The FSA has published revised guidance on E.coli control of cross-contamination, providing greater flexibility for businesses on how they may manage food safety risks. As the  consequences of poor food hygiene can be fatal, businesses are advised to consider the guidance  carefully and how it will apply to their own practices.

Who is the guidance for?

The guidance is for all food businesses that handle both raw foods and ready to eat foods and aims  to assist businesses in managing the risk to consumers from E.coli in food. The measures outlined  will also help in the control of other food poisoning bacteria, such as campylobacter and  salmonella.

The food hygiene legislation requires food operators to put in place food safety management  procedures based on the HACCP principles. However, the revised guidance emphasises that  arrangements will vary between businesses, subject to their assessment of the particular risks. The  onus is therefore on the operator to review their practices, with the assistance of the Local  Authority, and ensure these are sufficient.

What does the guidance say?

In summary, the revised guidance clarifies that:

  • The measures required to control cross-contamination will vary between different businesses and  should be proportionate to the risk posed in accordance with the specific activities carried out
  • Businesses are not obliged to have separate areas  for handling raw and ready-to-eat foods (RTE)  where they can demonstrate that separation with effective cleaning and disinfection will manage the risk of cross- contamination
  • Less complex equipment, such as temperature probes, mixers and weighing scales, may be used for both raw and RTE foods subject to the business being  able to demonstrate that such equipment will be effectively cleaned and disinfected between uses
  • More complex equipment such as vacuum packers, slicers and mincers, may also be effectively  cleaned  and disinfected between uses so long as such machines are completely dismantled to allow  all surfaces to be thoroughly cleaned

What should my business be doing?

The full guidance, as well as details as to how to submit your comments, can be found at  http://tinyurl.com/ lo2nux6 and food operators should consider the changes closely. Businesses who  would like to respond to the FSA on the updated guidance have until 29 August 2014 to do so. We  will monitor the responses and advise of any further developments.