The issue of food safety is a universal concern. This is because everyone has to consume food. Food scares have been numerous in the United States in the past twenty years. This fact has motivated producers and consumers alike to take an active role in the safe and quality production of their food. This is a requirement for all people across the nation as well as the globe to be concerned about to be healthy and enjoy the food they must consume.
DEFINITION OF TERMS
In the United Kingdom there are legislations in place designed to ensure that correct and appropriate systems of work, in regards to health and safety, exist within every organisation. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASWA), section 2, “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees. ” This highlights the responsibility employers have in ensuring their employees are safe of chemical, physical and machinery hazards and risks.
The Food and Drugs Act (the Act) (formal title An Act respecting food, drugs, cosmetics and therapeutic devices) is an act of the Parliament of Canada regarding the production, import, export, transport across provinces and sale of food, drugs, contraceptive devices and cosmetics (including personal cleaning products such as soap and toothpaste). It was first passed in 1920 and most recently revised in 1985. It attempts to ensure that these products are safe, that their ingredients are disclosed and that drugs are effective and are not sold as food or cosmetics. It also states that cures for disease listed in Schedule A (including cancer, obesity, anxiety, asthma, depression, appendicitis, and sexually transmitted diseases), cannot be advertised to the general public
Food legislations such as the Food and Drugs Act had started evolving for last sixty years to regulate food safety among nations in the world. Common man understands health protection as protection only from microbial, chemical or physical contaminants. But it is much more. Common man does not realize the ill effects of unbalanced food. Provision of a healthy (balanced) diet is more important for health protection. Overall objectives for developing national food laws are (FAO/WHO, 2002):
1. To provide a high level of health protection for consumers.
2. States have an obligation to ensure that only safe food and feed are placed on the market.
3. Where appropriate, animal health and welfare, protection of environment, and plant life should be taken care of.
Traceability (identification of the source) of food, feed, ingredients, and food-producing animals should also be ensured by producers, which should be monitored by the state (Lindqvist, ET AL, 2012). The Food and Drugs Act is based on high-quality scientific inputs by conducting risk analysis through risk assessment, management and communication. In countries where risk assessors and risk managers belong to the same organization it was essential to ensure a functional, well-documented and transparent separation between their respective functions.
In line with H.A.S.A.W.A of 1974 to achieve realistic food safety, food risks must be reduced along the entire food chain, including primary production, as a policy (Nyachuba, 2010). Risks, if any, must be communicated and end users must be assured as to how the risk shall be managed. Adequate awareness and education of all the stakeholders in the food chain is crucial for raising the level of competence of all in the food business. Educating consumers and those involved in food production and preparation is a major challenge to increase the level of understanding and raise standards (WHO, 2008). Food laws such as the Food and Drugs Act should have provision for mass awareness programmes in food safety. Making people aware is the starting point, increasing knowledge comes next, followed by changing attitudes, and finally most difficult of all, changing behavior. Food safety and nutrition education may be included in the curriculum of both primary and secondary schools to educate the consumers and future workers in the food industry. The involvement of Ministries of Education with Ministries of Health and Ministries of Agriculture in an integrated approach is essential (FAO/WHO, 2002).
The Food and Drugs Act legislation is designed to protect consumers from foods that could be injurious to their health (laws on food safety) and from misleading information (laws on food labeling, advertising, and fair commercial practices). Food manufacturers must also adhere to any specific legislation concerning their particular category (e.g., ‘natural spring waters,’ ‘novel foods,’ and ‘dietetic foods’) and their marketing choices, such as nutrition and health claims. Compositional criteria may be stipulated (e.g., for foods marketed as ‘meal replacements’ and milk products) as well as specific advertising rules and mandatory statements (e.g., in relation to infant formulas, allergen labeling, and country of origin labeling). In addition to legislation, there may also be local rules, guidelines, and codes of practice to help interpret and implement the laws in a uniform manner.
Globally, the Food and Drugs act is vast in its breadth and depth, and detailed requirements should be considered by experts in the field to ensure completeness and accuracy of application for the local market (Ray and Bunia 2014). In an attempt to promote consistency of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and nongovernmental bodies, the Codex Alimentarius Commission was set up in 1963 by FAO and WHO to “develop harmonised international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice to protect the health of the consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade.” (Scallan et al, 2011). Its work includes, to name a few, a long and varied list of topics such as ‘Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods’; ‘Principles for the Risk Analysis of Foods Derived from Modern Biotechnology’; ‘Guidelines on Substances used as Processing Aids’; ‘Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements’; ‘Guidelines for the Use of Nutrition and Health Claims and Nutrition Labelling’; ‘Standard for Fermented Milks’; ‘Standard for Fat Spreads and Blended Spreads’; and ‘Recommended Methods of Analysis and Sampling.’
Within its ‘Guidelines on Nutrition Labelling,’ the Codex Alimentarius Commission defines nutrition labeling, a section of the Food and Drugs Act as “a description intended to inform the consumer of nutritional properties of a food, which has two components: a nutrient declaration and supplementary nutrition information (Kuchenmueller et al, 2013). This is also in line with the H.A.S.A.W.A of 1974. Nutrient declaration means a standardized statement or listing of the nutrient content of a food and supplementary nutrition information. The content of supplementary nutrition information will vary from one country to another and within any country from one target population group to another according to the educational policy of the country and the needs of the target groups.” Nutrition labeling is most commonly found on the back of prepacked foods but can also be found on the front of; on websites and in leaflets; in menus or on menu boards at eating establishments; and in relation to non-prepacked foods.
Under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act it is a requirement that training is provided to ensure, as far as reasonably practical, that the health and safety of all is safeguarded. This act is the primary peice of Health and Safety Legislation in the United Kingdom.
Sometimes in food industries, this side of the training requirements are forgotten in favour of food safety training, but both are required to achieve compliance. Again no formal course requirement is specified but recognised and certificated courses will provide peace of mind to know that the individual or company will be able to achieve full compliance in Food Safety and Health and Safety.
The primary purposes of food legislation are to protect the health of the consumer, to protect the consumer from fraud, and to ensure the essential quality and wholesomeness of foods. Food laws such as the Food and Drugs act working in conjunction with H.A.S.A.W.A of 1974 must first provide the legal authority and an adequate legal framework for the food-control activities. Food laws are enacted to protect the consumers against unsafe, adulterated, and misbranded food, and also to facilitate the movement of food across borders.
Ray, B. and Bhunia, A.K. (2014) Fundamental Food Microbiology. 5th Edition, CRC Press, Boca Raton.
Scallan, E., Hoekstra, R.M., Angulo, F.J., Tauxe, R.V., Widdowson, M.A., Roy, S.L., Jones, J.L. and Griffin, P.M. (2011) Foodborne Illness Acquired in the United States —Major Pathogens. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 17, 7-15. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid1701.P11101
Kuchenmueller, T., Abela-Ridder, B., Corrigan, T. and Tritscher, A. (2013) World Health Organization Initiative to Estimate the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseas-es. Revue Scientifique et Technique Office International des Epizooties, 32, 459-467.
WHO (2008) World Health Organisation: The Global Burden of Disease. HO, Ge-neva.
Tariq, L., Haagsma, J. and Havelaar, A. (2011) Cost of Illness and Disease Burden in The Netherlands Due to Infections with Shiga Toxin-Producing Escherichia coli O157. Journal of Food Protection, 74, 545-552. https://doi.org/10.4315/0362-028X.JFP-10-252
Nyachuba, D.G. (2010) Foodborne Illness: Is It on the Rise? Nutrition Reviews, 68, 257-269. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00286.x
Lindqvist, R., Andersson, Y., Toljander, J., Ivarsson, S. and Dovärn, A. (2012) Public Health Burden Due to Infections by Verocytotoxin-Producing Escherichia coli (VTEC) and Campylobacter spp. as Estimated by Cost of Illness and Different Ap-proaches to Model Disability-Adjusted Life Years. Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, 40, 294-302. https://doi.org/10.1177/1403494811435495