Maintaining Hygiene in a Food Processing Plant – Importance and Solutions

The need to maintain hygienic conditions inside a food processing plant is paramount, but it’s not an easy process. Everything from the processing plant’s setup and equipment to maintenance and quality control measures must be top notch at all times. Up next, we will elaborate more on why it’s so important, as well as how to achieve the highest standards in food processing hygiene.

It’s a Legal Mandate

There are strict federal and state law mandated requirements that every food processing plant in the US is expected to maintain. Failure to do so may result in anything from hefty fines and temporary shutdowns to ruinous lawsuits, license cancellation, and even jailtime for key individuals. You can check out the exact standards, as well as the associated mandates directly on the official FDA website here.

Food Hygiene is Directly Connected to Public Health

Food processing as an industry includes all sectors and subsectors associated with turning agricultural products into cookable, preparable, and consumable food products. Therefore, the food processing industry is both directly and indirectly responsible for the health and wellbeing of almost everyone.

On failing to maintain the necessary hygiene standards, even the smallest food processing plants can end up harming countless people. If the lapse happens at even a single facility owned by a multinational food processing and manufacturing company, that mistake could end up resulting in foodborne outbreaks across the nation, or even on a global scale.

Although it’s impossible to list everything that can go wrong from poor hygiene maintenance inside a multifaceted, large scale food processing plant, the ill effects can still be categorized based on the two major categories of contaminants:

  1. Food poisoning caused by bacterial, viral, or parasitical pathogens.
  2. Food poisoning caused by poisonous chemicals, preservatives, and heavy metals.

Maintaining Hygiene in Food Processing Plants: Identification

To prevent any processed food from becoming infected or contaminated inside the plant, steps must be taken to first identify every known possible way in which their products could remain (contaminants from soil, pesticides, etc.) and/or become (contaminants from exposure and contact) harmful for the consumers. Once they have been identified, steps must be taken to eliminate those possibilities as best as possible.

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Maintaining Hygiene in Food Processing Plants: Implementation

There are matters of scale and sector to consider, so variability in possible preventative steps is unavoidable. Nevertheless, the following steps can be implemented to improve hygiene inside any food processing plant.

Cleanability – All machinery inside the plant must be chosen in such a way that they remain easily and thoroughly cleanable. For example, if the plant is using a rotary pump lobe to reduce food degradation, the pump lobe should come equipped with both pressure cleaning (CIP) and steam cleaning (SIP) systems. The no contact cleanability ensures maximum sanitation standards.

Waste Management – There must be strict guidelines regarding how to carry out waste collection and management. There should be separate deposition and collection bins for the different types of waste, as well as an assigned schedule regarding how often they are to be cleaned and how.

Accessibility – All sections of the plant must be designed in such a way as to avoid creating inaccessible pockets. Special attention must be paid to this aspect while installing the machinery, so that they do not end up blocking accessibility to the cleanup crew.

Pockets of inaccessible space are often responsible for creating unsanitary pockets of dirt, dust, grime, pests, germs, etc., inside a food processing plant. In addition, the machinery itself must also remain accessible for regular maintenance, checkups, and repairs as necessary.

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