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Module 4: Enforcement issues

Section 1: General advice for enforcement officers

This section gives general advice to food law enforcement officers on how to make sure food business operators understand the inherent hazards associated with vacuum packing and modified atmosphere packing as well as the control factors they should be using to prevent growth and toxin production by Clostridium botulinum in chilled foods.

General advice for enforcement officers

This guidance is applicable to all vacuum packed and modified atmosphere packed chilled foods stored above 3ºC. Different food types will vary in their inherent risk with respect to Clostridium botulinum and therefore their priority for attention.

The table in Section 3 gives examples of foods that differ in their inherent risk with respect to Clostridium botulinum. For example, hot smoked fish would have a greater inherent risk relative to a hard cheese like cheddar. These examples of food types are given to aid enforcement officers when assessing any potential risk to public health.

The key elements of FSA guidance

How should a food business operator establish the appropriate shelf-life for products with respect to Clostridium botulinum?

What food hygiene legislation is applicable to a business using vacuum packing and modified atmosphere packing?

How much information should be contained in a HACCP plan that covers vacuum packing and modified atmosphere packing?

Would a Safer food, better business (SFBB) approach to HACCP be appropriate?

What level of process validation might be appropriate for a HACCP plan?

Who is responsible for undertaking the validation process?

What steps should the local authority take to ensure that validation is carried out correctly?

What action can the local authority take if evidence of the validation process is not provided?

How should the local authority satisfy itself as to whether a business is appropriately applying a shelf-life of more than ten days?

What further investigation or action might be necessary?

What should the local authority do if a business continues to apply a shelf-life of more than ten days without supporting evidence?

What should the local authority do if, contrary to advice, a business continues to apply a shelf-life more than ten days?

Under what circumstances might a local authority consider the use of a hygiene emergency prohibition notice?

A business uses vacuum packing and modified atmosphere packing for chilled foods but doesn't appear to understand the associated inherent hazards. What should the local authority do?

Do all vacuum packed and modified atmosphere packed products present the same inherent risk?

A business is repacking products. What should the local authority do to satisfy itself that this activity is ‘safe’ and appropriate?

What is the Agency's advice on the dual use of equipment for raw and ready-to-eat foods, and the cleaning of that equipment?

Further advice

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