Food Safety Practices Guidance For Spice Manufacturers

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Spices have generally been regarded as low risk; however, the incidence of food-borne illness and food recalls associated with this sector has increased significantly in recent years. For example, a U.S. survey conducted by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported at least 16 spice recalls between 2000 and 2004 due to bacterial contamination (Vij et al. 2006). A variety of spice types were involved, including black pepper, cumin, paprika, oregano, sesame seeds, as well as several others. In most cases, the concern was Salmonella contamination. In Canada, seven recalls occurred between January 2011 and December 2012 due to Salmonella contamination in curry powder, dried basil, ginger, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder (CFIA 2013).

Spices are natural products that, without antimicrobial treatment, can harbour large numbers of bacteria, including Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli. Moreover, spices are often added to foods that will not undergo further processing and will be consumed as ready-to-eat products. In 1993, a nationwide food-borne illness outbreak in Germany was caused by potato chips seasoned with Salmonella contaminated paprika (Lehmacher et al. 1995). More recently, in 2009 and 2010, more than 250 people in at least 44 US states were infected with Salmonella Montevideo after the consumption of Italian-style deli meats containing contaminated black and red pepper (CDC 2010). Such outbreaks and recalls highlight the need for hazard prevention systems in the production of spices.

In an effort to help reduce the risk associated with spices and assist manufacturers that wish to adopt a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) approach, CFIA has developed the Food Safety Practices Guidance for Spice Manufacturers document. The guide uses the General Principles of Food Hygiene and Consumer Packaging and Labelling (GPFHCL) as its core and has incorporated additional reference material to create a suggested prerequisite program. This document provides guidance on potential hazards and controls related to a HACCP approach and is also designed to address other factors that affect product integrity, including composition, compliance with standards and labelling requirements. It was developed by CFIA with input from a number of interested parties, including the Canadian spice 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 Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), 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 spice manufacturers to adopt a HACCP approach and ultimately produce the safest possible product.

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