Due diligence – All you need to know about it
It’s said that prevention is better than a cure. That holds true in all areas of life. Adding on to that if you’ve put yourself in a position where you’re looking for a cure in the corporate world, you’ve already lost half the battle!
Due Diligence is important in all aspects of life. If you’re not exercising Due Diligence you’re exercising wishful thinking. And we all know how that ends don’t we?
What is Due Diligence?
Some of you may be like the people who have heard of GameOfThrones but never really got around to watching it yet. You might have heard the word “Due Diligence” but never took out the time to google it. Fret not!
Due diligence is an investigation of a business or individual prior to signing a contract. Sometimes it is a legal obligation but more often than not the term will apply to voluntary investigations before undertaking a task.
What it means in the context of food safety?
Due diligence in terms of food safety operations means undertaking the responsibility of exercising all the reasonable and necessary precautions.
It simply equates to carrying out the safety control measures and management procedures as a proactive solution. It can help identify potential liabilities and allow to set up proactive measures in a certain framework. Remember, you wan’t to avoid reactive measures if possible.
Reading this article is a form of Due Diligence in that regard. So is documentation and keeping written records.
Important Food Safety Regulations you should acquaint yourselves with
Take some time to familiarize yourselves with the following:
The Food Safety Act 1990
General Food Law Regulation EC 178/2002
Food Hygiene (HACCP) Regulations Act of 2006
Food Hygiene Information for Consumers Regulation 1169
The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013
The Food Law Code of Practice (2015)
The cost of Poor Food Hygiene
Before we move any further with the topic, it’s important you know what the repercussions of overlooking .Due Diligence and exercising caution are. Apart from upsetting and harming your customers which in turn will cost your business severely, poor food hygiene can cause you to wake up one day facing fines or worse, even imprisonment.
Depending on the size of your Business and the seriousness of the outcome the fine can range from “phew, i’m not doing that again” to “What have I done”. For individuals these fines are also unlimited and there can be up to 2 years’ custodial sentencing for food hygiene depending on the offenses with the option to prosecute further under criminal law based on your area of service. Get comfortable with the idea of learning more on your own.
The importance of Food Safety
There are millions who get sick annually from food borne illnesses and hundreds of thousands who lose their lives because of it. Although it doesn’t seem like a natural assumption but following food safety rules saves lives.
Certain segments of the population are more prone to getting sick or having severe consequences from food borne illnesses. Generally Kids under the age of 5 and older people over the ages of 65 constitute that segment. Pregnant women and immune compromised individuals are also more at risk.
Health and Hygiene
Biological contamination is the most common among the hazards that can arise from unsafe food handling practices. It’s these harmful pathogens that cause these Food-borne illnesses.
As a food handler it’s a huge risk if you’re working when you’re sick. If you’re sick, stay home.
As a rule if you have any of the following symptoms, you should stay away from food for 24 hours from the last symptom.
- Fever with sore throat
Make it a habit to wash hands often!
You should wash your hands throughout the day even if your hands look clean. Always before touching food and after contamination from germs. When your working, as a food handler your hands shouldn’t go places they’re not supposed to like your hair, ears or nose (eww). Educate your staff about it if need be.
Sources of Contamination
- Using the bathroom
- Touching one’s face or nose
- Handling raw meat
- Sneezing or Coughing
- Handling garbage or dirty dishes
- Handling Animals
- Using Chemicals
- Taking a break for a good old cigarette
- Never eat, drink or use any type of tobacco in food prep areas
- Hair must always be restrained in food prep areas
- When working with food always wear Gloves and remember Gloves are there to protect the food from germs not your hands from the food
- Avoid bare hand contact with ready to eat foods
- Be aware of personal habits and hygiene
Store cold foods 5°C or less and hot foods at 63°C or above as most bacteria don’t grow in extreme temperatures. The danger zone in which bacteria can grow is between 5°-63° C. Hazardous foods should not be kept at room temperature or the danger zone for more than a couple hours. Know the proper cooking temperatures. Use a probe thermometer and always follow the steps for safe thawing and cooling for food.
For those of you who don’t know what cross contamination is, it is the process by which bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transferred from one substance or object to another, with harmful effect. In most cases cross contamination is caused by your kitchen knife, cutting board or your own two hands. Luckily we have provided a short and sweet list of things you have to keep in mind in order to avoid cross contamination. Pay attention to these points and your food will definitely be saved from this pesky problem.
It’s caused by bacteria from raw meat spreading to other foods
Always keep vegetables and meats separate
Always wash your hands after handling raw meat
Use separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables
Store raw foods on shelves below ready to eat foods
Keep foods with a higher cooking temperature like chicken below foods with a lower cooking temperature like beef.
Cleaning and Sanitizing are the two processes that can keep your kitchen germ free and ready for action. The purpose of cleaning is to remove dirt from the food preparation and serving surfaces such as utensils, cutting boards, dishes, utensils and pans.
Sanitizing is the reduction of germs to safe levels so that illnesses are less likely to occur or spread. Different sanitizers include different substances like chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide and distilled vinegar. It is important to keep in mind that the method of using different sanitizers with different bases is naturally different. As a rule NEVER mix two sanitizers together unless you know what you’re doing.
In essence they are two very different steps but the following few points will help you get the hang of it and make it seem not as complicated as they do now.
Cleaning uses soap and water
Sanitizing uses chemicals and heat to kill germs
Surfaces that look clean can still have germs. Sanitizing reduces these germs to safer levels
Surfaces in contact with food contact should be cleaned, rinsed and sanitized between each use
Follow the label directions on all sanitizers
Never add soap to a sanitizer
Store bowls upside down and store utensils and dishes at least six inches from the ground
Never touch a part of the dish or a utensil that a guest’s mouth might touch
Food handler’s Role
A person who handles food has many responsibilities and should understand that food that has be handled incorrectly naturally carries with itself a high risk of contamination. Serious illnesses and even death can be caused by it. It is absolutely mandatory for a food handler to stay away from the kitchen and food if he/she is experiencing any kind of symptoms that could cause them to contaminate the food through their bodily fluids. You staff must be trained adequately.
- Keep yourself and your workplace clean and wear suitable, clean protective clothing
- Store, prepare and display food at safe temperatures
- Do everything possible to protect food from contamination
- Inform your Employer if you have symptoms of a foodborne illness
- In case of any symptoms follow the 24 hour rule mentioned above.
- Safeguard food so that it does not cause illness or harm
It is the employers who are responsible of ensuring that health, safety and welfare of their employees, customer and anybody else who might be affected by their business are protected. As an employer it is your duty to carry out risk assessments that address all risks that might be harmful to the workplace. Employees must be consulted on the health and safety issues. Remember! Timely meetings are not a bad idea.
Employers are also responsible for the following things There are adequate handwashing facilities and arrangements for personal Hygiene.
Staff members are equipped and supervised to work hygienically and safely
Assess food hazards and take action to reduce risks (known as hazard analysis)
Implement and maintain a Food Safety Management System based on HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) principles
Imagine that a restaurant receives a meat delivery, and that the business operator doesn’t keep delivery records. A couple of days later, we discover in the news that guests have been sent to the hospital due to contamination by the food. How will the restaurant prove that they have done everything they could to prevent that from happening ?
Yes, you guessed right. WRITTEN RECORDS!
The days of pen and paper are quickly getting behind us in this age of technology. That means Digital Records are becoming more and more common. There are many benefits of acquiring Digitized HACCP for the sake of Due Diligence. I will mention a few to get your gears grinding.
All of the records can be easily housed in one place
With the internet one can virtually access them from anywhere, anytime
It arguably provides the safest record storage available today
They are automatically saved and backed up which provides security and save a good amount of valuable man hours
Some systems can maintain and record températures at all times as long as they’re running
Alerts regarding any approaching catastrophe can be instantly received via smartphones and other electronic media devices
In the event of an investigation, Due Diligence will support the restaurant’s defense, and HACCP records play a major role in that defense. With the proper knowledge and the use of appropriate technology, the life of a food business owner can become very easy indeed.