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During our ‘Food Safety @ the Last Mile: Food Safety and Sanitation Challenges and Solutions for Food Retail’ presentation, three experts discussed the unique food hygiene and sanitation challenges and solutions encountered in the food retail sector.
Amit M. Kheradia and Tara Dryer from Remco, and Alec Kyriakides, an independent food safety consultant (formerly head of technical operations at Sainsbury Supermarket in the UK), were asked so many great questions during the presentation that we were unable to answer them all at the time. Below are six of the questions and answers we thought you might find interesting. Some questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.
One interesting trend is the ability to buy whatever you want, wherever you want, and whenever you want it. It is that ultimate food availability experience, happening mainly online, that now makes it easy to set up and sell a food product directly. For instance, if you put ‘food’ into the search field of Facebook Marketplace, you’ll be amazed at what comes up - anyone can supply you with a food product! This certainly presents fantastic opportunities for food entrepreneurs, and for consumers to get what they want.
But - it’s unknown whether the food safety enforcement community can consistently keep up with policing this emerging field, especially as it already struggles with covering what’s already out there in traditional retail. The enforcement of food safety controls necessary in these new e-commerce delivery frameworks creates challenges and opportunities. We need to consider a new future-proof approach to manage this emerging risk to public health and food safety.
Note from the Author
In the US, under the umbrella of FDA’s New Era of Smarter Food Safety, there is a collaborative initiative to leverage technology and other tools to create a safer and more digital, traceable food safety system to bend the curve of foodborne illness outbreaks. The New Era Blueprint is comprised of Core Element #3 on ‘New Business Models and Retail Modernization’, which should provide more insights on possible solutions for innovative food retail business models. Such a regulations-initiated drive is not currently in place in Europe.
The biggest risk will be with foods that must remain at certain temperatures to inhibit microbial growth, such as hot or chilled ready-to-eat prepared foods and raw meats in grocery deliveries. For foods that require time-temperature controls to limit microbial growth, hot foods must be kept at 63° Celsius or above, and chilled foods must be maintained at 8° Celsius or below. If there are temperature-related danger zone violations, the food product will typically need to be discarded.
There is certainly an increased risk of temperature violation when food is transported, but this has always been a challenge. The key to minimising temperature violation risks is to ensure that the food delivery service:
This plan should include actions in the event of transport delays and vehicle breakdowns. As a retailer, you must also ensure the sanitary condition of vendors’ transport vehicles and containers, and their controls related to prevention of accidental or intentional product adulteration.
The retail deli is certainly a high-risk area, as Listeria and other pathogen cross-contamination incidences are not uncommon. As explained during the webinar, one of the major violations here is the lack of a risk-based cleaning regime for the slicer equipment.
Here are some recommendations on deli equipment selection, cleaning, and maintenance:
Here are some useful links to retail deli guidance for more information:
There is always a need for good quality, durable cleaning tools (along with a tool management program) at every level of the food operation, and even in non-food areas. It is less expensive overall than dealing with the consequences of a hazard or an unsanitary experience in a store.
Of course, there would be nothing wrong with using dry wipes and dusters on shelf racks where prepackaged foods are stored, as long as the wipes and dusters do not themselves become carriers or spreaders of contamination.
There are a few different tool usage observations we have encountered in retail stores:
Having high-quality cleaning and material handling tools pays over time, as more durable and well-made tools last longer and need to be replaced less frequently. Hygienically designed well-made tools can save you money by helping to prevent the spread of contaminants and reduce the chances of an expensive recall.
Colour-coding, when done properly, makes training new employees easier. Here are some of our favourite tips:
In our real-world experience with food retail chains, it is quite easy for team members to learn colour-coding. As an example, if employees understand that red-coloured tools are used in the deli section and are stored on a red wall bracket, and green tools are used in the bakery and are stored on a green wall bracket, there will be less of a chance that the tools will get mixed up, thus avoiding cross-contamination.
Vikan are here to help you with your food retail cleaning options. Please contact Cedric Reynier, Vikan Regional Sales Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mette Rude Bjarnvig, Vikan Regional Sales Director, at email@example.com, with any questions.
A typical supermarket chain may save around £876,000 per year just by implementing a colour-coded tool program with wall brackets stationed at the right place. The calculations are shown here:
The lost time calculations (above) were based on information gathered from a large name supermarket chain with about 250 stores. The process illustrated above can be used to estimate the potential cost savings for your site.
As explained by Tara in our presentation, the time and money saved by having easy-to-find tools are just two of the benefits of using a comprehensive tool management program (with selection, use, and maintenance procedures). The overall cost savings may be much more!
Disclaimer: The responses given to these selected questions are the professional opinions of hygiene experts and are not necessarily endorsements of any of the products and services mentioned. Companies should conduct their own site-specific risk assessments and develop their own hazard controls as part of their food safety plans.
For more information and support, please feel free to contact:
Alec Kyriakides, Independent Food Safety Consultant (United Kingdom), at firstname.lastname@example.org
Cedric Reynier, Vikan Regional Sales Director, at email@example.com
Mette Rude Bjarnvig, Vikan Regional Sales Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Amit M. Kheradia, Education and Technical Support Manager for Remco, at email@example.com
Tara Dryer, National Food Retail Market Specialist for Remco, at firstname.lastname@example.org
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