Additionally, there are temperature guidelines for holding meat and poultry to ensure food safety. These products should not be kept at temperatures between 4.4°C and 60°C (40°F – 140°F) for more than two hours before consumption.

These examples represent only a fraction of the regulations and standards in place to safeguard the quality and safety of food.

International Food Standards and Codes

Developing harmonized international food standards

The Codex Alimentarius, also known as the “Food Code,” is an international set of food standards, codes of practice, and guidelines developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Its purpose is to establish regulations for various types of food. Although these standards are not mandatory, they are based on scientific knowledge and can be adopted as national or regional food safety standards.

For instance, when it comes to preserved tomatoes, the codex standard CXS 13-1981 suggests avoiding the use of seasonings with tomato flavouring, as this might adulterate the taste. The standard also specifies that the pH level of preserved tomatoes should not exceed 4.5. If the pH exceeds this limit, it can create conditions favourable for the growth of bacteria and moulds. On the other hand, if the pH falls below a certain threshold (e.g., pH ≤1.0), the preserved tomatoes may become excessively acidic and unsafe for consumption.
To enhance the safety of preserved tomatoes, CXS 13-1981 also establishes a criterion for surface lesions. According to the standard, fruits with surface lesions that exceed an aggregate area of 3.5 cm² per kilogram of tomatoes are considered defective food. This requirement is important for food safety because surface lesions can provide an ideal environment for the proliferation of disease-causing microorganisms.

International Food Standards and Codes

In addition to maintaining strict food standards, similar regulations are implemented for the handling and processing of food in various environments. These regulations, commonly referred to as hygiene standards, encompass several key aspects, including:

  1. Establishment of an approved list of chemical substances permitted for use in food environments. 
  2. Determination of permissible limits for using chemicals on surfaces that come into contact with food, as well as those that do not. 
  3. Specification of acceptable contact durations between antimicrobial agents and surfaces during sanitation or disinfection. 
  4. Requirement of demonstrable antimicrobial efficacy that complies with regulatory standards.

The Environmental Protection Agency

To illustrate this further, let’s consider the United States as an example. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maintains a comprehensive list of active and inert ingredients approved for use on surfaces that come into contact with food. For instance, if chlorine (bleach) is used as an active ingredient in formulating a food contact surface sanitiser that does not require rinsing, the concentration of available chlorine must not exceed 200 parts per million (ppm). Additionally, the contact time for such a sanitiser should not exceed one minute.

By adhering to these guidelines collectively, the aim is to ensure that food contact surface sanitisers effectively and promptly eliminate foodborne pathogens. Furthermore, these chemical hygiene standards provide additional advantages, such as minimising the risks associated with foodborne pathogens and chemical residues, thereby enhancing food safety.

NSF Certification Category Codes

Another relevant example to consider is the NSF Category Codes. The National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) has established a program known as the NCR (Nonfood Compounds Registration) program, aimed at evaluating both proprietary substances and nonfood compounds against stringent standards encompassing product formulation, manufacturing processes, labelling, and packaging. However, it is important to note that these two categories—nonfood compounds and proprietary substances—are subjected to distinct criteria for evaluation and certification by NSF International.
Nonfood compounds refer to chemicals utilised in food processing establishments that are not intended to be in direct contact with food. These compounds typically encompass cleaning agents, sanitisers, lubricants, and pest control substances. On the other hand, proprietary substances encompass chemicals employed in food processing specifically designed to come into direct contact with food. Examples of proprietary substances include food packaging materials, processing aids, and ingredients.
To understand how to take the necessary precautions to ensure food safety for chemical products, understand the NSF codes, and validate NSF certificates, read our in-depth article on “Understanding NSF Certification Category Codes.”

What Is Parts per Million (ppm)?

parts per million ppm meaning
Parts per million (ppm) is a unit of measurement used to express the concentration of one substance within a larger quantity of another substance. It represents the number of parts of a particular substance per one million parts of the mixture or solution.
In practical terms, ppm is often used to describe very small concentrations or trace amounts of substances in various contexts, including chemistry, environmental science, and industry. It indicates the ratio of the amount of a specific substance to the total amount of the mixture, with the value expressed as a fraction of one million.

For example, if a solution contains 10 ppm of a particular chemical, it means that there are 10 parts of that chemical for every one million parts of the solution. This measurement helps quantify the presence or concentration of substances in situations where precise and small-scale measurements are required.

Conclusion: Food Standards

In conclusion, the extensive regulations and standards governing food production, distribution, and handling are vital for ensuring its quality and safety. These regulations include strict hygiene standards, temperature guidelines, and international standards established by organisations like the Codex Alimentarius. Additionally, hygiene standards for food environments and the evaluation and certification of chemical substances by organisations such as the EPA and NSF play a crucial role in maintaining food safety. Understanding concepts like parts per million (ppm) aids in accurately measuring and regulating trace amounts of substances. Overall, these regulations and standards work together to safeguard the quality and safety of our food supply.

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