There is no doubt that preventing cross-contamination in food processing plants is a formidable challenge. Food processors face an enemy they can’t see and one that can cause big problems to production and profitability. However, it is the responsibility of the plant manager to firstly ensure that all staff both understand and comply with the contamination policy of the organisation.
Here we take a look at five factors that are essential to consider when thinking about Cross-Contamination in the Food Industry:
It’s all about training, and elements of that training needs to include disease control, hygiene and ongoing process and regulatory training, but more importantly a culture of excellence and best practice needs to pervade through the whole organisation. We all know that one of the main means of cross-contamination is from the individual who handles the food. For instance, food can become contaminated if a worker who was dealing with raw chicken earlier didn’t wash their hands prior to handling ready-to-eat products or if they forgot to put gloves on.
Food Processing and Storage Operations
Looking beyond the people, all food processing and storage operations must be designed to facilitate maintenance and sanitation operations. For example, focus should be given to exterior grounds, facility construction and, particularly, floors and doorways.
Wet floors are most conducive to pathogen growth, but even dry floors can be a source of cross-contamination. Floors must not only be cleaned thoroughly and often; they also need to be maintained to avoid the formation of “niches,” such as cracks, where pathogens can hide from cleaners and multiply.
Doorways play a critical role in contamination control and where possible it’s good practice to form airlock entries into facilities, to prevent contaminants entering critical hygiene areas. In addition, you should make sure that doors are always kept closed to reduce the chance of cross contamination and to assist the cooling units in maintaining temperature. In addition, ensure that doors are properly maintained and that they fit properly.
Other Plant Maintenance
In terms of other plant maintenance, checking equipment regularly and cleaning properly are important, as are having smart sanitation procedures and controls. If this is done right establishing procedures and controls will increase efficiency, lower costs and, most importantly, protect consumers.
In fact, as the saying goes, “cleanliness is next to godliness”. E. coli and other harmful bacteria live in and on the human body, especially around the face and on hands and clothing. Raw materials, such as poultry, meat, milk and agricultural products that are handled by plant workers, often contain Campylobacter, Salmonella and other pathogens. This potent combination reinforces the vital role good personal hygiene plays in the production of safe food products. It is no surprise that sanitation experts continually voice the importance of good personal hygiene in the workplace, with proper hand washing and clean clothing seen as the key to this strategy.
Another key factor to consider of course is pest control. Pests like rodents, insects, birds and other types of animals must be prevented from entering any area of the food plant and so it is important to create an effective strategy to prevent problems arising from pests from developing. Prevention programs to prevent pest entry might include trapping, elimination of harbourage locations, using pesticides, and monitoring pest control devices.
Cross-Contamination Prevention Plan
It is also worth drawing up a cross-contamination prevention plan to consider how the process moves across the company. For example, from the receipt of the raw material, to the finished product, the process should be evaluated to understand how ingredients come into the facility and how they will be processed. This will help to determine the crossing of product and probable points of cross-contamination.
Finally, monitor everything. Monitoring a sanitation program helps food processors learn from past history and when adverse events, such as a damaged roof or a pathogen outbreak, occur, response will be faster and more effective.
For more information and advice on how HVDS can help you with your food factory hygiene contact us at 01785 256976 or firstname.lastname@example.org.