Simplified food safety rules proposed to benefit butchers

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has proposed new simplified guidelines to food safety management in small retail businesses. This includes butchers, alongside bakeries and grocery shops.

The refreshed rules would focus on identifying the most relevant biological, chemical and physical hazards at each stage of the food production process, what mitigates these and prevention methods that can be practiced.

EFSA is proposing the guidelines in order to overcome obstacles small retailers face. A combination of managerial, organisational and technical hurdles mean that many businesses have difficulty complying with the requirements of existing food safety management systems (FSMS). A particular challenge that was highlighted was the ability to comply with hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) plans, as small businesses often only employ a handful of staff and they cannot meet these demands.

The simplified FSMS guidelines have been developed to benfit five types of small business: butchers; fishmongers; bakers; grocery shops and ice cream shops.

The easy to understand approach utilises diagrams to showcase different stages of production and comes with an accompanying questionnaire and simple tables that guide retailers through the food safety management process, from hazard identification through to control measures.

Some aspects of current food hygiene regulations can be challenging for small businesses, particularly where resources are tight or expertise is lacking, said Marta Hugas, head of EFSAs biological hazards and contaminants unit.

This simpler approach, which the European Commission asked us to develop, would make it easier for such operators to identify hazards and take action to counter them. Its a practical response to a known problem that could benefit consumers and food businesses alike.

By simplifying the approach, butchers and other businesses are not required to have a detailed undertanding of specific hazards. Rather, they need only be aware that biological, chemical and and physical hazards or allergens may be present and that a failure to undertake key control activities could increase customers' risks to being exposed to a hazard.

Examples of such activities include using the correct chilled storage or seperation of raw from cooked products.

The guidelines also remove the classic approach of ranking and prioritising hazards. Butchers have been advised by the EFSAs Panel on Biological Hazards to adopt the simplified approach.

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