The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has expanded coverage of a “simpler” food safety management approach to help small retailers and food donations.
The approach uses flow diagrams to summarize the stages of production and tables to take retailers through the food safety management process from hazard identification to control measures, in line with regulations.
Under European hygiene legislation, food businesses develop and implement food safety management systems (FSMS), usually based on prerequisite program (PRP) activities and hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) principles. This can be challenging for small food retail sites, where a lack of expertise and resources may limit development and implementation of an effective FSMS.
In an opinion last year, a simplified approach to food safety management was developed by EFSA for a butcher, grocery, bakery, fish and ice cream shop. The new opinion develops similar FSMSs for small enterprises including retail distribution centers, supermarkets, restaurants (including pubs and other caterers) and food donation operations.
The simplified system means retailers do not need to have detailed knowledge of specific hazards and ranking them was not required. For example, they may know there may be a biological hazard associated with raw meat without identifying it as Salmonella.
Relevant retail personnel only need to know whether or not a biological, chemical or physical hazard or allergen might occur at each stage and that a failure to undertake key control activities, such as correct chilled storage or separation of raw from ready-to-eat (RTE)/cooked products could contribute to increased risk of illness for consumers.
The classical approach involves ranking and prioritizing hazards before decisions on control measures can be taken.
Four new PRPs including “shelf-life control,” “handling returned foods,” “evaluation for food donations and allocation of remaining shelf-life” and “freezing food intended for donation” were developed and the “temperature control” PRP was modified. PRPs were based on those described by the European Commission in 2016.
Food donation presents several challenges because donations may be nearing the end of shelf-life and several parties, some on a voluntary basis, are involved in the chain with limited resources, each reliant on each other to assure food safety.
In 2015, members of the European Federation of Food Banks (FEBA) distributed 532,000 tons of food to 5.7 million people, which represents only a small fraction of the estimated volume of food waste generated annually in the EU (88 million tons).
Member states and stakeholders have identified legal and operational barriers, for donors and recipients, regarding the safe redistribution of food in the EU.
In 2017, the European Commission issued guidance on food donation (Commission notice (2017)/C 361/01) to clarify provisions in EU legislation and help lift barriers to food redistribution within the regulatory framework.
The term “small retail establishment” applies to a restaurant, pub or catering business or supermarket that has less than 50 employees and an annual turnover or balance sheet total of €10 million ($11.4 million) or less and includes “micro businesses” with less than 10 employees with an annual turnover or balance sheet total of €2 million ($2.3 million) or less.
Although hazards encountered in small and larger retail establishments may be similar, fewer people are potentially affected since small businesses supply a limited and often local population.
EFSA added it was important that individual establishments identify the specific stages/activities used in their establishment and tailor the FSMS to control all hazards that may occur at each stage.
It also recommended authorities in each member state monitor implementation of the “simplified” FSMS and give feedback to the European Commission on how the approach may work in practice.
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