The Chilled Food Association (CFA) guidelines set out health and safety benchmarks for best production practices in the chilled food industry. CFA members are required to follow the guidelines, which are in line with new EU food hygiene legislation as well as international codes of practice, known as the Codex Alimentarius.
The guidelines provide good practice procedures to help manufacturers demonstrate to regulators that hazards have been controlled and document risks have been assessed.
"The CFA guidelines will also prove useful when working with local enforcement authorities to implement legal requirements at the production stage and may assist food business operators in complying with third party technical standards," said Kaarin Goodburn, the CFA's managing director.
They cover a wide range of chilled products of varying shelf lives, manufactured under different hygiene conditions. Chilled foods can include both raw and heat-processed ingredients, which must be microbiologically safe on consumption. Pathogens that could result in illness need to be controlled.
To aid food safety, the guidelines provide decision trees with case study examples to identify the minimum class of hygiene standards required. Areas are also highlighted that are either required by law or are considered by CFA as part of ensuring food safety.
Goodburn told FoodProductionDaily that the guidelines will not mean extra costs for members since they are already applying the requirements.
"The guidelines basically set out how to comply with legislation and assure the production of safe food," Goodburn said.
International food safety standards, known as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), has been a requirement since 1989 for association members. The CFA represents about 90 per cent of the UK industry when measured by volume and value.
The guidelines take an integrated approach based on HACCP providing information on the principles of food safety, pathogen characteristics and hurdles. They also provide specific detail supplementing and responding to the British Retail Consortium's food safety requirements for suppliers.
The retailer's organisation goes a step further than EU requirements by mandating suppliers to implement internal traceability systems, tracking the processing of the foods down to production batches in their plants.
The new guidelines also contain updates on shelf life, the microbiological status of products, a new pre-employment medical screening questionnaire, a return to work questionnaire, pre-employment training, contractors, and air quality.