Water quality and waterborne disease risk impacts directly on food safety. Afrcian producers and retailers have to intensify health and environmental risk management measures to safeguard workers and consumers.
Food and beverage hygiene and sanitation specialist, Ecowize MD Gareth Lloyd-Jones, says overloaded sewage works, acid mine drainage and poor water catchment management are growing concerns for South African and African food safety.
“The onus is now on food producers and retailers, who have a legal obligation to manage all risks associated with food production, including exposure to potentially contaminated water.”
Many diseases like e-coli, listeria and cholera are waterborne. Contaminated water may enter food as an ingredient, or in cleaning and handling procedures.
“Local producers should implement additional water quality monitoring measures. If state infrastructure problems persist, producers may have to invest in purification measures, processes and equipment.
Reduce, re-use, recycle
“The best solution is to treat and re-use water in a production process.” Efficient water usage reduces the burden on natural resources and infrastructure.
Lloyd-Jones urges industrial water users to reduce and re-use water, or harvest water from other sources like rain and boreholes.
Water safety in the usual ‘farm to fork’ process involves several critical stages, that could be managed in accordance with the ISO 22000 standard on food and beverage processes systems, of by the hazards and critical control points (HACCP) protocol.
Crop and stock infection
Microbial contamination in water could cause pathogenic disease in crops and livestock entering processing plants. Ingredients are irrigated, washed and processed with water.
Chemical contamination in water is a prevalent risk that could damage or erode equipment, pose high toxicology risk to crops and livestock, and a skewed water pH. Producers should monitor water source pH, since that affects the amount of chemicals added to plant washing solutions. If pH levels are incorrect, treatments like chlorine solutions can become less effective, posing contamination risks, and costly additional processes.
End use risks
Consumers, like restaurants and households, could not depend on national or local authorities to inspect and test food and beverage suppliers. Their own end use handling of food and beverages could be impacted by contaminated water.
“There is a lower than required level of surveillance and monitoring by municipalities”, explains Lloyd-Jones. “Most retail outlets follow some in-house food safety disciplines, but there is too little focus on water quality, in respect of rising and evolving waterborne diseases.”
PHOTO; Food and beverage hygiene and sanitation specialist, and Ecowize MD, Gareth Lloyd-Jones.