Tag Archives: color-coding

Food Safety Culture – Color-Coding for the Color-Blind

Food production facilities often rely on color coding their tools and workstations to create zones of control. These zones can designate areas where allergens are used to prevent cross-contact incidents, separate raw – from finished products to avoid cross-contamination issues, or visually represent different shifts to account for concerning potential direct-contamination trends. Color coding is generally easy to understand and provides a universal language for people of all levels of literacy -and – language background.

However, for 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women, some colors may be difficult or impossible to discern. Color-blindness comes in many forms, but the most common type is partial color-blindness, where the person can’t distinguish between a couple or a few colors. Of those, the two forms of red/green color-blindness: deuteranopia (reduced sensitivity to red light) and protanopia (reduced sensitivity to green light), occur most frequently. That doesn’t imply color coding as a zoning solution doesn’t work for color-blind employees, but it does mean that colors should be chosen carefully to avoid the most common color-blindness pairings.

Tips for Creating a Color-Blind Friendly Workplace

There are several ways to cater to color-blind employees. These ideas won’t universally work for every single color-blind person, so be sure to include any members of your team who have limited color vision in your discussions:

  1. Avoid the most commonly confused pairings

Some colors are more commonly confused than others. Generally, warm and cool colors tend to pair better than just cool colors alone. There are exceptions, of course, including the most common form of color-blindness, green/red. Other often-confused color pairings include:

  • Blue/Purple
  • Green/Blue
  • Blue/Gray
  • Green/Gray
  • Green/Black

Some shades that tend to work especially well together are blue and red; yellow and purple; and orange and reddish purple. See the chart below, taken from Martin Krzywinski Science Art, for an easy 7-color palette that those with protanopia and deuteranopia (two forms of the most common red/green color-blindness) can easily distinguish among.

  1. Use Different Shades

A neon green and a deep red will never be confused for each other, and neither will a pastel blue and a royal purple. If the shades between even the most frequently confused colors are different enough, they can be a great choice.

To visualize which shades work, take a picture of the different tool color options with your smartphone and use a filter to convert the photo to black and white. Ideally, you’ll have a few sample tools to work with, or you can use photos from the tool supplier’s website. Once your photo is in black and white, see if you can tell a difference in the shades between the colors you’ve chosen.

  1. Set up tool stations

Tool stations give workers an easy way to find the right tools they need for a specific job. For example, if you use yellow tools for food that contains wheat, you can set up a shadow board just for those tools. Color-blind employees can be certain the tools they’re grabbing off the shadow board is the correct one for the job as long as other employees regularly check the tool station for proper usage.

  1. Use black for floors and drains

Don’t feel like you have to pick black and white for the ultimate contrast—many color combinations work just fine for color-blind employees and offer additional benefits, such as using red for raw meat, white for milk, or yellow for wheat. However, certain cleaning tools, like drain brushes, are best off being black or being labeled. Remco has a set of drain cleaning tools that are labeled for easy separation, but many customers choose to simply use black for heavy-duty cleaning. If harsh chemicals are being used, and the tool will clean non-food-contact surfaces like the floor, it’s best to have a tool that is clearly designated and easily identifiable. Color-coding is a valuable asset in food processing environments, and well worth the extra step of making sure it works for every employee. With a- few safeguards such as tool stations and some precautions in choosing colors, zoning with color-coding can enhance food safety and minimize the cross-contact incidents, cross-contamination and direct-contamination, and hence prevent foodborne illness and potential outbreaks To learn more about the benefits of color-coding and to determine if it’s right for your facility, read Making the Decision to Apply Color-Coding.

5S in the Food Industry

Sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain. These five principles comprise the 5S lean manufacturing method that originated in Japan. While 5S can help any organization, the principles contained in the alliterative method should especially appeal to those in food processing for its ability to promote food safety through a clean, safe, and organized workplace.

5S principles are based on the idea that a well organized and clean workplace increases employee satisfaction, promotes worker safety, and decreases product waste. 5S relies on everything having its own place that’s easily identifiable. Like color-coding, 5S uses the idea of a “visual factory” that lets workers know at a glance where tools are and where they should be put back after they’re cleaning.

Sort

For the sort step, work areas should be cleared of things that aren’t needed daily. Discard junk that’s broken or simply not needed, along with broken tools. Items that are needed, but only on an infrequent basis, should be moved to storage. If an item is misplaced or stored illogically, it should be moved to a more convenient location.

Sorting can help minimize chances of cross-contamination and cross-contact by sorting food-contact and non-food-contact items apart from each other.

Set in Order

To set a processing plant in order, it’s important to remember the goal is to increase efficiency in the work environment. This makes it easy for the employee to find the right tool at the right time, thus minimizing chances cross-contamination between raw and finished product. Items should be organized logically, with like items together. Color-coding can be introduced to keep food-contact and non-food-contact items in separate zones and to keep allergens apart where needed. Shadow boards can be used to give every tool a place.

Shine

Tools, machinery and the work area itself should be cleaned as a part of the shine step, which should be repeated as frequently as necessary. Regular cleaning prevents biofilm build-up and increases the facility’s overall hygiene. Factories that deal with particularly sensitive material such as meat or ready-to-eat foods should consider using hygienically designed tools, which are easier to thoroughly clean and sanitize, than standard tools.

Standardize

To standardize, you must first observe the natural flow of workers’ movements. Before writing procedures, watch employees to see where they have consistent methods that work. Take notes on what works, and problem-solve with workers to find solutions to inconsistent and inefficient steps in the process. When you write Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs, consult with employees again on how the entire process should work. The process should feel natural to workers and not be forced. Come up with a training program for new employees, and refresh current employees on the procedures at least yearly, or when there are changes.

Sustain

There are generally three different methods to sustain 5s improvements:

  1. Daily checks

Supervisors should be on the floor and check to make sure procedures are followed daily and to help employees with any process problems.

  1. Periodic checks

Using a 5S checklist, supervisors can perform quarterly or monthly checks to make sure 5S is being followed. They can find and address any problems in these checks.

  1. Change-only checks

Supervisors can check to make sure 5S is being followed only when a process change is being implemented. They can revisit SOPs to integrate the change and to make sure it’s working well for employees.

 

Implementing 5S can help food processing facilities increase hygiene in their organization, as well as increasing their efficiency.

New-Employee-Proof Your Safety Plan with Color Coding

In the food processing industry, like many factory-based jobs, employee turnover is high. When you’re seeing a turnover rate of about 35% yearly, how do you train your staff to follow important safety plans? When you’re in an industry where a simple mistake by a single employee could result in thousands of people getting sick, how do you ensure HACCP compliance?

For many, color coding has become the easiest answer. Color coding offers a simple solution to an otherwise complex problem. Even the newest employee can quickly learn that red products belong with the raw product, and white goes with the finished.

Here are our top 5 tips to using color coding to ensure all of your employees follow CGMPs.

  1. Set up cleaning stations

Cleaning stations serve as a visual reminder that everything has its place. Put a sign over a station filled with blue tools to remind everyone that those tools are used to clean floors in the packing area, and another sign over a pink wall bracket to tell employees that those tools are used in receiving. Cleaning stations also remind employees to hang tools back up once they’ve been cleaned.

  1. Separate allergen control zones

Training new employees on how and why to respect allergen control zones is difficult. Popular culture has made everyone aware of the danger of peanuts, but many people don’t respect the potential harm trace residues of milk ending up in the wrong product can do. Even if your individual employee doesn’t understand why blue tools are only to be used in a certain area, they can at least quickly understand that it’s the way the factory operates. If the new employee still doesn’t respect the separation, they can be quickly corrected, since it will be immediately obvious they’re using a tool outside its zone.

  1. Back up your plan with pictures

It’s riskily idealistic to think every employee who walks through your door will know how to read in English, or know how to read at all. Photos of what to use each tool with will back up your written signs and make them easy to understand for all of your employees, no matter what their background or education level is. Use easy photos like a picture of peanuts with a big red X over them for your peanut-free tools, or a photo of a purple scoop next to wheat grains so employees know what those tools should (and shouldn’t) touch.

  1. Don’t use commonly color-blind colors

When you choose colors, be aware that some are more easily confused than others. Of people with color-blindness, about 99% have trouble distinguishing between red and green. Try not to use these colors in the same color coding plan. Also, be aware of the fact that about one in 12 men are colorblind, and one in 200 women. Choose shades that are contrasting, like white and red, and avoid putting similar shades near each other, like brown and orange or blue and purple.

  1. Use color-coding to spot training issues

Is someone using the brush meant for a different shift or a different area of the facility? It’s time for a small, informal retraining conversation with a floor manager. These easy discussions can essentially boil down to telling the employee the color they should be using for their purpose. Quick one-on-one sessions with a manager will reinforce these guidelines, and with very little time or effort wasted. Floor managers should have color-coded zones memorized so they can make the most of their time on the floor and correct problems where they see them.

 

Food safety is everyone’s job in the plant, but training comes down to managers and owners. Creating an environment where safety comes first starts with using the right tools for the job, and color coding can help with that.

Selling Your Organization on Color Coding

Color coding benefits everyone from the company CEO to individual workers. Selling your organization on color coding is as easy as learning what appeals to each position, and presenting the benefits. Whether you’re a plant safety officer or a salesperson at a distribution company, here’s what you need to know to gain organizational buy-in.

Plant Owners – Minimize risk and product waste

Plant owners carry the responsibility of running a safe processing facility on their shoulders. Color coding can increase the safety of day-to-day operations, somewhat lessening that burden. In the event of charges being carried against a facility, owners/operators must provide a due diligence defense if their product causes illness or death. Color coding is a proven, standard method to prevent cross contamination and is widely accepted by standards organizations. BRC v.7 (2015) requires BRC registered companies to use either color coding or tools that are “visually distinctive” in high-risk areas. Color coding is a significant step towards being able to show auditors that a company is doing their part to minimize risk and promote food safety.
If color coding is helpful in minimizing the chances of cross contamination, it’s essential to minimizing the impact of a foreign body recall due to a piece of a tool breaking off and contaminating the product. If zoning is done by areas, or even shifts, the color of the chipped tool or plastic glove can pinpoint where (and possibly when) the contamination happened, which results in less product needing to be pulled off of shelves.

Middle Management – Simplify training and pinpoint issues

Color coded tool stations can significantly reduce the amount of time that must be spent training each employee. Instead of a complicated system where certain tools are only left certain places, the stations are immediately obvious to even the newest employees. Food processing facilities typically see a high amount of turnover, making brevity in training time even more valuable. Simplify the entire process by having total color tools for different purposes.

Tool stations also promote a culture of responsibility since it’s easy to see if someone didn’t bother to put a tool back in the right place. Having a place for each tool, and having each tool be zoned keeps the factory running smoothly and safely. If a tool is missing, finding it is as simple as asking the shift workers it’s color coded to. Retraining is also easier if it’s immediately apparent when an employee is using the wrong tool for a job.

Employees – Uncomplicate HACCP regulations

Training represents time and money to company executives. To employees, it’s time they’re not working toward production goals. Most workers appreciate a streamlined process that doesn’t require them to remember which station they went to for a tool. Color coded stations also means brooms aren’t propped against walls and buckets aren’t sitting in random places, all waiting to trip an employee who’s not paying enough attention.

Investing in a fully color coded system shows a commitment to food safety that won’t go unnoticed by employees. The shift of a company culture to one that deeply cares about the safety of its products will help employees feel good about their work, which, in turn, can make them better workers.

Getting organizational buy-in is a necessary part of adding color-coding to a company. Without it, the process may not be implemented correctly, if at all. However, once color coding becomes part of the corporate culture, it can streamline operations and training, as well as reduce risk.

Benefits of Corporate Standardization

Corporate standardization is an effective tool for streamlining sanitation programs across multiple production facilities. Over the past several months, Remco has been working with several large food manufactures to implement standardization programs. Throughout the process, Remco and end users identified a number of benefits to the program. The biggest benefit… simplified processes.

Hygiene programs tend to work best when simplicity is the primary consideration. Here are some of the top simplifiers of Remco’s corporate standardization plans:

  • Procurement

    Standardizing tools means spending less of your valuable time searching for compliant products when adding a new tool or replacing existing tools. Standardizing with a single supplier means managing fewer P.Os. and SKUs in the procurement process.

  • Audits (internal/external)

    Internal and external auditors will see one consistent process with understandable documentation for across multiple locations.

  • Best Practices

    Consolidate knowledge across multiple facilities, building collaboration and improving quality.

  • Training Cost Savings

    Enables a corporate-wide training department while limiting the time and money spent developing ad hoc programs at individual locations

  • Employee Mobility

    Move labor force between facilities without jeopardizing the understanding of your food safety program

In addition to simplifying processes, corporate standardization can benefit end users in several additional areas. Remco assist in equipment selection, visual management, tool documentation, and program implementation.

Equipment selection can be a challenging part of the standardization process. There are multiple suppliers selling many tools of varying quality. But, if you are implementing a color-coding plan, HACCP compliance requires more than simply having brushes and tools of the same color. We take into consideration requirements that tools be food safe, hygienically designed and purpose built.

Visual management is another area where we have been able to help end-users. Color-coding programs, proper signage, and appropriate labeling are all issues we consider.

One of the most important aspects a corporate standardization program is the documentation supporting tool compliance with the FDA’s 21 CFR guidance. Remco has documentation ready for every piece of compliant equipment that we supply. We often provide detailed and well-organized sets of documentation to end users.

Finally, when it comes to implementing standardization programs, we have found great success in offering wide-ranging flexibility to end users. We keep a ready stock of items in our warehouse that can be shipped directly to end users. This allows our distributors to quickly fulfill large stocking orders without routing shipments through their shipping centers. In short, this means quicker turnaround times and fewer partial shipments.

If you have questions about corporate standardization, please contact Rob Middendorf
rmiddendorf@remcoproducts.com

Using Color-Coding for Food Safety and Organization

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of consulting with food processors to build and improve color-coding systems in their facilities. Color-coding can be approached in a variety of ways, and works well with a number of related programs. One such program is a lean manufacturing practice called 5S, which I encountered often in a previous position working in the steel industry.

I’m starting to see 5S used more often in food processing. Although I am not an expert in this system developed by the Japanese, I do know that the 5 S’s are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. The aim is to eliminate waste, keep workspaces organized, and develop procedures that are consistently easy to follow. I can see why this set of guidelines is appealing to food processors. An organized processing facility is agreeable with inspection authorities, because it demonstrates that a food safety procedure is defined and in practice.

Color-coding for food safety

Color-coding is also commonly applied in conjunction with written food safety plans and HACCP programs to further enhance food safety. The purpose of HACCP and the CGMP regulations laid out in 21 CFR 110 is to identify and control hazards that could potentially impact the safety of food. Cleaning and food contact tools can potentially transfer hazards like pathogens and allergens throughout the facility, so it may be important to keep certain tools in designated areas. Color-coding supports this objective by clearly identifying where tools belong or what task they are designated to perform.

food safety color coding for controlled areas and tasks

Color-coding best supports food safety efforts when it is applied with simplicity. A best practice to keep in mind is that the way to create the most effective color-coding program is to implement tools in one solid color. Otherwise the program may become diluted and can introduce more confusion for employees.

Organizing tools with color

When food safety is a concern, it should take precedence over organizational efforts when building a color-coding program. A system like 5S is excellent in supporting a food safety program such as HACCP. However, colors should primarily be determined by the food safety program prior to defining organization principles related to 5S.

Fitting all of these programs together can be challenging, but it is possible and most definitely beneficial to food safety efforts. Anytime you need guidance or advice on building or revising a color-coding system in your food facility, you can call on Remco for support.

Remco’s Contribution to Food Safety

Remco has always had a commitment to provide high quality cleaning and material handling tools to the food processing industry. We also believe that we have a responsibility to be knowledgeable at an expert level about food safety regulatory issues. We understand the importance of educating our customers and users of our products on industry regulations and hot topics in the world of food processing. We feel that this is our role in food safety. In honor of September being Food Safety Month, we want to take a little time to talk about what we bring to the food safety “table.”

Food safety is important to protect the health of people

Food safety is important to protect the health of peopleOur objective is to provide high quality, hygienic cleaning and material handling products to food processors. We believe that if you use quality tools and informed strategies, you will get quality results. In addition to the products Remco manufactures, we also are the Exclusive Vikan® Partner in the U.S. Vikan is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of maximum hygiene cleaning tools, and thrives on advancing hygienic cleaning through innovative, quality products.

Vikan has recently released the EDGE line, an improved line of tools specifically designed to increase hygiene. The angles on the new EDGE brush blocks are designed so liquid doesn’t remain on surfaces and invite the growth of microorganisms. This is just one example of how Vikan goes above and beyond what is considered adequate in this industry. Just as it is important to practice good hygiene when handling food, it is important to ensure your cleaning tools are hygienically designed. The ability to effectively clean your cleaning tools is sometimes overlooked, but it is a very important consideration to keep in mind.

One other contribution that Remco brings to the food processing world is our expertise about color-coding. Our goal is to provide food processors with the resources they need to build and maintain successful color-coding programs. Understanding and implementing a color-coding program can sometimes be difficult, and we see it as our responsibility to help everyone make the most out of this valuable food safety method.

The use of color-coding can help reduce the risk of cross-communication by helping to identify critical zones. Reducing the risk of cross-contamination helps to cut down on the potential for recalls. Avoiding recalls is good not only for the bottom line, but for the brand’s public image. Color-coding is a great addition to your HACCP or 5S program, and Remco feels strongly that it has a place in just about every food processing operation.

It would be very easy to rest on our laurels, and simply provide high quality products and color-coding advice, but we don’t stop there. We are committed to providing educational information on important topics in the food processing world, even if those topics are not directly related to our products. The food processing industry is constantly evolving and changing, and we are dedicated to being informed on current issues and providing quality, unbiased information. We aim to serve as an expert resource for important issues affecting the entire food processing industry, and we want to be your partner in improving food safety. 

Our kit can help you determine how color-coding fits into your food processing operation.

Cleaning and Sanitizing Basics for Food Plants

Food processing facilities turn out many products that nourish and feed our human communities; however, they also provide an attractive environment to encourage the growth of potentially harmful microbiological communities. How does your operation address these risks? Blue broom sweeping oats food processing food safetyThrough recent visits to production environments, we know how much effort goes into building sanitation programs that maintain hygienic conditions to protect the health of the intended human consumers. We’re also familiar with the complex codes and regulations, such as FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) and CFR Title 21: Food and Drugs, that exist to address the importance of proper food safety standards in food plants. Now more than ever, it’s important to know where to start when it comes to food safety.

Cleaning and sanitizing certainly go together, but are separate processes that achieve different outcomes. A GMP Training Module from the Cornell Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management offers great definitions of cleaning and sanitizing. Basically, cleaning involves the removal of dirt, residue and debris from the surface of bench tops, equipment, floors, and other surfaces in a food plant, and is performed prior to a sanitizing process. An effective sanitizing program is designed to reduce the number of pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, yeasts and molds on a cleaned surface to acceptable levels through thermal or chemical means.

Cleaning and sanitizing procedures are unique to each food processing facility, and there’s no template. We have come to learn that building design, temperature, humidity, and oxygen content all factor in when considering a sanitation program. Also, the type of equipment present and the type of debris and microbiological risks involved will influence the program and affect the frequency and the type of cleaning and sanitizing procedures necessary. We’ve observed that many successful food processors designate a food safety team to determine the appropriate methods to maintain a hygienic environment for production. We’d like to hear about your sanitation program and experiences you’ve had at your facility.

The object of a cleaning process is to capture and remove food soils, and then wash them away. Thorough cleaning of an area supports the integrity of an effective sanitizing process, and cleaning comes before sanitizing in every program. A soap- or detergent-based cleaning compound helps to emulsify fats and suspend undesired particulates in order to properly remove them from the area being cleaned. Cleaning compounds can neutralize many sanitizing agents, so they also must be completely rinsed before proceeding. This kind of information is typically readily available from your chemical supplier, so it’s a good idea to work with one who can provide you the knowledge and documentation you need relative to chemicals used in your program.

An effective sanitizing procedure is another piece of the puzzle in maintaining a hygienic environment for food processing. Microbiological risks are not controlled through good cleaning procedures alone. Your facility’s food safety team may rely on a variety of methods to ensure that the overall sanitation program achieves the desired reduction of microbial populations.

Cleaning and sanitizing programs are a critical part of every food processing operation. Our experience has taught us that designating one employee to be responsible for the oversight of food safety efforts is a good approach, and supporting that person with a team is even better. We’d like to hear about your sanitation program and the ways your food operation is going above and beyond for food safety. If you’re a new employee at your plant, or you’re just starting to learn about cleaning and sanitizing, download our basic checklist of factors to consider for cleaning and sanitizing. And tell us about your experience with sanitation: what does the process look like at your facility? What methods have you found useful?

10 Things To Know About Color-Coding: Use Complete Implementation

We’ve come to the final post in our series of 10 things to know when starting or revising a color-coding program. You may have already determined that color-coding is the solution for your facility’s food safety needs. If not, take a look at our previous blog posts in this series, and perhaps you will find some things you have not yet considered.

Vikan Hygienic Zone Planner Application for color-codingThe final key to the success of a color-coding program is ensuring that it is completely integrated into the facility. If you have decided to take the plunge and start a color-coding program, or if you think yours needs some tweaking, remember that even a good color-coding program can be problematic if it is not completely applied. Ensuring complete implementation will improve internal adoption.

Doing something halfway is never a good idea, and the same holds true for color-coding. When a color-coding program is implemented in pieces, the chances of success start to deteriorate. On the surface, it might seem easier to slowly bring in color-coding into your facility; but in the long run, it will be better for everyone to roll the program out all at once. Incomplete implementation might seem desirable due to a limited budget, time constraints, or lack of manpower. No matter what the reason, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go all the way. Go big, or go home, as they say. Once it is a part of everyday life at the facility, a color-coding program will be one more asset that you have at your disposal.

If you read our last post, you know that communication plays an integral part of starting a color-coding program. Communication and complete implementation of the color-coding program go hand in hand. By communicating with every employee and team member, complete execution of the color-coding system will be that much more successful.

One issue that might prevent a complete roll-out of a color-coding program is budget concerns. This is a valid issue, and one likely to be shared by many operations. However, because a successfully applied color-coding program can help decrease the chance of cross-contamination, and therefore recalls, it could save money in the long-term. Color-coding a food processing facility is an investment. Just like any investment, there are start-up costs—but the end result will be well worth the money put into it.

In addition to any budget concerns, lack of time and manpower can also be issues standing in the way of introducing a color-coding system into your facility. Every food processing facility, from the smallest to the largest outfits, can benefit from a color-coding program. If time is an issue for you, ask us for help. Remco and Vikan have tools that can help you quickly identify zones and plan the entire program for your facility. We’re here to assist you with the process.

10 Things To Know About Color-Coding: Communication is Key

Essential to an effective color-coding system is a well thought-through communication plan. With the proper communication channels in place, your color-coding system has the best chance for successful adoption—in turn helping you to mitigate the risk of cross-contamination. Communication should start at the top of the company, and go down to each and every employee. When all employees are knowledgeable about the new or changed program, the chances of success are even higher.

HACCP Plan for food safetyThe initial employee training communications must be clear and concise to ensure everyone is on the same page. When starting, or even revising, a color-coding system, employees must understand the reason for the change. Dealing with the threat of cross-contamination is serious, and the need to establish barriers to those threats is critical. The better every employee understands this, the more effective the color-coding system will be when put into practice.

Communicating with employees on how color-coding can help with tool storage is also very important. Establishing procedures for storage can help with tool inventory management. If employees are taught the proper procedures for tool storage right out of the gate, this will go a long way in preventing any loss of tools or time. One particular way to help encourage proper storage is to use custom shadow boards that integrate outlines of the tools so that there is no question where tools belong. Some facilities might use the 5S system to maximize organization. The use of color-coding is a great way to enhance the 5S philosophy. 5S is a Japanese workplace organizational system which uses five phases: sort, set in order, systematic cleaning (or shine), standardize and sustain. Along with using shadow boards, 5S helps encourage employees to properly store tools, maximizing their usable life.

Green color-coded wall bracket with rubber clips for sanitation Red color-coded wall bracket with rubber clips for sanitation Blue color-coded wall bracket with rubber clips for sanitation
 Zone 1   Zone 2   Zone 3

Daily communication to employees is essential to the longevity of the program. Daily communication starts with good signage. Clearly written instructions, bilingual if necessary, are essential to providing employees with instructions on the color-coding program. It may even help to include visual or graphic representations on the signage for each zone; for example, a picture of a peanut on the sign designating the color of tools intended for use with peanuts. In addition to written instructions, daily verbal communication is also vital. Any changes or revisions to the color-coding plan must be clearly communicated to all employees, from the top down.

It is a best practice to include your color-coding program in your official regulatory documentation. Many regulatory bodies require documentation of certain procedures, and color-coding can become a great advantage for your operation. While color-coding is not required for compliance with any food safety regulations, it is looked upon with favor by auditors. Including your color-coding plan in the facility’s Preventive Control or Prerequisite Procedures, which includes GMPs, SOPs, CCPs, and Non-CCPs, will go a long way in ensuring company-wide adoption, consistency and compliance of the program. For facilities that must comply with HACCP or HARPC regulations, including color-coding on those plans is, again, not required but, a best practice. HACCP, or Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points, is a food safety management system which helps to identify and control cross-contamination threats. Similarly, HARPC, also known as Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls, also requires identification and control of risks in food processing facilities.

Here are some important things to remember:

  • Start at the top and go down
    • Communicate with all levels of employees to ensure complete implementation
  • Have good signage
    • Signs should have written and visual cues to identify the zone and where the tools are approved for use
    • Include a printout that gives details for reordering of tools, such as vendor, item number, manufacturer, etc.
  • Keep up with training
    • Consistent training programs for all employees will improve adoption and ongoing use of the program
  • Include color-coding on regulatory plans
    • Color-coding is looked upon favorably by regulatory bodies