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  • Food Safety on Cargo Ships: 5 International Standards and Hygiene Guidelines

    Food safety is based on Resolution of the Collegiate Board (RDC) No. 216/2004 of the Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA), which is a fundamental legislation that establishes detailed guidelines for the operation of food services on Brazilian territory, such as restaurants, cafeterias, and similar establishments. However, this resolution does not directly apply to cargo ships, as they do not fall under the category of land-based food establishments.

    Nevertheless, it is important to note that cargo ships with food preparation and provisioning areas for the crew are subject to international norms and regulations related to hygiene and food safety. These standards are established by organizations such as the International Safety Management (ISM) Code and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Food Code, among others.

    These codes and international regulations define specific requirements to ensure food safety on board ships, addressing aspects such as:

    Hygiene Standards

    Hygiene Standards represent a vital set of guidelines and procedures aimed at ensuring the safety and quality of food at all stages of preparation, from initial handling to serving consumers. These guidelines encompass a variety of practices, including meticulous cleaning and thorough disinfection of food preparation areas, utensils, and equipment.

    By adopting these standards, food industry professionals seek to mitigate the risk of microbial contamination, thus ensuring the integrity and healthiness of food products. This commitment to hygiene not only protects consumers’ health but also strengthens the reputation and trust in the brand or food establishment.

    Therefore, strict adherence to these standards is essential to promote food safety and maintain the highest quality standards in the food industry.

    Temperature Control

    Regulations for the storage and handling of refrigerated and frozen foods aim to ensure that these products are kept at safe temperature conditions to prevent the proliferation of harmful microorganisms. To comply with these regulations, food establishments must have adequate refrigeration and freezing equipment, as well as clear standard operating procedures (SOPs) for food storage and handling.

    Refrigerated foods should be kept at temperatures below 5°C (41°F), while frozen foods should be stored at temperatures below -18°C (0°F) to ensure their safety and quality. Additionally, it is essential to regularly monitor the temperatures of refrigeration and freezing equipment, using calibrated thermometers and maintaining accurate records, to ensure they are functioning correctly.

    Foods should be rapidly cooled after preparation and immediately stored at the appropriate temperatures to prevent bacterial growth.

    Pest Control

    Pest Control is a fundamental part of food safety practices, aiming to prevent the infestation of pests such as rodents, insects, and other unwanted organisms, which pose a serious risk of food contamination. These pests can compromise not only the integrity of food products but also represent a threat to consumers’ health.

    To mitigate this risk, various preventive and corrective measures are adopted. Firstly, it is essential to maintain a clean and hygienic environment, eliminating food, water, and shelter sources that may attract and sustain pests. This includes properly sealing food containers, correctly storing unused products, and regularly removing waste.

    Additionally, physical barriers and exclusion measures are implemented to prevent pests from entering the facilities, such as screens on windows, well-fitted doors, and sealing cracks and crevices. The use of traps and baits is also common to capture and control pests already present in the environment.

    Crew Training

    The requirement for food handling crew training is essential to ensure safe hygiene and food safety practices. Training programs address various aspects, including personal hygiene, safe food handling, and compliance with regulations. Well-trained staff are essential to protect consumers’ health and the establishment’s reputation.

    Documentation and Records

    Maintaining detailed records of food storage, preparation, and distribution on cargo ships is essential to ensure the traceability and quality control of food products provided to the crew. These records serve as an essential tool for tracking the origin and handling of each food item, from receipt to distribution to consumers on board.

    Detailed records include information on the date and time of receipt of each food item, its storage conditions, such as temperature and humidity, and any relevant observations, such as damage or contamination. During the preparation process, records also document the specific steps followed, the ingredients used, and cooking temperatures, if applicable.

    Although RDC 216/2004, a Brazilian regulation, does not directly apply to cargo ships, international food safety standards, such as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Code of Recommended Practices-General Principles of Food Hygiene and the Codex Alimentarius, must be strictly followed.

    These standards establish comprehensive guidelines for food safety, including requirements for food storage, preparation, and distribution in maritime environments.

    Food safety

    In summary, although Resolution of the Collegiate Board (RDC) No. 216/2004 of the Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) does not directly apply to cargo ships, it is imperative that such vessels strictly adhere to international hygiene and food safety standards to ensure the health and well-being of the crew on board, as well as to comply with expectations of quality and food safety in maritime environments.

    These regulations cover a range of crucial areas for food safety on board, from detailed hygiene standards to precise temperature control, effective pest management, and the requirement for adequate crew training. Additionally, maintaining detailed records of food storage, preparation, and distribution is essential to ensure traceability and quality control of the provided food.