Core Guiding Principles of a Food Control System: Part 2
During food safety month, Food Safety Network is releasing an eight-part blog series on different technical topics from the Food Safety Distance Learning Module, focusing on the core guiding principles of a food control system. These principles were selected based upon the internationally accepted guidance of Codex and founded upon the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Food control systems are vital frameworks that protect all food that is produced, processed and sold domestically as well as foods imported for consumption. From farm to table, national food control systems exist to protect the health of consumers from food risks that exist throughout the life cycle of food products. As food safety risks are becoming recognized as major public health problems around the globe, many countries have begun the challenging task of enhancing or modernizing their existing food safety system. The overarching objective of a national food control system is to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in local, domestic and international food trade. While this journey looks different to every country, many of the actions taken and decisions being made are done with consideration given to the formative work of the WHO, FAO and Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex).
In this second part of our eight-part series, we will explore the next three of the sixteen core guiding principles of a food control system: roles and responsibilities; consistency and impartiality; and cooperation and coordination.
Roles and responsibilities
Within a national food control system there are multiple stakeholders throughout the producer to consumer continuum whose behaviors and actions are critical to the success of the system. It is imperative that all participants within the system have clearly-defined roles and responsibilities. Ultimately, food safety is a shared responsibility amongst all stakeholders. However, the primary responsibility often rests with operators of food businesses.
Let’s look at an example: When considering different roles and responsibilities of stakeholders within a food control system, their individual duties can include, but are not limited to, the following:
- National government authorities.
- Role and responsibility: Implement and manage the current legal requirements of food safety control systems and ensure their transparent communication. This will facilitate effective enforcement and education, which are in turn supported by appropriate surveillance measures and food safety controls.
- Relevant competent authorities.
- Role and responsibility: confirm that all food business operators are following appropriate food safety rules and regulations.
- Food business operators.
- Role and responsibility: ensure that food products are safely prepared and then consumed according to their intended use and such that it will not cause harm to the consumer’s health.
- Role and responsibility: Be aware of and follow proper hygiene practices and use best practices to prevent food contamination at home. Consumers are responsible for managing all food safety risks that are within the realm of their control.
- Scientific institutions and academics.
- Role and responsibility: leverage one’s expertise to support authorities’ assessment of risk and to verify the foundational science guiding their economy’s regulatory system.
Consistency and impartiality
Every facet of one’s national food control system should be applied consistently and impartially, without consideration given to a food’s geographical origin. All competent authorities and officials making decisions and acting in an official capacity should be free of undue or improper influence or any conflict of interest. This encourages decision-making that is free from bias.
Programs and training materials should be developed and maintained to ensure that inspectors, verifiers and other technical or professional staff receive training to adequately perform their work assignments, maintain professional competence and ensure consistent application of requirements and procedures.
Did you know?
On November 27, 2015, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) published the final rule on the Foreign Supplier Verification Programs for Importers of Food for Humans and Animals (FSVP regulation 80 FR 74225) that went into effect on January 26, 2016. This program supports consistent and impartial public health protections. Just as the preventive controls (PC) rules have supplier verification requirements, the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP) verifies that foreign suppliers are producing food in a manner that provides the same level of public health protection as the preventive controls or produce safety regulations require of domestic producers, and ensures that the supplier’s food is not adulterated or misbranded with respect to allergen labeling.
Cooperation and coordination
Within a national food control system, coordination and clear communication is one of the keys to success! Competent authorities play a pivotal role in providing leadership and coordination in the development, operation and evaluation of the system. When there is more than one competent authority involved, it is equally important to outline and define roles and responsibilities to ensure consistency and avoid gaps or overlaps in duties. This will create an efficient workflow where each role is supportive of the other.
Consideration of these three guiding principles is just the beginning when working through the development process. Stay tuned each week as we explore the rest of the guiding principles throughout our eight-part series. Want to learn more about concepts within food safety? Check out our free, self-paced, online Food Safety Distance Learning Module which explores the history of the United States food safety system, the value of a modern food safety system, all of the core principles of a national food control system and concludes with a case study that allows learners to walk through a fictional country’s journey to modernize their food safety system. Visit spscourses.com today to sign up for a free account and access this module and so much more! Visit the FSN home page to learn more.