What is Food Safety Eco-System?
Ecosystem includes all the living and non-living things in a given area, interacting and influencing each other and determining the health of the entire earth system. It also combines biosecurity meaning the protection from the environmental, economic and human health risks of potentially harmful plant and animal pests and diseases, alien invasive species and genetically modified organisms. In many most of the countries, governments have created regulatory authorities to ensure food safety, animal health and plant health. These Authorities carry out inspections of the food chain “from farm to fork” with the aim to protect animal, plant and human life and health.
Food Supply Chain:
The term ‘Food chain’ was first introduced by African–Arab scientists and philosopher th Al Jahiz in the 9th Century and later popularized in a book published in 1927 by Charles Elton, which also introduced the food web concept. Natural interconnections between food chains is called a food web starting from producer organisms and ending at apex predator species. In the context of food safety, the term “food supply chain” becomes relevant.
A food supply chain refers to the processes that describe how food from a farm ends up on our tables. The processes include production, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal. The food supply chain is a complex network consisting of small and medium sized enterprises that can interact with larger companies and retailers as well. The food we eat reaches us via food supply chain through which food moves systematically in domino-like motion from producers to consumers.
THE CONCEPT OF “Farm to Fork”:
The term ‘food safety’ as defined by CODEX Alimentarius Commission is the assurance that food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and/or eaten according to its intended use. Food safety is related to the occurrence of food safety hazards and does not include other human health aspects related to, such as malnutrition.
Food safety is relevant at different stages of supply, preparation/processing, distribution and serving. The food chain starts on the farm and ends on the fork. During every stage, great care must be taken to ensure that the end product will be safe for human consumption.
In modern context, the concept of food safety is described by the ‘Farm to Fork’ model. This concept captures the essence of food safety and forms the backbone of food safety. The path from food source to the point of final service is called the farm to fork continuum
From “Farm to Fork” traces the different stages of the food chain system and examines the practices and procedures that ensure the safety of our food. The factors that led to this Farm to Fork model of food safety are:
The industrial revolution, and more recently, modern food technology has changed the food patterns of all. The majority of people today is far removed from the sources of food they eat on daily basis. If we are living longer in a period of abundant, diverse and reliable food supply, it is in part due to the variety and safety of the food we eat.
The origins of most food products such as bread, milk, meat, fruit, vegetables, sugar, etc. are in agriculture. They are either produced directly on farms or based on food coming from farms. Farmers grow food, which they harvest, store and transport to markets or to processing plants for preservation and transformation into a variety of food products. To ensure that the produce whether vegetable or animal in origin coming out from farms is produced in a safe manner, the farmers should make the correct use of fertilisers, pesticides, antibiotics and other products in crop and animal husbandry.
Almost all food must be processed in some way before it can be eaten. There are various levels of food processing and the food processors rely on food safety management systems (FSMS) to ensure the quality and safety of the products they produce.
Transport and storage form vital links in the food chain between the farmer’s field and the consumer’s table. While the role of the farmer, the food processor and the retailer in the food chain is easily understood, the importance and role of wellmanaged transport and storage should not be forgotten. Maintaining high standards while transporting food products transporters must implement quality standards in transport and storage as specified in FSMS to safeguard food.
Throughout the food chain, farmers, food processors, retailers and others utilize numerous practices based on long experience to ensure the quality and safety of food. Collectively, these procedures are known as “good agricultural practices”, “good manufacturing practices” and “good hygienic practices”. It is very important for the consumer to understand and follow basic instructions and precautions set by professionals (as indicated on food labels) when purchasing, transporting, storing, preparing and consuming food. Good hygienic practices both in the home and outside can protect consumers against microbial contamination and the food borne diseases caused by it.
One link in the food chain from farm to fork which deserves special attention is the preparation of meals outside the home, restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, child care establishments, schools, canteens, wedding parties, business conventions etc. Considering the vast number of meals consumed in such public settings FBOs, chefs and caterers do and should ensure protecting the public against food borne disease. The consumer should look for recognized certificates of good hygiene (such as hygiene ratings) in public places.
Food safety is a shared responsibility of everybody involved with food from the food business operator to regulator and consumer. All along the food supply chain, various procedures and good practices are implemented to ensure that the food which reaches the consumer’s table is fit for consumption, that the risks of contamination are minimized and they get a safe and quality food. However, the responsibility for ensuring food safety should not only be the priority of FBOs but the consumer is also equally responsible to ensure the safety of food at home.
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