Food distribution pertains to the movement of food supplies from large-scale manufacturers to retailers or customer-facing businesses.
This process involves numerous employees responsible for ensuring and monitoring the quality of the products to be distributed. Distributors also have a hand in regulating and monitoring the cost, packaging, branding, and advertising of food items.
Another important role distributors have is transporting and storing products as they travel from producers to food service operators.
Representatives of food and beverage companies in the UAE also say that distributors frequently act as brokers between manufacturers or producers and customer-facing businesses to help build and strengthen relationships.
Because of this, manufacturers can focus on their strengths rather than on maintaining and acquiring customers. On the other hand, retailers won’t have to worry about sustaining a good relationship with their suppliers.
Some food distributors also act as middlemen between manufacturers and consumers, enabling consumers to purchase products directly from the producers themselves.
Many distributors also market and sell the products they carry to food service operators. Restaurant, café, and other food business owners usually benefit more from purchasing the supplies they need directly from a supplier.
Top Food Distribution Safety Practices to Follow
Although the primary goal of food distribution companies is guaranteeing customers get their orders from manufacturers in a timely manner, they also have the important job of ensuring these products stay safe and wholesome, suitable for human consumption.
Below are the four best safety practices food distribution companies have to follow at all times to maintain the quality and safety of the products they transport, store, and deliver:
1. Following proper food handling techniques
Following the best practices for handling all types of processed and unprocessed food items plays a significant role in maintaining their quality and freshness.
Key practices to prioritise include:
- Maintaining the right temperature in the warehouse, vehicle, and other storage areas.
Most whole foods are temperature sensitive. Whether these products are on the road or inside a warehouse, their storage area should maintain the temperature that can sustain their quality and freshness.
Providing clear instructions to all persons involved in the distribution process that they must maintain the recommended temperature for the food products at all times is a crucial step for this safety practice.
- Segregating raw and fresh foods from processed products.
Cross-contamination occurs when raw or whole foods are stored with or near finished products. When bacteria and other biological hazards spread from one item to another and cause spoilage, all items will be deemed unsuitable and unsafe for use.
Making it a rule that in no instance should any raw product be stored with or near finished foodstuff is a crucial part of preventing cross-contamination of food supplies.
- Identifying, segregating, and disposing of damaged, expired, and on-hold items.
All involved employees should know how to identify products that are already substandard, damaged, and no longer usable. Moreover, they should be trained in the proper practices for segregating and disposing of them.
It will help if distributors have in place a system for conducting inventory and quality checks and identifying and tracking products to prevent damaged, rejected, expired, and on-hold food items from being distributed.
- Training employees to physically handle food products correctly.
Many food items are so sensitive that they have to be handled with utmost care. Examples of these are bottled beverages, spices, and condiments, and other products that come in easily damaged containers.
Employees should be trained to carry and handle boxes carefully and never throw or knock them around, even if they are in a hurry.
2. Implementing standardised cleaning and sanitation methods
Keeping all areas where food products will be stored clean and sanitised during the distribution process is also crucial for preserving their quality.
Important steps to prioritise include:
- Establishing a routine cleaning schedule for all storage areas, warehouses, and vehicles.
- Using suitable cleaning products, including sanitisers, for the storage facility that won’t affect the food items, which is called chemical contamination.
- Using the right concentrations and amounts of the cleaning products and at the right frequency for optimum sanitation.
- Storing all cleaning chemicals far from food products and packaging to be used for them.
- Training involved employees in the safe preparation and handling of cleaning supplies.
3. Establishing a pest management program
Pests, both the crawling and flying kinds, also pose various food safety hazards, particularly biologically ones such as Salmonella and E. coli.
Food distribution companies need to have the right practices to prevent or, at the very least, minimise these risks.
Crucial strategies to implement should include:
- Eliminating all possible areas where rodents and insects live to prevent them from damaging containers and food products.
- Preventing birds that can spread Salmonella when they roost and fly over the distribution area.
- Using the proper pest control chemicals and techniques that won’t compromise the quality of stored food products.
- Including vehicles in routine pest inspections and management.
- Investing in annual or semi-annual professional pest control services or immediately in emergency cases.
4. Training personnel in good cleaning and personal hygiene practices
All employees involved in distributing food products also have to practice the right cleaning and personal hygiene methods.
Aside from teaching workers how to clean and sanitise storage facilities, warehouses, and vehicles, they should also be trained in:
- Following key personal hygiene habits.
Employees should know the proper handwashing techniques and apply them whenever they are inside the facilities and before and after handling food products.
Workers with germy hands can cause the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other biological hazards to food products. Dirt, dust, and chemical residues from the palms and fingers of employees can also affect the quality of stored supplies.
To prevent cross-contamination and other biological issues in the distribution process, instil in employees the importance of following the proper handwashing habits.
Additionally, make sure employees are discouraged from working if they are ill or suspect they are sick.
- Wearing proper attire inside the warehouse.
Employees going and working inside the warehouse should always wear clean clothes and footwear and use hairnets when necessary.
Consider prohibiting employees from wearing jewellery and other accessories that may cause chemical cross-contamination.
The topfood companies in Dubai say these personal hygiene habits can help keep the storage environment clean and reduce the potential health hazards inside the warehouse.
- Providing training in work area cleaning and sanitation processes.
Helping employees understand the significance of minimising food safety hazards also involves instilling in them the importance of keeping a clean workplace.
There will be instances wherein customers will visit the warehouse or distribution facility. When they see how dirty and untidy those are, visitors will be easily turned off.
The vehicles used for transporting food products should be cleaned and disinfected regularly as well.
By prioritising these practices, the food distribution process can proceed unhampered and problem-free. Customers will also receive their food supplies ready and safe for their own use.