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    Monday, 14 November 2016

    Risk Assessment for Food Production - The Basics

    In food production and processing plants, safety and hygiene are of the utmost importance to ensure that the finished product is of top quality and safe for consumption. However, due to the nature of the process, and the raw materials used, there are many threats to this product integrity and employee safety. All of these hazards pose a risk, but that risk varies greatly between them, so how can a company know which risks to focus its energy on?

    The answer is by performing a thorough risk assessment, which can aid you when designing Good Manufacturing Processes (GMPs), Sanitation Control Procedures (SMPs), and an HACCP plan, all of which ensure maximum product quality and compliance with food safety regulations. This article will cover the basic points to bear in mind when you’re performing a risk assessment.


    What Is a Risk Assessment?

    Any kind of risk assessment is a systematic process of evaluating the potential risks that may be involved in a projected activity or undertaking. When it comes to food safety, this risk is of contamination of the product, compromising its safety or quality.

    By identifying the likelihood of a certain risk coming to pass, and the danger it poses if it does, manufacturers can choose which risks to prioritise. Control measures and safety barriers can then be introduced to mitigate the risk, or even eliminate it entirely


    What Areas of Food Manufacture Need Risk Assessment?

    1. Food Safety - This concerns the aforementioned threats to food quality and safety. This is usually combined with an HACCP plan, particularly in the Hazard Analysis stage.
    2. Health and Safety - Through risk assessment you can identify threats to your staff in the production plant and avoid injuries.
    3. Allergens - Risk assessment can be used to determine the chance of product contamination with allergens.      
    4. Safety Standard Compliance - Often, due to regulation, you must justify any planning decisions or changes made to the production process. Risk assessment can provide these reasons.
    5. Threats to Your Company - This refers to the integrity of your supply chain. Under BRC regulations, a vulnerability assessment (essentially a risk assessment) must be performed to determine the likelihood of adulteration or substitution of foodstuffs.


    How Do You Perform a Risk Assessment?

    In any of the above 5 categories, the risk assessment process follows a similar pattern. Firstly, the hazard must be identified; secondly, the risk of it happening must be determined; thirdly, the severity of the consequences to the individual, customer, or company must be quantified.

    By juxtaposing the likelihood of occurrence with the severity of the consequences, you can reveal a guide as to the overall priority of the risk:


    This table is just an example, but you can create larger ones with more criteria to further separate risk levels. The interpretation of this priority can require some common sense, but it provides a standardised, justifiable method to discern where your safety priorities lie.


    How Can You Use the Results of a Risk Assessment?

    The results of a risk assessment give you a priority list of which risks to target with your available resources. It can help you determine if a risk is significant enough that extra control measures are needed. Sometimes, if even control measures don’t reduce the risk enough, the process may have to be changed significantly or stopped entirely.

    The results of your risk assessment can be used to justify to authorities why you made these changes to the process, or alternatively why you chose not to follow requests for changes, such as those from a retailer.


    These steps demonstrate the importance of risk assessments in a food production setting, and hopefully will help you to begin designing them for your own production process. For more tips on setting your plant up safely, see our HACCP guides.


    Sam Franklin

    With a master’s in Literature, Sam inhales books and anything readable, spending his working hours reformulating the info he gathers into digestible articles. When not reading or writing, he likes to put his camera to work around the world, snapping street photography from Stockholm to Tokyo. Too much of this time spent in Japan teaching English has nurtured a weakness for sashimi, Japanese whisky, and robot cafés.
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