15 March 2017

Small retail businesses such as grocers and bakeries could benefit from new rules on managing food safety.

Proposals from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) would see the existing food safety management systems (FSMS) simplified and rules made easier to understand and implement.

The EFSA approach includes guidelines on how to identify the most relevant biological, chemical and physical hazards at each stage of the food production process, the activities or practices that make hazards more likely to occur, and appropriate control measures.

Flow diagrams are used in the new approach to summarise the stages of production, with an accompanying questionnaire and simple tables taking retailers through the food safety management process from hazard identification to the control measures needed.

Simplified FSMS have been developed for five types of small food outlets: butcher’s shop, grocery, bakery, fishmonger and ice cream shop.

The proposals have been developed by EFSA in response to a request from the European Commission for a food safety system that would be easier for small retailers to manage.

A combination of managerial, organisational and technical hurdles means that many small food retailers have difficulty complying with the requirements of existing FSMS.

In particular, applying often complex hazard analysis and critical control point (HACCP) plans can be beyond the capacity of establishments that may employ only a handful of staff.

EFSA’s Marta Hugas said that the simpler approach would make it easier for such operators to identify hazards and take action to counter them.

"It’s a practical response to a known problem that could benefit consumers and food businesses alike," he concluded.

"Hazard analysis approaches for certain small retail establishments in view of the application of their food safety management systems" can be found at http://bit.ly/2lR76G9.