There were over 700 food recalls in 2016. Poor sanitation and production methods at food processing facilities can spread salmonella, E. coli, and listeria, cause many outbreaks, and lead to the recall of millions of pounds of food.
Regulators and consumers expect food processors and handlers to follow food safety standards to minimize the risk of contamination and illnesses. One mistake in food processing can cause hundreds of illnesses, deaths, lawsuits, and facilities closures. Prevention is the best weapon against food contamination. Here are six crucial safety practices for food processing.
1. Facilities and Equipment Design
Processing facilities should be designed to minimize contamination and pest host spots. Safe, durable materials should be used.
The layout of machinery can also affect food safety. It should make it easy to clean and maintain equipment and prevent contamination. Food can build up in hard to reach places. Proper design can prevent this. The principles of sanitary design include cleanable, compatible, accessible, hygienic design, no niches, and hermetically sealed hollow spaces.
Microorganisms can cause food poisoning. Everything that comes into contact with the food must be cleaned regularly: food handlers, equipment, tools, and utensils. A program for regular cleaning and disinfection of everything in a facility is necessary to prevent outbreaks.
Employees must practice proper personal hygiene habits, such as not working when ill, frequent hand washing, reducing contact with food, covering hair and cuts and sores, and protective clothing.
A diligent cleaning regimen is also necessary for pest control.
3. Pest Control
Pests are a big problem with food safety. Some insects can spread food-borne illnesses. Rodents are another contamination problem and they can also damage machinery. Monitoring and detection of different pests helps to reduce the risk of pests getting into food at any stage of production.
4. Proper Waste Handling
Poor waste management can exacerbate a pest problem. Improperly stored waste attracts pests and increases the likelihood of contamination. Proper waste receptacle design and vigilant waste disposal are crucial for a food safety program.
5. Safe Storage and Handling
Food contamination and spoilage can be caused by improper food handling and storage. Certain foods must be stored in certain ways to avoid contamination. Cross contamination, temperature, and humidity are just a few things handlers must be aware of to reduce the risk of tainted food.
6. Employee Training
An employer can design and implement the best facilities and safety procedures based on the best available information, but if the people actually handling the food aren’t regularly trained, then it’s all for nothing. Frequent staff training is required to ensure the safety procedures are consistently followed and new hazards addressed. Employees should be thoroughly trained when first hired, periodically thereafter, whenever there’s a new hazard, and when employees take on new duties.
Another practice that should be implemented after the above are in place is review and inspection. A site and staff inspection program should be employed to ensure all of the safety practices are being followed.
With the heavy responsibility of ensuring food safety as well as efficiently operating a food processing facility, safety training can get lost in the shuffle. Everyone is busy and few have time to sit in a classroom. An easy solution is online training from Learn2Serve. Browse the array of courses and find the one that’s right for you.