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FOOD SAFETY OF THE SHORT SUPPLY CHAIN - Favv

FOOD SAFETY OF THE SHORT SUPPLY CHAIN - Favv

Salmonella strain in the

Salmonella strain in the cheese. It was found, however, in a drainpipe in a cowshed on the farm. No action was taken as this was considered insufficient evidence. When the outbreak continued, the Netherlands Institute for Health and the Environment using much larger sample sizes found the strain in a so‐called “old” cheese from this farm. An investigation into how the Salmonella strain could have ended up in the cheese, revealed that the farmer did not always change his boots when he walked from the cowshed to the building where the cheese was made. He did not understand the logic of the rule and thought it was unnecessary and bothersome. A farmers wife who has a hobby making milk‐based deserts decides to start selling custard directly to customers at the farm. At first she follows well‐known recipes, but later she starts to experiment and discovers that lowering the final heating step from 90 oC to 80 oC improves the taste of the custard. This causes a string of complaints. People got sick because the lowered heating step doesn’t eliminate Bacillus cereus. The hobby‐cook didn’t realize that the heating step is a safety measure aimed at eliminating spore‐formers like B. cereus. The local butcher looses customers to the nearby supermarket and decides to increase business by selling homemade ready‐to‐eat dishes. Among these are fried‐rice dishes and a pea‐soup that contains meat. The turnover steadily increases and the entrepreneur decides to invest in new equipment. He buys huge 800 liter vessels, but economizes by omitting the optional cooling system. The soups and rice dishes are not cooled fast enough and during the cooling down period Clostridium perfringens outgrowth occurs. The butcher was not aware of this risk. There are several common factors in these and almost all other mishaps in short chain food enterprises. The first one is that sufficient knowledge of food microbiology is not always available within these small companies. This situation is in many ways comparable to home cooking, where lack of knowledge leads to risky situations, that could have easily been prevented at low or no costs, had the cook the correct insight in food microbiology. A contributing factor may be the nature of HACCP plans and hygiene codes. These plans are often so detailed and describe procedures, such as receiving and opening a carton box or measuring the temperature of products in the freezer, in such detail that the target audience stops to take it seriously. The food handlers and preparers cannot distinguish the essential from the irrelevant rules and regulators are not always keen enough on weeding out unnecessary rules. The result is that food producers in the short chain do not realize the risk attached to not exactly following prescribed procedures, as they have no insight in and knowledge of the underlying facts. The NVWA commissioned a research project in 2005 aimed at pinpointing these problems. Partially based on the outcome of this investigation a work plan was designed including some new measures. The first one was, as simple as it sounds, 30

to make a survey to ensure that all short chain food establishments were known and their essential data, such as the nature of the business and the address, included in a database. Next they were categorized according to the risk they posed, according to the kind of product and, when available, their track record. The groups were designated as “green” for low risk, “orange” for moderate and “red” for high risks. The members of the green group are spot‐checked only, orange regularly and most attention is given to the red companies. In the event of frequent violations, establishments are closed. An information leaflet on sales from home was drafted an distributed. Start‐up businesses can ask for compliance assistance. An inspector will visit and make recommendations on how to make sure they act in accordance with all rules, free of charge and without the risk of being fined. In the interest of efficiency, inspectors limit themselves to checking only for observance of rules that affect food safety. Additional training was given to inspectors of short chain establishments, to make sure that they were able to make the correct judgments on the application of the rules and regulations. Finally, the outcome of the inspection efforts are measured by linking the inspection data to disease load and health complaints associated to short chain products. 31

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