A Closer Look at Food Safety Standards by Valeria Stephens
Food safety certification standards were discovered over the course of centuries of food research. From modern milk pasteurization, as discovered by a French researcher in 1862, to the sort of rigorous ingredient testing modern foodstuffs are subjected to, the process has been one part clinical research and one part folk wisdom.
Practically speaking, many food workers knew about safety standards through trial and error, but contamination was always a risk. Some of this was simply a by-product of the technology. Proper refrigeration and sterile canning took industrial processes and better power generation before they could become widely accessible. Knowledge of microbial contaminants took refined glass lenses. Today, a microscope is something children can play with, but centuries ago, even a magnifying glass was a valuable, expensive research tool.
These days, food scientists have all sorts of tools at their disposal. For example high performance liquid chromatography allows for measuring for even minute amounts of chemical contaminants, while genetic testing of food reveals when there has been unauthorized substitutions, for example the recent horse meat scandal. One thing that most people don’t know is that food safety certification actually makes allowances for some unintentional substances. For example, a certain amount of insect parts are found in flour, regardless of the rigor that it is treated.
But no modern food manufacturing facility or commercial kitchen can stay in business without food safety certification. Standards include:
– Regulated climate control, from ventilation to functioning refrigeration.
– Strict hygiene including special clothing like hair nets.
– Adequate food storage measures.
– Food disposed of when it spoils
– Staff trained in safety measures, from food handling to first aid
External and external inspectors usually verify that standards are being followed. For example internally, inspectors will regularly randomly sample both raw ingredients and finished products and put them through high performance liquid chromatography. The effort here is both to be sure there’s no variation in batches. This can be both a matter of consumer safety and satisfaction, as well as being sure that there is an appropriate and consistent nutrient level.
A growing part of food regulation is the rise in organic foodstuffs and also in allergy protection. In the former case, this is a desire for food prepared without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. The level of what is tolerated is not controlled by a government body, outside general safety standards, but organic food will often try to get the certification of various accreditation bodies. In the later case, clinical research has shown that even trace amounts of allergy causing substances can be fatal. Thus food labeling will also mention what possible contaminants something might have been exposed to like “Prepared in a facility that uses nuts” or “may contain traces of soy.”
Article Source: A Closer Look at Food Safety Standards