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Campden BRI warns that confusion over risk assessment threatens food safety

21 June 2011

As the range and prevalence of hazards in the food chain grows and manufacturers increasingly look to global markets to source raw materials, Campden BRI warns confusion over risk assessment procedures could compromise food safety

Sue Emond, food safety specialist at Campden BRI, said: “To date there has been no single point of reference for food manufacturers seeking to accurately assess the risk of using particular raw materials.

“Instead, many manufacturers adopt a more ‘ad hoc’ approach to risk assessment driven by the underlying requirements from third parties such as the British Retail Consortium Global Standard for Food Safety and the International Food Standard (IFS) as well as advice from individual retailers themselves.

“Some of the hazards of concern today were not even recognised as possible causes of food borne illness just 10 years ago, acrylamide, for example, and its association with high carbohydrate foods cooked at high temperatures, has just been added to the European Chemical Agencies list of substances of very high concern.

“Allergens continue to be a subject of growing awareness and increasingly strict control. There is also the continued threat of deliberately added contaminants for financial gain - such as the Sudan dyes scare in 2003 and the melamine in dairy foods incident three years ago. So it is clear that there needs to be a more comprehensive, logical and structured approach to the risk assessment of food ingredients.”

Campden BRI has therefore published new guidance on raw material risk assessment to provide specific advice and procedures to food manufacturers on the application of risk assessment techniques to identify, evaluate and control potential hazards associated with raw materials in a food, drink or feed manufacturing environment.

Risk assessment and management of raw materials (http://bit.ly/campden64) is a comprehensive method of identifying potential issues and hazards in incoming goods and assessing their probable severity and likelihood to determine where to implement safety procedures or introduce critical control points (CCPs) for certain raw materials.

The guidance, which has been designed to be compatible with Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems, will provide manufacturers with the confidence and evidence that they are doing all that is reasonably expected of them to produce safe foods.

Raw material risk assessment can also help manufacturers ensure that the correct hazards are identified together with the methods needed for their control. This provides manufacturers with a much stronger platform on which to build their HACCP system.

The Campden BRI methodology moves away from the traditional Quality Control approach of looking for a needle in a haystack and instead becomes a robust, proactive approach which enables systems to be focused in the most appropriate areas and ensures due diligence is appropriately managed.

In addition to the assessment of current hazards, Campden BRI’s risk assessment guideline includes horizon scanning recommendations to assess future issues, threats and concerns that could potentially impact on food manufacturers.

A key recommendation following the Sudan dye review was the strengthening of the role of horizon scanning to identify potential problems so that appropriate action can be taken before a full food incident occurs.

Sue Emond concludes: “It can be far too easy to over-complicate or over-simplify systems or to have the wrong focus. A step-by-step, standardised risk assessment procedure can help food manufacturers prioritise their risks and demonstrate the amount of control that should be applied to protect against those risks in a sensible and logical manner.

“While this can seem onerous to food manufacturers in the first instance, in the longer term, a template for proper risk assessment will save time and money and the benefits will far outweigh any short term costs.

“We would advise manufacturers to review risk assessments annually and after any changes in supply or processes and to ensure effective horizon scanning is incorporated into the process of the raw material risk assessments.”


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