Thermal – seven things you need to know about thermal process compliance....
Thermal processing is at the very centre of food preservation and is one of the most well-known and practiced areas of food manufacturing. The thermal process has a critical role in ensuring that foods are safe from microbiological contamination and remain high in nutritional and sensory attributes. There is today an extensive and ever-growing range of food products preserved by means of thermal technologies, ranging from full sterilisation (such as canning) to milder pasteurisation heat treatments (such as cook-chill and cook-freeze). There are also rapid advances being made in the equipment and environment used for thermal processing. Examples such as continuous flow heating and cooling systems, hot-fill processes and novel thermal technologies (e.g. microwave, radio-frequency, and ohmic heating) are becoming common in food manufacturing.
Whatever the thermal process, each has a common requirement – the need for food manufacturers to prove the safety of their food product through a structured programme of thermal process validation. This is part of the four pillars of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), namely:
- Prevention of pre-processing contamination or spoilage of the food product
- Assurance of package integrity, before, during and after processing
- Development and application of a suitable, scheduled thermal process to the product
- Prevention of post-process contamination to the food product
Validation is a continuous exercise. It is not a one-off trial, nor is it merely an annual check-up. There needs to be a full, demonstrable commitment for validation to be a continuous process of monitoring and surveillance. An ongoing thermal process validation programme needs to assure, and keep on assuring, the safety of thermally processed food.
This white paper summarises some of the key aspects that food processors should have under control for Due Diligence. For a more in-depth analysis of how specific aspects of thermal process validation may apply to your company, there are many opportunities for individual consultancy, advice or tailored training. We are here to help!
1. What are the general requirements for thermal food processing?
It is, of course, the responsibility of a Food Processor to assure the safety of their food at all times and under all circumstances. They need to have clearly identified any steps in the activities of their business which are critical for food safety. A systematic approach, based on the principles of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), should always be the starting point and this approach should ensure that adequate safety procedures are identified, implemented, maintained and reviewed consistently.