Business continuity: The importance of food safety
For a business dealing with food, few things are more concerning than a customer experiencing food poisoning. It only takes one meal to contain something like Salmonella to make people sick, potentially resulting in a large, disruptive claim. Resilient operations are the key to withstanding any disruption – and for a food business, this resilience is closely linked to food safety.
Why does a business need a food safety program?
Putting a comprehensive food safety program into place isn’t just an operational necessity, it’s a strategic move for business continuity. An effective plan can help protect customers from foodborne diseases, and the business from the reputational and financial fallout that may happen after a food contamination situation.
Who is responsible for food safety in a business
In Australia, food safety is everyone’s responsibility. The Department of Health and Aged Care tells us:
‘By law, businesses and not-for-profit organisations must follow food standards to keep people safe from food-related illness. But it’s important for individuals too, as many cases of food poisoning happen at home.
Food safety includes:
Adhering to food safety standards will go a long way towards curbing the risk of foodborne illnesses.
What causes food poisoning?
Bacteria, toxins, parasites and viruses in the foods we eat cause food poisoning. While some occur naturally, others only flourish in certain environments. In many instances, food poisoning can be traced back to poor food handling and storage procedures, with Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria the main culprits. These harmful organisms can thrive in food products if correct temperature control, cleaning and food handling protocols aren't followed.
Cross-contamination - another major cause of food poisoning - happens when harmful bacteria are accidentally transferred from one food item or surface to another. This occurs with poor handling, using contaminated equipment or not correctly separating raw and cooked foods.
How to recognise the symptoms of food poisoning
Symptoms of food poisoning typically include nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and diarrhoea. In severe cases, there may be a high fever, blood in stools and even life-threatening conditions such as kidney failure.
Recognising these symptoms is important for both customers and business owners.
Ensuring safe food preparation
While a business needs to follow mandatory industry regulations, there are some things they can do to maintain food safety and support business continuity.
Keep your employees educated on food safety and correct food handling and preparation procedures. Ensure they maintain proper hand hygiene and use protective wear as necessary.
Maintain a clean and hygienic environment. Regularly clean and sanitise all surfaces, tools and utensils used in food preparation.
Proper food storage
Adopt safe food storage practices. Ensure refrigerated items are stored at correct temperatures and raw and cooked foods are correctly separated to avoid cross-contamination.
Validate your suppliers
Verify that your suppliers observe food safety standards.
The potential consequences of food poisoning on your business
Failure to effectively manage food safety may result in food poisoning outbreaks. The potential economic impacts of these outbreaks on a food business can be severe - lost sales, compensation claims and maybe even regulatory penalties.
The reputational damage caused by such incidents can have a lasting impact. Anyone who uses social media knows that news of a food poisoning case can spread at the speed of lightning, eroding customer trust almost instantly. Rebuilding a tarnished business reputation can be a long and difficult process.
Ensuring your small business stays robust and resilient by integrating food safety into your business continuity strategy is crucial. With a detailed food safety program in place, you can help protect customers and shield your business reputation.
Food safety isn't just a best practice - it's smart business.
- The Importance of a Business Resilience Plan
- Business continuity planning: How to conduct a Business Impact Analysis
- How to test and implement your Business Continuity Plan
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