Food for Thought Blog

The Role of Food Safety at The Food Bank

March 10th, 2020Awareness

The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates 1 in 8 Canadians become sick with a foodborne illness each year. While everyone is at risk for contracting a foodborne illness, those with compromised or weakened immune systems – children, elderly, pregnant, chronically ill, etc. – are at a much higher risk.

Food safety plays a critical role in our work at The Food Bank, to ensure we are acquiring and distributing safe, nutritious food to the 100+ community programs and agency partners and 34,552 people in our community accessing food assistance. The key to preventing foodborne illnesses is to practice proper safe food handling; this includes controlling physical, chemical, biological and allergen hazards.

Physical Hazard A foreign material in food that can cause harm when consumed.
Chemical Hazard A substance in food that can cause harm when inhaled or consumed.
Biological Hazard A harmful microorganism that flourishes in food.
Allergen Hazard A protein found in certain foods that can cause some individuals to develop severe allergic reactions when inhaled or consumed.

Top 10 allergens include: Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Eggs, Diary, Wheat, Shellfish/Fish, Sesame, Soy, Mustard, Sulphites.

Preventing Foodborne Illnesses

Below are some ways The Food Bank prevents foodborne illnesses and ensures all food acquired and distributed is safe. Many of these can be implemented in your kitchen and household to reduce the risk of becoming sick with foodborne illness.

To control physical hazards, it is important to:

  • Store food a minimum of 15 cm (6 inches) off the floor and keep in a sealed food-grade container.
  • Monitor food spaces for pests
  • Practice good personal hygiene.
  • Avoid wearing jewelry.
  • Keep unpolished nails trimmed.

To control chemical hazards, it is important to:

  • Use non-metal, food-grade containers when storing acidic foods.
  • Follow cleaning procedures.
  • Store chemicals separate from foods.
  • Properly label and store chemicals in non-food containers.

To control biological hazards, it is important to:

  • Properly sanitize and wash food contact surfaces.
  • Wash hands regularly.
  • Avoid handling food when ill.
  • Cook, cool and store food at recommended temperatures.

Note: Items outside of the temperature danger zone of 4⁰ to 60⁰C for more than two hours are discarded.

To control for allergen hazards, it is important to:

  • Clearly identify all allergens on food labels.
  • Store allergen containing foods in a separate area.
  • Handle allergens carefully to prevent cross-contamination.