Food Safety Practices Guidance for Fresh Non-Filled Alimentary Paste Manufacturers

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Alimentary paste, also known as pasta, macaroni or noodles, has been a food staple for many years and continues to be a healthy, convenient and affordable food. Traditionally this commodity was prepared and sold uncooked and dry, allowing it to be stored safely at room temperatures for long periods of time while still retaining its characteristic flavour and texture. With new technology and packaging techniques, it is now common to see alimentary paste sold in a fully cooked, partially cooked, or fresh uncooked form, with a refrigerated shelf life of 60 days or more.

While dry alimentary paste has had a relatively safe food history, it is not without risk. Pasta has been implicated in a number of outbreaks of staphylococcal food poisoning and salmonellosis (ICMSF 1988). Flour, the principle ingredient, is a raw agricultural commodity as there is generally no kill step in milling that will eliminate microbes. As a result, microbes, including pathogens such as Salmonella, are not eliminated and have been found at low incidence (Sperber 2003). Egg, also used in some forms of pasta, can be a possible source of Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus (ICMSF 1988). Other risks of alimentary paste include mycotoxin contamination, associated with flour from grain contaminated with mycotoxigenic fungi (Lund et al. 2000), and the presence of undeclared food allergens. The presence of undeclared allergens in pre-packaged foods is an industry wide issue and has resulted in a number of recalls of alimentary paste products.

Fresh alimentary paste manufacturers have to deal with the concerns associated with dry alimentary paste, as well as those concerns associated with high moisture, refrigerated foods with an extended shelf life. These could include the growth of pathogenic microorganisms such as Listeria monocytogenes, Bacillus cereus and Clostridium botulinum.

Risk can be significantly reduced by the manufacturer through strict adherence to Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), especially where the principles of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) are applied to the process.

In an effort to help reduce the risks associated with fresh alimentary paste and assist manufacturers that wish to adopt the HACCP approach, CFIA has developed the Food Safety Practices Guidance for Fresh Non-Filled Alimentary Paste Manufacturers document. The core of the guide is the General Principles of Food Hygiene Composition and Labelling (GPFHCL) and it is supplemented with additional reference material, in an attempt to provide fresh alimentary paste manufacturers with specific guidance on potential hazards and controls related to a HACCP approach. This guidance document is also designed to address other factors that affect integrity of the product including composition, compliance to standards and labelling requirements. It was developed by CFIA with input from a number of interested parties, including the Canadian alimentary paste industry, Health Canada and provincial government representatives, and is being offered to manufacturers as a food safety resource.

HACCP is a systematic approach that assesses each step in a food manufacturing process for potential hazards and identifies controls to prevent their occurrence. HACCP is recognized by regulators, industry and academia as a reliable food safety approach available to the food industry. Prior to the application of HACCP, an establishment should be operating in accordance with GMPs, applicable food safety legislation and have the guidance of a person trained in HACCP. The GMPs (prerequisite programs) serve as the building blocks upon which a HACCP plan is built.

A HACCP system is developed following a careful review and analysis of the unique processing facility in which it is to be implemented. Chapter 1 of this guidance document primarily provides guidance related to hazard analysis and control of the manufacturing process, while chapters 2 to 8 provide guidance related to a generic prerequisite program. The intent of this guidance document is that manufacturers wishing to develop their own HACCP program can modify or adapt this generic guide to suit their particular facility and operation.

It is hoped that this document will complement existing references and the initiatives of other agencies, to make it easier for fresh alimentary paste manufacturers to adopt a HACCP approach and ultimately produce the safest product possible.

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