In the food industry water is used for numerous operations during processing and if contaminated can cause a food safety risk. Water issuedas an aid in food processing operations and as an ingredient in numerous foods. In fact, water is frequently the primary ingredient in a wide variety of processed foods and beverages. Water used in food production/processing is either potable or non-potable and could be contaminated with pathogens which can cause bacterial growth in food products which in turn can then cause food-borne illness. Similarly, some chemicals in water may increase in concentration when in contact with foods to levels that cause a food safety risk.

Food safety programme

Since water is so abundantly used in food processing it is absolutely essential to have in place a food safety programme. Water supplied to the food processors comes from a third party so the onus is on the food business operator to ensure that the ingredients used in the food processing operations are safe and do not contain any hazardous substances. Everyfood processor must implement a water monitoring programme so that contaminated water does not reach the foods being processed. Effective food safety comes from regularly testing water used in the food industry especially as water can be source of microbiological and chemical contaminants.

food safety

Consumers can then be exposed to food safety risk through consumption of foods when

  • contaminated water gets incorporated into foods
  • it is irrigated withor harvested from, contaminated water
  • they come into contact with contaminated water during processing

It is important that if a food safety problem has arisen from these then the cause should

be determined so the risk to consumers can be eliminated. Any risk analysis must determine the extent of exposure as well as severity of the hazard.

Food safety risk in factory

Food processing plants generally have a complex arrangement of pipes, valves, conduits, tanks, etc. which are used to transport raw materials, intermediate and finished products and even potable and non-potable water. Since the facility arrangement is complex there could be cross connections and contamination of water within the factory premises causing a food safety risk.All food manufacturers employ various processing steps to ensure food safety. When using water in foods, they must make sure that the processed food is treated in such a way that the pathogens are eliminated. Water that enters the food cycle may be processed further through canning, cooking etc. which will reduce risk from pathogens. If not, then the monitoring programme must be such that it eliminates the contaminants.

Source of water

Food manufacturers must be aware of the source of their water supply, like ground water, river, lake, etc. and if water has been treated and tested regularly. Should the water supply be responsible in some way then corrective action must be taken to ensure food safety. Corrective action could involve poor product processing or water quality and accordingly food processors can formulate a food safety monitoring programme.