Food business operators must consider a risk-based approach to food safety, thereby becoming preventive instead of reactive. Part of this includes knowing the possible hazards, how to prevent and control these hazards, in addition to the requirements of the food industry and key stakeholders. One such requirement is accreditation; that is, accredited testing. World Accreditation Day is celebrated on June 9 annually; this year the theme was “Accreditation: Improving Food Safety”.
Realistically, food safety cannot be assessed when food is being sold; at that point the horse would have already gone through the gate. Consider the cost impact to a food business if this reactive approach was taken: Loss due to wasted raw materials, production time and production cost. Just to be clear, there are benefits to be derived from end product testing, which includes checking if control measures were effective. However, to reduce or prevent loss to a food business, a proactive approach is important.
Increasingly people have been demanding more from the food they consume, including assurance that food is safe and of good quality. Additionally, there has been an increase in the regulatory, statutory and market requirements of the food trade. A main part of governmental responsibility is the protection of its people, under which falls food safety. Some examples of regulatory and statutory requirements are: the Public Health (Food Handling) Regulations, 1998 and the Jamaican Standard Specification for Processed Food (General). Meanwhile, for some of our major international trading partners, there are the Food Safety Modernization Act (USA), Safe Foods for Canadians Act (Canada) and General Food Law Regulation (Europe). What is common among them all is that food safety is the responsibility of the food business operator.
Food safety testing is a part of the preventive approach that is used to meet these increasing demands, so as to give an assurance of food safety. These tests include those for chemical, physical and biological hazards. Food safety testing can provide information about the quality of the food production environment; how effective the hygiene and sanitation programme is, and identify possible hot spots before they cause a problem. When considering food safety testing a food business operator must make an analytical decision as to which laboratory to use. Part of this decision-making includes what is the market requirement; for the most part this will be a test result from an accredited laboratory.
Accreditation is an official recognition when matched against a stated standard; that is, an independent organisation evaluates a laboratory’s processes and competence against a defined standard. If they meet the requirement of the standard then they are approved as accredited. For Jamaica, one such independent organisation is the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC). Why risk your buyer rejecting your test results? It makes sense to use an accredited laboratory.
As the World Accreditation Day joint statement says, “Accreditation has a crystal-clear objective: it aims to assure businesses, end users and regulators that testing laboratory has the required technical competence and operates impartially.” Simply put, accreditation helps food safety.
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