With food allergies among the most common chronic diseases in Europe, a new report published in the UK highlights how robust ‘near-miss reporting’ throughout the food industry can recognise trends & potentially prevent serious allergic reactions and fatalities. In it’s first food allergy report, Hospitality Allergen Support UK (HASUK) has called for improved knowledge in the hospitality sector on food allergens and the need to include near-miss reporting as a standard within the food safety management system (FSMS) across the hospitality sector.
Today, 44% of British adults suffer from at least one allergy, a staggering figure which prompted HASUK to undertake a report to first understand how the food and hospitality sectors cater to people with allergies. ‘Near miss incidents may occur due to a lack of confidence & knowledge of how to manage allergen free requests’, said Jacqui McPeake (HASUK). She added,’ There is still a lack of understanding about allergens and messages such as ‘ little won’t do any harm’ and not listening to the customer’s requests are at the heart of most issues’.
‘Don’t dismiss a Near Miss’ is the slogan or message HASUK wants to convey to staff. Along with adopting the slogan of recognising, reporting & reviewing near-miss incidents. A culture of confident transparency will enable staff and supervisors to challenge potential risks and identify new controls. Best practices currently revolve around allergen procedures such as allergen spillage procedures, recording near-misses including robust investigation and root cause(s) with appropriate actions and updates for the wider team to implement going forward.
The FSAI have said that employees working in food processing plants should continue to follow ‘the highest hygiene standards’, including the use of some additional personal protective equipment and more frequent hand washing. Concerning social distancing, an expression which is now part of our lexicon, all employers are expected to follow the HSE guidelines ‘as far as is reasonably possible/practical’. But Britain and Ireland’s largest union, Unite, has called for more stringent measures from the two government’s. It believes that the two-metre social distancing guideline for food workers on production lines needs to be made mandatory.
‘The lack of the mandatory imposition of the two- metre rule by the government is a problem currently,’ warned Unite officer for the food industry Bev Clarkson. Clarkson stated that a number of measures to make social distancing practically possible on the production line have been proposed. These include slowing the lines down, rotating personnel and putting up persplex screens. Slowing down production is problematic for food makers who are already struggling to keep pace with a surging demand especially for producers of staple foods, ready meals and non perishable foods.
Factories that are entirely dependent on a human workforce as opposed to automatic processing have the greatest challenges to overcome when it comes to social distancing. That said, one of the most effective and cost-efective actions that can be taken is by educating the workforce and making every individual responsible to personally fight coronavirus through maintained social distancing.
Sam Smith of food safety and equipment specialists Klipspringer has said,’ The nature of how coronavirus spreads with airborne droplets requires going above-and-beyond normal safety and hygiene practices. This includes the introduction of masks and physical segregation barriers between works-items that would not necessarily be expected prior to this crisis’. She added,’ This is also implicated by critical PPE items becoming harder to access, with some companies stating that production will stop and staff will walk off site if PPE is not obtained’.
At present it is hard to know just how far-reaching this situation turns out to be, and the implications it will have on production lines and consequent supply of PPE and raw materials.
Novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) has claimed 425 lives in China to date, prompting concerns that food imported to Europe from the Hubei Province and affected regions could be infected.
On the 31st of December 2019, a new strain of coronavirus was reported in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei Province. Outside of China, there have been 159 confirmed cases across 23 countries in the Western Pacific with one region fatality.
Novel coronavirus, which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared a public emergency, has since spread to Europe.Germany has 12 confirmed cases, France has 6 confirmed cases with Russia and the UK having 2 confirmed cases each.
The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany have looked into transmission of the disease and concluded that there are currently no cases which have shown evidence of humans being infected via consumption of contaminated food products.
Transmission via surfaces which have recently been contaminated with the virus is, however, possible through ‘smear infections’. BMEL stated that, ‘this is only likely to occur during a short period after contamination, due to the relatively low stability of coronaviruses in the environment’.
Due to the relatively low environmental stability of coronaviruses, infection from foods exported from China is therefore, ‘unlikely’. As the viruses are sensitive to heat, the risk of infection can be further reduced by heating foods, the institute further added.
Prompted by consumer concerns, the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessments (BfR) has published information regarding known, and potential, coronavirus transmission routes.
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