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The devil is in the details, and not just on All Hallows Eve

The right equipment for the job is crucial for avoiding scary situations in food facilities

Opinion

The food manufacturing industry is subject to regulations and scrutiny that few other industries are: social pressure is ever-present, as news of infection or disease outbreak caused by food-borne pathogens strikes an uneasy nerve in consumers. Manufacturers can be subject to tremendous backlash if they do not take the proper steps to ensure their manufacturing facilities are appropriately equipped to prevent and mitigate the risk of food contamination.

Adding to this social pressure is increasing regulatory scrutiny, as the Food and Drug Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have all been ramping up pressure in recent years to ensure food producers are up to code.

New regulations include the FDA’s Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) Preventive Controls for Human Food rule which requires manufacturers to have plans in place to prevent, oversee, and mitigate any potential contamination hazards. As the name implies, the FSMA is about prevention, which involves having adequately trained employees as well as the appropriate facilities and equipment.

Manufacturers should realize that training depends to a large extent on equipment- the right equipment can minimize the potential of human error, facilitate training, and generally prevent the spread of communicable diseases and infections.

Businesses who wish to be at the forefront of food safety culture must realize that alongside updated training methods, investing into the right equipment can minimize both equipment and training costs in the long run.

A common way for sanitation personnel to clean equipment, floors, walls, and drains is to employ a wet cleaning method involving pressurized hot water, a proven method for preventing the growth of harmful pathogens.

However, facilities that employ this method can see their equipment damaged if they fail to take the right steps; water infiltration leads to broken equipment, and consequently the spread of bacteria. Too often manufacturers — particularly small businesses — resort to improvised and inadequate water proofing systems, from garbage bags to tape and plastic wrap, which are inevitably more dangerous and costly in the long run.

Water resistant, HACCP International-certified equipment that is purpose-built for food-processing environments can greatly increase the odds of overcoming food safety challenges. Such equipment, including Tork’s Performance Washdown Dispenser, works well in settings where apparatuses don’t need to be covered up or removed in order to spray down a facility.

Training a worker to simply hose down a room is a lot easier than teaching them how to waterproof machines themselves or remove them altogether; the right equipment can strongly complement training programs in a cost-effective, labor-saving way, allowing manufacturers to streamline and simplify their training process.

As regulations come into effect, small to medium businesses in particular should be exploring their options as to what equipment will make upholding sanitation standards as effortless as possible.

Donna Schaffner

About the author: Donna F. Schaffner, M.Sc., is the associate director of food safety, quality assurance and training at Rutgers University Food Innovation Center. Her early experiences in the food industry spanned the spectrum from candling eggs to meat cutter and cooking/catering for large events, working as a veterinary technician then a laboratory technician for the UGA Food Science Department. For additional details on her work, please click here.

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