Why is a Product Description Important?
Correct identification and control of hazards requires a thorough understanding of any aspects of the product that could compromise safety. The product can be described individually or products with similar characteristics and processing steps can be grouped together4.A description should cover important aspects such as composition, physical and chemical properties, processing methods, consumer information, durability/shelf-life, storage conditions and distribution1,4. Knowing these factors is particularly important in understanding which products and conditions can support or inhibit the multiplication of pathogenic bacteria1. This information can also help the HACCP team decide which intrinsic (e.g. composition) and/or extrinsic (e.g. method of processing) factors could potentially be changed to control an identified hazard1.
Product Composition and Physical Characteristics
Composition refers to the raw materials used in the manufacture of the product. Hazards may already be present in the ingredients, for example Listeria monocytogenes in cooked chicken which might not be removed during processing. Physical characteristics of product will also affect the growth of pathogens and/or production of bacterial toxins. Important information will normally include AW, pH, salt content, and physical form (e.g. solid, emulsion, powder, liquid, etc.)1.
Preservation methods create conditions in which most pathogenic bacteria cannot survive or multiply. Common techniques include thermal processing, freezing, chilling, fermentation (alcohol or acids), acidification, dehydration, vacuum packing, and chemical preservatives. Knowing these methods and characteristics of pathogens can help the HACCP team determine at a later stage in the study if additional controls are required.
Product Packaging and Materials
The description should state how the product is packaged and packaging materials used in the process as this may affect the likelihood of a hazard occurring. Packaging methods, such as vacuum packaging, can create anaerobic conditions in which some pathogenic bacteria can thrive, especially Clostridium botulinum. Packaging materials may additionally introduce microbiological, chemical or physical hazards, such as glass shards from a jar and protection of microorganisms for harmful sunlight1.
Customer and Consumer Information
The safety of the product may require the customer or consumer to follow specific advice in addition to other control measure introduced during manufacturer1.This information should be stated in the product description and usually communicates instructions in how to safely store, handle and prepare the product, along with durability date coding (e.g. use by or best before)1.
Storage instructions will provide advice in how to safely store the product prior opening (e.g. keep frozen) and further instructions after opening (e.g. keep refrigerated and consume within 3 days). Potential microbiological hazards present in non-ready-to-eat products will require clear instructions for further processing by the customer before consumption, such as thorough washing or cooking. Allergen and precautionary labelling information may be required because the produce is not suitable for people with hypersensitivities or present a choking hazard for infants.
Would You Like to Know More?
We regularly run open training courses in Food Hygiene and Safety and HACCP via remote learning in live virtual classroom with a tutor. These courses are extremely popular, and most candidates have passed with a distinction.
We can also run an in-house open course remotely. Contact our dedicated team to discuss your exact requirements.