Tag Archives: hygiene

The Importance of Hand Washing in the Food Industry

Hygienic nail brush being used in hand washing


Handwashing in the food industry is one of the first lines of defense in food safety. Along with being a consumer health risk, inadequate personal hygiene can lead to costly and reputation-destroying recalls. However, it’s not just the responsibility of individual employees to ensure proper handwashing procedures are followed. Managers must cultivate a culture of food safety where taking time-off from lines to wash up is encouraged. Facilities also must be equipped with adequate hand washing stations.

Not only will setting the scene and creating the culture for effective handwashing help protect consumers, it will also help protect your business.

When to Wash

Employees knowing when to wash their hands is just as important as knowing how to properly wash them. High-visibility signs posted around the facility can teach and remind employees about 

Signs posted around the facility make for great reminders, but the topic should also be covered in training seminars. Don’t forget to translate instructions in whatever languages required to communicate with all of your employees.

According to the 2005 FDA Food Code, hands should be washed:

  • Before beginning work
  • After touching bare skin (other than clean hands)
  • After using the restroom
  • After coughing, sneezing, or using a handkerchief or tissue
  • After eating, drinking, or using tobacco
  • After handling used/dirty equipment or utensils
  • During food preparation to prevent cross-contamination
  • When switching between raw and ready-to-eat food and ingredients
  • Before putting on gloves when working with food
  • After touching service animals or aquatic animals
  • After any activities that would contaminate hands

Where to Wash

Permanent handwashing facilities should be set up near work spaces. They must be connected to a supply of warm, clean water. The 2005 FDA Food Code requires a minimum hand washing temperature of 100° F. The station should be cleaned frequently and be of adequate size for handwashing. The station should have a supply of soap and single use towels or air dryers and be set up solely for the purpose of washing hands, arms, and faces. Making the set-up hands free through the use of automated sinks, soap dispensers, and towel dispensers can increase hygiene.

How to Wash

What may seem like an intuitive process is actually done improperly by about 95% of people, according to one study by Michigan State University researchers. In high stakes environments like food processing or pharmaceutical manufacturing, each handwashing step needs to be done properly to ensure consumer safety.

Wet: Hands should be rinsed with clean, warm water. Not only is warm water more comfortable, it also can make it easier to remove certain soils, such as fat-based ones. The water should also flow easily to remove loosened soil from hands easier and quicker.

Visible soil, such as stuck-on dough or dried food products, should be knocked off at this stage if possible. A hygienic nail brush can aid in scrubbing away hard-to-remove soils from the hands, under the nails, and around the nailbed.

Lather: Turning the tap off while washing will protect hands from becoming contaminated by splashing water. Soap is essential to the process because it lifts microbes and soils while providing visible encouragement to keep scrubbing for the recommended 15 seconds. Add an appropriate amount of antiseptic soap (as directed by the product’s label), and rub hands together, being sure to get in between fingers, around the nail bed, and all the way up to the forearms.

Rinse: Hands should be rinsed under running water. Start at the forearms and move down to the tips of the fingers, making sure all the soap is rinsed off. Rinsing removes any remaining soil, including microbes.

Dry: Hands should be dried using single-use towels or air dryers. Air dryers may be used, but they’re often less efficient and, if not cleaned frequently and properly, or if the air quality isn’t good, they can end up spewing bacteria back onto hands. If they don’t work quickly, air dryers may lead to employees drying their hands on their clothing or aprons in their rush, which can re-contaminate hands. Air dryers also don’t have the advantage of being able to be used to turn off faucets like towels.

Proper handwashing comes from a combination of an engaged and empowered food safety culture, robust training programs, and the proper set-up. As the first line of defense in food safety—and one of the most important, overall, handwashing should always be emphasized through training seminars and reminders like posters in the worksite. Clean hands make for a more hygienic food processing environment and a better finished product.



Food Contact Tool Storage Best Practices

In many of my visits to food production plants, I see outstanding food safety procedures that can be shared as best practices. One of the easiest and most beneficial best practices to adopt is proper storage of food contact and cleaning tools. Selecting the right tools for specific tasks can mean a significant investment of time and other resources. A good storage plan for those tools will help to protect that investment and enhance food safety efforts.

Wall with Full Red Bracket color-coded food contact toolsThe way a food contact or cleaning tool is stored is almost as important as the tool itself. Implementing a hygienic tool storage system takes some time and effort, but will also provide many benefits once set up correctly. These benefits include better organization, prolonged life of tools, and maintaining the sanitary conditions of tools.

From an organizational perspective, having a storage plan ensures that tools are where you need them, when you need them. Production line supervisors are able to check defined tool locations at the conclusion of each shift. Showing a visual representation of the tools designated for the area enables each supervisor to quickly verify if tools are missing and identify the correct part number for any tools that need to be reordered. Also, tools go missing less often when a storage plan is specified.

Tools that are stored neatly in an area that allows adequate space helps to keep them from colliding or bumping against other objects. Rough contact with other objects can potentially cause breakage, in turn introducing a risk for physical hazards in the facility. In addition, bristles on brushes and brooms can become misshapen and tangled if they are allowed to rest directly on the floor or other surfaces for extended periods of time. It’s a good idea to regularly inspect tools for wear or extraneous damage. If the storage method is contributing to wear, it’s time to make a change. Getting the maximum lifespan out of food contact tools translates to better operational efficiency.

The most important consideration of a storage system for food contact and cleaning tools is that tools are maintained in a sanitary state before being put to use again. Floors are a common surface in a facility for the transport of contaminants, so tools that have been cleaned should be stored off of the floor using a wall bracket or other sanitary mounting option. This is particularly imperative for tools that directly or indirectly contact food, as a tool that has touched the floor introduces a great risk of contamination. In this sense, designating a tool storage location that suspends tools off the ground can protect the integrity of your code-compliant facility and your end product.

Once the tool storage plan has been identified, it should be included in the written food safety plan for the facility. If you need help or guidance with your tool storage program, call Remco. That’s what we’re here for. We can help you determine the best practices to maintain hygiene in your facility. For more information, download a copy of our white paper, “Selection, Care and Maintenance Guide for Food Contact Tools and Equipment.”

Clean more efficiently with new tools in Vikan’s® EDGE Brush Range

Vikan’s New EDGE Brush Range features improved ergonomics and functionality

In a food processing environment where hygiene is critical, dependable cleaning tools are a must. For over 115 years, Vikan® has focused on developing the most hygienic and efficient cleaning tools in the world. This year, Vikan unveiled the new EDGE Brush Range that is designed for superior efficiency, functionality and ergonomics. This is great news for the people responsible for cleaning and sanitizing food processing facilities. Why? Because those folks are going to get their jobs done more quickly and easily with better tools.

In addition to efficiency and ergonomics, the other great feature about these brushes is that they look really slick. Who wouldn’t like to work with a cleaning tool that looks good and does a great job? Not that aesthetics make or break the deal, but it just naturally feels a little better when your tools are attractive, right?

At the beginning of the year, Vikan introduced the first three brush styles in the EDGE Brush Range: a long-handled, a short-handled, and a scrubbing hand brush. These three new styles replaced six total part numbers since each style is typically offered in two or more bristle strengths.

The most recent addition to the EDGE Brush Range is the new bench brush style, part numbers 4587 with soft bristles and 4589 with medium bristles. The block on these brushes has been redesigned with a more ergonomic handle, and the bristles are positioned to be more effective at cleaning the tough stuff. We’ve got all the nitty-gritty details posted in the online catalog for both part numbers. Below is a synopsis of the redesigned benefits:

Selling points of Vikan's new EDGE range

If you’re interested to know how the bristle strengths differ, here is a quick description.  The 4587 bench brush with soft bristles will be really effective on fine particles that are dry. Think flour and powdered sugar. The medium bristles on the 4589 make it perfect for sweeping up moist materials, or medium-sized particles like sugar, chocolate, pastry or vegetable peelings.

In the redesign, Vikan did us another favor and offered the 4589 in all 8 colors: green, blue, red, white, yellow, orange, purple, and black. Black was previously unavailable in the 4588, which is the part number that the 4589 is replacing. At Remco Products, we like offering tools in all 8 colors, because color-coding is gaining recognition as an important element in HACCP and food safety initiatives. Offering more colors provides a high degree of flexibility for the people who are designing new color-coding systems or improving upon existing programs. Having a well-designed color-coding program can go a long way for facilities applying for various food safety certifications or that have an FDA audit approaching.

If you’re intrigued and want to learn more about color-coding, we’ve recently released a white paper all about the reasons why color-coding is becoming a no-brainer in all types of food processing facilities. Even though color-coding is not required by law, it shows that the people in charge of quality assurance and food safety are putting in their due diligence to keep the food products that they manufacture safe. If this sounds like something you need to know more about, feel free to download a copy of the white paper to keep or share with colleagues.