Each year in the UK more than 9 million incidents of food poisoning are reported and this is often due to lack of hygiene procedures in the handling, storage and transportation process. Poor hygiene only has to occur in one of these areas for it to have significant implications on consumers. Strict legislation is in place from both the EU and UK government that governs how perishable and frozen food products are handled. A series of food control procedures should be implemented including hygiene and temperature monitoring, particularly during the transportation phase.
If your business is involved in the transportation of food items, your vehicles must be clean, in good repair and be regularly maintained to ensure optimum levels of food safety and hygiene. Stringent checks should be implemented to make sure that food contamination does not occur, and products do not spoil because of incorrect storage practices.
Food Poisoning Risks
Many illnesses associated with food poisoning are a result of bacteria such as listeria, salmonella, clostridia shigella and e-coli to name a few. Without adequate temperature controls, this bacteria can flourish and cause serious illness in consumers, particularly the elderly, young children and people with weakened immune systems. Certain types of bacteria are so dangerous because they cannot be detected by the senses, i.e. through sight, smell or taste.
Whatever type of food business you own, whether it is a shop selling fresh products to customers, a cafeteria or restaurant, the transportation of food items to your business is important to eliminate the risk of food poisoning.
Perishable Food Products
Any food that is classed as being perishable should be transported in a temperature controlled vehicle. Extensive legislation exists on the carriage of food products but much of this legislation is specific to certain products, so it is important to check the legislation that relates to your business and the food products that you prepare and serve. Any food which can support the growth of bacteria and the formation of toxins should be maintained at or below 8°C and transported in suitable, temperature controlled vehicles that closely monitor and adjust temperatures to make sure that this level is not exceeded at any point in the journey.
Most temperature controlled vehicles use technologies that constantly monitor the temperature inside the vehicle and adjust it accordingly. Temperature monitoring tools should be fitted to all vehicles that are used to transport perishable or quick frozen food items and temperatures should be taken at regular intervals throughout the journey. These tools must be strong and able to withstand the transportation process. This would mean for example, being strong enough to withstand any jolts or uneven road surfaces. Temperature records for the journey should be kept for at least 12 months and supplied to Environmental Health if required.
Food Transportation and Quick Frozen Products
Specific regulations refer to quick frozen food items under the Quick Frozen Foodstuffs Regulations and these specify the standard of equipment used for the storage and transportation of this type of food. Businesses must make sure that throughout the journey, food does not exceed -18°C, and shouldn’t drop below -15°C, at any point during the journey. In addition:
- Temperature monitoring instruments that are used in the storage, warehousing or transportation of quick frozen food products are fully compliant with European standards.
- All documentation should be kept detailing temperature monitoring instruments and that they meet current standards
- The only exemptions to these rules would be if the food items were being delivered locally, but even for local distribution, a visible thermometer is required inside the delivery vehicle.
- The regulations are also applicable to any motor vehicle or container from which food is sold such as a mobile shop or stall.
- All delivery vehicles and mobile shops should be built in a way that maximises the freshness and cleanliness of the food products.
- During the transportation process, any containers, crates, shelves or cabinets in the delivery vehicle must be clean and well maintained
- Any container or receptacle used to carry food products in bulk as either a liquid, powder or granules should be clearly marked as for foodstuffs only
- If any other type of food product is transported at the same time this must be clearly distinguished and separated from fresh or frozen foods
- Containers and receptacles should be cleaned thoroughly after each delivery
- Where required, a vehicle with a wooden floor should feature moveable duckboards which can be thoroughly cleaned
- Transportation vehicles should display the name and the address of the person conducting business on the outside of the vehicle
- Where uncovered food is carried, hand washing facilities and a clean supply of water must also be carried unless the driver can wash their hands at the end of their journey
- If the temperature controlled vehicle carries meat, clean towels, soap and a nail brush should be available in the vehicle
Drivers and any assistants who manage deliveries should maintain high standards of cleanliness and hygiene. They should be well presented with clean clothing and not smoke during the transportation process and make sure that any cuts to the hands or arms are covered with a suitable dressing.
If a driver or assistant develops food poisoning or any other infectious disease they cannot work until the symptoms have cleared and the employer must notify the local authority health department.
Food standards, hygiene and safety are the responsibility of local authorities and it is your responsibility as a food service business to make sure that the regulations are fully enforced and complied with in your business. This involves following good hygiene practices and using reputable, temperature controlled vehicle distributors who can transport your food items safely and at the right temperature to the required destination. You must take all reasonable steps to reduce contamination and eliminate the growth of bacteria and toxins while food is being transported. Upon delivery, you should also check the food items with a temperature gauge to make sure that the food is safe to use for your customers. Food transportation in a temperature controlled vehicle plays a crucial role in this process.