HACCP Pt. 6: Some Other Common Hazards
The hazard analysis process lets you identify significant hazard risks and preventative measures to reduce them.
Last month, we began to look at the process of hazard analysis by reviewing some of the more common types of biological and "ingredient" chemical contamination hazards that occur in the foodservice environment. This month we’ll look at some common non-ingredient chemical contamination hazards as well as typical physical contamination risks that should be evaluated.
Non-ingredient chemical hazards. Agricultural chemicals include pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, antibiotics, insecticides and herbicides. Most of these are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which defines how the chemicals can be used and the maximum allowable residues from them that may remain on food product.
Pesticides are also commonly used to prevent infestation of institutional storage and receiving areas. Your hazard analysis should include both an evaluation of your suppliers and their quality assurance monitoring of food sources, and the use of pesticides and chemicals in your own facilities.
Toxic metals are another contaminant. The most common contaminants include copper, lead, zinc, cadmium, tin, arsenic and mercury.
Toxic metal contamination can occur in many ways. For example, lead contamination of drinking water from old piping is very high in some areas. Soil may contain a high level of mercury, which can be absorbed by plants. Metals present in certain ceramic glazes can become an issue if the glaze on containers used for food storage becomes chipped or deteriorates. Zinc used in galvanized food containers can make acidic foods such as fruit juice and pickles poisonous. Cadmium may be present in some kinds of refrigerator shelving. Fish from some areas can contain high levels of mercury.
An appropriate HACCP hazard analysis includes a review of all procedures for the storage and use of all dishwashing, sanitizing, cleaning chemicals, pesticides and other chemical compounds.
Physical Contamination occurs when objects such as hair, dirt, glass and metal fragments find their way into food, where they may cause a psychological trauma or a physical illness/injury.
Poor ventilation, poorly maintained facilities and the use of broken or worn out utensils and equipment are typical causes of physical contamination.
Here are examples of some of the most common hazards that can be identified and eliminated:
• the use of ventilation fans to bring unfiltered outdoor air into food prep and production areas;
• improperly cleaned vents that allow debris to be blown onto food;
• leaking overhead pipes (or uninsulated cold water pipes that condense moisture from the air) can drop water, metal, paint or dirt into food;
• unguarded light fixtures, from which glass might drop if lamps break;
• particles that break off from damaged dishware, machinery, packaging, unapproved can-openers, etc;
• physical contaminants that come from careless employees, e.g. artificial nails and nail polish, gems from bracelets, earrings and rings, etc..
According to FDA, 14 percent of the thousands of foreign object complaints it receives annually resulted in illness or injury. Glass is cited as the most common type of foreign object found in food.
Hazard prevention and mitigation will involve the correct implementation of training policies and oversight of food handlers at all steps of the food handling process. Ensure that the equipment and environment is always clean. Review the policies and procedures concerning the use of hair restraints, wearing of jewelry, artificial nails and nail polish. Ensure that ongoing monitoring occurs and that, in the case of violations, immediate corrective action is taken and documented.
As part of a Hazard Analysis, the foodservice operator should conduct a workplace prevention inspection of the facilities and equipment to ensure that the facility:
• is "right-sized" for its use
• is process flow-oriented
• has humanized work centers
• has adequate equipment, constructed of appropriate materials
• uses simple fixtures
• has temperature maintenance equipment with the correct measurement ranges.
The menu must also be examined in this step to identify potentially hazardous foods (PHF) that may need additional monitoring. Coupled with the menu review is an examination of all recipes for clarity and completeness; the determination of any limitations that may exist given the equipment and facility; and the ascertaining that a well-trained, adequate staff exists to produce menu items safely.
In assessing the risk of identified hazards, consider the likelihood of the occurrence and the severity of them. (Severity refers to how serious the potential hazard’s consequences could be if it were to actually contaminate the food.) Even among sanitarians and HACCP experts, there is a difference of opinion as to the risk of many hazards.
Finally, refrain from making remedies overly complex. Follow the golden rule: KIS (keep it simple).
Charnette Norton is vice president of #Romano Gatland of Texas, foodservice consultants & planners worldwide, in the regional office located in Missouri City, TX. She and Ruby Puckett coauthored the book "HACCP, The Future Challenge–Practical Application for the Foodservice Administrator."