The recent closure of a sandwich business, due to listeria, highlights for us all the added risks chilled food operations all have to contend with these days, over and above the complexities of running any business.
Like other bacteria, listeria is not something you can see or touch, yet the potential consequences to health, your business and the industry should be a concern for us all. Chilled foods are, by their nature, high-risk and the manual processes involved in putting them together just add to this... and then we add shelf-life.
The message to all of us from this particular incident is that you can never do enough when it comes to both cleanliness and the sourcing of ingredients from safe and reputable suppliers. The particular business involved in this case was considered by most people who audited it, including the health service, to be a clean operation. There are many worse out there.
More worrying still is the fact that, having closed voluntarily, there seems to be no clarity among the various authorities about what a business has to do before it can re-open. The correspondence between parties suggests that no protocol has ever been set out for reopening a factory after such an incident, particularly if it closes voluntarily. It seems that if you do the right thing, you can find yourself in deeper trouble than if you wait to get caught. What nonsense!
While the British Sandwich Association is seeking some answers from all those involved, this incident just underlines the increasing complexities now involved in running a sandwich business.