To a majority of consumers, food safety and proper handling methods are non-negotiable. Food safety to most people means that there is no risk of naturally occurring toxins, pathogenic microorganisms, and other potentially harmful chemicals ending up in food either deliberately or unintentionally. Businesses involved in the food industry, therefore, hold food safety concerns in high regard. It is regarded to as the most crucial of missions; enforceable by the law. Warehousing facilities play a pivotal role in this task, and a catastrophic failure in the fulfillment of that mandate at any point along the supply chain can result in devastating legal, economic and health consequences.

The United States Food and Drugs Administration recently introduced the Food Safety Modernization Act with an aim to prevent contamination of food during transportation. The new law also aims to avoid practices that create contamination risks, such as failure to properly refrigerate food, inadequate cleaning of vehicles between transport cycles and failure to adequately protect the food on transit/storage. What can warehousing companies do to ensure they play their part in keeping food safe for human consumption? Well, the FSMA outlines the parameters for conduction of a food safety assessment in a warehouse or food holding facility.

Costa Solutions places major emphasis on FSMA compliance. Specific roles in our organization monitor changes to food safety regulations, preparing our customers to bring their standards into compliance before announced changes are enacted.

Following are some stipulations of the FSMA we’ve covered with our own internal teams and our client organizations.

Warehouse Equipment

The new law stipulates that food handling facilities need to be adequately equipped to handle and store food safely. Examples include services to regulate temperature and humidity in a warehouse, adequate labeling, and segregation of food and food ingredients. The FSMS act also provides for the presence of the appropriate facilities for cleaning and disinfecting food handling equipment and instruments and the adoption a clean-in-place system where it is required. It is critical to ensure that potentially toxic materials do not come into contact with stored food at any point. Cold storage facilities are another prerequisite requirement for food handling warehouses alongside reasonably placed racks to prevent the food from contamination by pests.

Warehouse Hygiene, Transport, and Conveyance Concerns

It is essential for the warehouse company to identify and provide for all the critical links in the food supply chain to minimize food contamination during transportation and storage. For packaged food, the warehouse should provide adequate protection as per the required storage conditions during transport and storage. As far as hygiene goes, food materials should be stored in pest-proof containers stacked above the ground and away from the walls. The warehouse should also have adequate pest control measures in place to prevent rodents and insects from contaminating the food and even avoiding the risk of an infestation.

The warehousing company is allowed by the new law to carry out treatments and disinfection routines with certified chemical or biological agents up to the permitted limits. The cleaning and disinfecting chemicals should be handled and used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and stored separately away from the food in storage. The chemicals should be stored in clearly labeled containers, to avoid any risk of accidental contamination. It is necessary to draft up, follow and keep records of a cleaning and sanitation program.

Operating Procedures and Documentation

The First-in First-out and First Expire First Out stock rotation systems for the storage of packaged food products is recommended to ensure that the food is safe for human consumption. As mentioned, the food materials should be stored on racks or pallets that are placed reasonably well above the level of the floor and away from the walls to allow for efficient cleaning and prevent infestation of any pests. Standard practice in a food handling warehouse should entail keeping appropriate storage records, distribution, pest control, cleaning and sanitation, and product recall records. The warehousing company should retain the said paperwork for at least one year or over the entire shelf-life of the food products.

In conclusion, food handling warehouses are advised against employing workers suffering from any known infection or contagious ailment. Additionally, warehouses are required to make arrangements to get medical examinations for the food handling staff at least once every six months to ensure that they are free from any infectious diseases. Supervision of workers also should ensure that they do not smoke, chew, or spit, within the food storage areas. Costa Solutions includes safe food handling as part of its training and orientation for all employees to ensure that regulatory standards are exceeded in every client engagement.