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Food safety should be a top priority, says testing expert

Ali Aitchison, food safety specialist at Eurofins.

A leading specialist in food safety is urging the service industry to move testing higher up the agenda this year, after a string of reports about potentially life-threatening safety risks to consumers.

Experts at Eurofins Food & Water Testing (UK & Ireland) are encouraging the industry to make the testing regime even more thorough in a bid to improve consumer safety, after it was found that scores of allergen and pathogen-related product recalls were made in the UK last year alone.

“Food safety continues to be one of the biggest priorities for all businesses serving the sector, and for consumers who should be able to wholeheartedly trust in the products they buy,” explained Ali Aitchison, food safety specialist at Eurofins.

“But as we’ve seen throughout the course of 2022, there are still many instances where product recalls have been made due to poor hygiene management, and cross-contamination with pathogens and contaminants, leading to many businesses – even some of the biggest chains – facing costly and potentially hugely damaging investigations.

“What makes it particularly challenging for the sector is that there is not one single piece of legislation stipulating which tests should be carried out. Businesses of course need to have rigorous processes in place to ensure they meet hygiene, food safety, and allergen management standards, but sadly so many still don’t have a proactive risk management approach.

“That means that many are doing what they think is right, but are often missing so many vital tests that could identify where improvements can be made, what the immediate risks are, and what they can do to reduce any such risks.”

According to Ali, some of the tests which are often overlooked include hygiene swabbing of equipment and machinery, microbiology food testing, and tests for establishing the presence of pathogens, allergens, and contaminants – all of which can be carried out as part of an overarching ‘suite’ of testing services.

“Not having thorough processes in place can pose a significant risk to consumers, who may develop severe food poisoning as a result of improper cleaning practices, or be inadvertently exposed to undeclared allergens – something which we know can have devastating consequences. For a business at fault, the impact could range from a small fine to complete closure, and for individuals, fines and even custodial sentences can be handed out.

“Ultimately, the gold standard for mitigating risk and leading the way is having a cohesive food safety management system in place which includes ensuring all vital and proactive tests are carried out on a regular basis – and not simply those that are most widely used across the industry. Being more thorough and leading the way in the suite of testing provided can protect consumers and raise the bar for the wider food service industry.”

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