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Common and Costly Mistakes Food Processors Are Making

In the highly regulated food processing industry, poor sanitation is a problem affecting public safety, but it can also represent significant costs for those hit with a pathogen outbreak. Improperly cleaned sanitary process equipment is just one potential fault point; there are several common management mistakes that food processors make, which can lead to major problems.

Even though poor sanitation can result in foodborne illness or even the loss of a life, some establishments fail to take sanitation seriously. While a public outbreak of foodborne illness is a newsworthy event, poor sanitary management practices can hit closer to home when employees suffer work-related illness. So let's examine the most common – and costly – sanitary food processing mistakes that can result in significant problems.


Four Primary Problem Areas

Worker Hygiene – poor sanitation conditions can occur before employees enter the production floor. Workers that arrive without bathing and attending to personal hygiene put the entire production cycle at risk. But safe food handling goes beyond arriving in a clean state. While on site, workers should be reminded to check for cuts, remove jewelry, and control hair with sanitary caps, netting or pulling back long hair. Poor hygiene can infect food products, processing equipment, and common employee areas, and could lead to failed inspections and costly fines.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – while food production safety training is typically conducted on a routine basis, employees may neglect to wear gloves, caps, goggles or other PPE between training sessions. Worker injuries as a result of neglecting PPE requirements can impact the production floor and the company as a whole. Hazards from improper or missing PPE can lead to expensive workers' compensation claims and regulatory fines, and put food products at risk.

Sanitation Product Selection and Labeling – cleaning products must follow FDA regulations for application and strength, so sanitation teams must choose appropriate cleaning agents and dispense them at proper dilution levels. If solvents don't exhibit the right grease-cutting abilities or hard water tolerance, for example, your food production surface areas can retain dangerous bacteria. Once a sanitation product has been selected, proper labeling must be done – with appropriate hazard warnings – to ensure that its label includes product name, manufacturer, dilution strength, and specific surfaces for use, so it can be traced back to MSDS sheets.

Employee Training – without training employees on personal hygiene, safe food handling practices, sanitation processes, PPE, and other food safety concerns, your food processing plant can be penalized, fined or, worse, sued by unhappy customers. Food safety training should include the fundamentals of sanitation, food microbiology, HazCom standards, labeling, and chemical handling in order to comply with government agency regulations.


Five Key Steps to Better Food Process Sanitation

  1. Create a sanitation audit team. This team will be responsible for examining workstations, sanitary process equipment, and other vulnerable areas. The team should conduct frequent audits before and after production runs.
  2. Encourage employees to take ownership of food handling and cleanup practices. Provide incentives for clean reviews and consequences for poor reviews. You can do this on an individual and work team basis.
  3. Acknowledge teams with routinely clean reviews publicly. Make announcements during shifts, post top team results in common employee areas (such as a cafeteria), and share the practices that "winning" teams deploy.
  4. Develop best practices by encouraging employee input. Hold work team meetings to brainstorm ways that the entire organization can improve sanitation before, during, and after a shift.
  5. Support sanitation team members by enabling consistent training programs and encouraging team members to explore the latest sanitary food processing technology and best practices.

Follow these five steps to prevent your facility from making common and costly mistakes. Need an extra set of hands to help audit your processing facility and make sure you’re meeting the best standards? We can help! Contact us to learn more about our audit services. 

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