The Food Processing Industry has emerged as one of the important segment in terms of its contribution to Indian economy, as it contributes about 9 % and 11% of the GDP of India in the Manufacturing and Agricultural sector respectively. The number of registered food processing units has increased from 37,450 in 2013-14 to 38,608 in 2014-15.
With the increase in the number of units as well as the varieties of processed foods, what stands out is the ‘Quality’ of the product and owing to the huge competition as well as consumer awareness and regulations, most of the companies are working to maintain the quality & safety that is expected to be maintained by them in manufacturing various categories of food. But it also becomes equally important for them to maintain the food quality, even during the time of distribution and storage, till the product reaches the final consumer, so that the consumer can enjoy the signature taste and quality which had been maintained during the manufacturing process. It’s all about caring for the stock at the time of distribution and during the time of storage of your stock in the warehouse as well as at the distributor’s place.
Recent studies have shown that a great amount of raw materials and finished products are subject to deterioration, due to the usage of poor transportation & storage facilities. FSSAI (Food Standard Authority of India) has developed detailed and specific requirements to be followed by all FBOs (Food and Beverage Operators) and this is applicable for the bakery industry as well. In the case of storage and distribution, FSSAI has categorized the requirements that are necessary to be followed into 5 sets, which include Design & Facilities, Control of Operation, Maintenance & Sanitation, Personal Hygiene and Training & Complaint Handling.
In this issue, we will understand about these five requirements in detail.
Design of the Vehicle: It’s important to ensure the stock is transported in a controlled way and this includes the vehicle to be compulsorily covered properly, so that the stock is free from contaminants such as dust, dirt, infestation and other foreign materials, apart from being prevented from bad weather. The design & construction of transport vehicle must permit adequate maintenance, cleaning, storage of food and do not provide entry or harbourage to pests. Transport vehicle should be equipped to achieve & maintain the required temperature, wherever required and designed in a way that allows monitoring the temperature from outside. To avoid exposure to external weather conditions and pilferage, the vehicle must have proper locking / sealing facility.
Operational Control: The transporter must have the FSSAI License for the purpose of transporting processed foods. Before loading the stock, the vehicle must be inspected for debris, dust, previous loads, pest activity & other non-food or hazardous items (record of this inspection must be maintained, since the food safety officer may check the same at the time of visit). Hazardous material such as chemicals, fuels, flammable materials must not be transported with food material, as this may lead to chemical hazards to the product and in the case of mixed food, load materials must be compartmentalized to prevent cross contamination. For smaller companies, it will not be possible to have a dedicated vehicle for the aforesaid purpose. Hence, it is possible that random vehicles may be used for transportation. However, in the case of a change made in the vehicles from transporting non-food products to transporting food products, proper and effective cleaning must be carried out in order to avoid contamination of food. Moreover, a proper record of this activity must be maintained. For transport of chilled products, they are stored at a temperature of 5 Degree Celsius or below, while frozen products are stored at a temperature of -18 Degree Celsius or below. Bulk foodstuffs in liquid, granulate or powder form must be transported in containers/tankers reserved for the transport of foodstuffs and they should be marked “For Foodstuffs Only.”
Maintenance and Sanitation: The interior of vehicle should be kept clean and there must not be any seepage, cobwebs, dirt, dust, etc. that can compromise on the safety of food. Pest control program for vehicle should also be kept available & pest control activities must be carried out by trained and experienced personnel (records should be maintained). The foods which become unfit during transportation, either due to temperature abuse or otherwise are to be identified and disposed off in a manner that precludes the food from being used for human consumption.
Personal Hygiene and Training: Food handlers must maintain personal behaviour and cleanliness. In the case of handling naked products, the food handler must not be suffering from any disease or illness or with open wounds or burns, as it may lead to contamination. Additionally, food handlers must be equipped with suitable aprons, gloves, headgear, shoe cover, etc. In the case of sealed pack, using gloves and apron is not compulsory, but desirable.
Design & Facilities: Warehouse must have FSSAI License for storing bakery items and the license must be displayed at a prominent location. The design and layout of warehouse must permit adequate maintenance and cleaning and must not provide harbourage to pests.
The warehouse must have facility to provide potable and non-potable water with adequate arrangements for drainage & waste disposal. The premises must have sufficient lighting (illuminance of more than 500 Lux) and lighting fixtures must be covered to protect the food from contamination (especially where unpacked food is stored). An adequate and separate storage facility should be in place for food products, chemicals & other hazardous substances, personal items, etc. The Facility must have the capability of achieving the required temperature and humidity. Personal hygiene facilities must be made available. (Adequate number of hand washing facilities, toilets, change rooms, rest & refreshment rooms, etc.). The facility must possess the capability to achieve and maintain the temperature that is required of it, which includes the requirement for freezer, chillers etc. for the purpose of storing products that are required to be maintained under proper and sufficient temperature control.
Control on Operations: Stock must be kept on pallets (preferably plastic pallets) and must be kept away from the wall (minimum 18 inches gap is desirable), so that contamination can be avoided. Products must be handled with care at the places of receiving, picking and dispatch – materials must not be lying on the floor or in an unorganized manner or allowed to accumulate. The Facility must be maintained neat and clean, so that it is free from mould growth and any unwanted materials, as this could increase the chances of contamination to take place in the products. Since processed food have very little shelf life, one of the critical requirement for storing processed food is in maintaining FEFO ( First Expired First Out). Hence, receiving the stock as well as delivery can be done in FEFO manner. Frozen products must be stored in frozen rooms maintained at a temperature of -18 Degrees Celsius or below. Chilled products must be stored and maintained in cold rooms at a temperature of 5 Degree Celsius or below. Records of temperature monitoring must also be maintained.
Maintenance and Sanitation: The premises must be kept clean and there must not be any seepage, cobwebs, dirt, dust, etc. that can compromise food safety (record of cleaning should be maintained). Cleaning of storage equipment (pallets etc.), food premises must be done as per defined cleaning schedule and program. Cleaning program must be defined in such a manner, that it can help avoid any kind of dust/dirt accumulation and pest related issues. Food premises and equipment such as E-Forklifts, etc. must be maintained in a proper condition by undertaking repair works at specified intervals and records must also be maintained for the same). Pest control program must be in place and only approved pest control chemicals must be put to use for the purpose of treating the pests. It is recommended that certified pest control agencies (such as PCI, PCMW etc.) should be partnered with for pest control, so that chemical contamination can be avoided. Pest control record and observation must be maintained. For rodent control, sufficient number of traps must be put in place. Traps must be of Glue pads type inside the facility and for outer premises, chemical traps can be placed. Facility must be free from any kind of pest activity such as larva, droppings, etc. Food waste and other refuse must be removed periodically from food storage areas to avoid accumulation.
Personal Hygiene and Training: Food handlers have the necessary knowledge and skills & are trained to handle food safely (Record of training must be maintained). In case of handling naked product, food handlers must undergo annual medical examination, apart from ensuring that they get inoculated against any enteric group of diseases based upon the recommendations from regulatory authorities. (Medical records must be maintained for each food handler). Food handler must not be suffering from any disease or illness or must not have any open wounds or burns, as it may lead to contamination. Additionally, food handlers must be equipped with suitable aprons, gloves, headgear, shoe cover, etc. In case of a sealed pack, using gloves and apron is not a must (but desirable). To ensure proper execution of the system, an internal audit program must be in place and Food Safety officer may check the record of internal audit. Industry must have a robust process for handling customer complaints.
Above requirements cover all the mandatory practices that need to be followed as per FSSAI. Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has developed inspection checklist for facilitating Food Safety Officers to efficiently inspect the Food Business Operators (FBOs). The inspection checklists are used to identify the level of compliance, with each and every requirement being set out in the regulations. These inspection checklists are based on the revized Schedule 4 of Food Safety & Standards Regulations and are available on FSSAI portal.
The Food Safety Officer will inspect the facility of the FBO according to the requirements as laid down in the inspection checklist and accordingly will mark his findings as either compliance (C), non-compliance (NC), partial compliance (PC) or Not applicable/Not observed (NA) as the case may be. Sub-sequentially awarding the marks as per the findings against the requirements, total marks are calculated & based on the final marks, grading of the FBOs is done. The grading has been divided into 4 levels, which are mentioned below:-
a. Compliance with A+ Grade ( Exemplary ) – 90% & Above Score
b. Compliance With A Grade ( Satisfactory) – 80 to 89%
c. Need Improvement with B Grade – 50 to 79%
d. Non Compliance and No Grade – Less than 50%
Following the above requirements, we can kill the profit eaters and achieve the regulatory compliance that is required to be performed at the time of during distribution and storage.
An Article By:
Anurag Mishra is a Food Safety Professional and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.