Tag Archives: sanitation

Common Food Industry Cleaning Problems Solved

The goal of any good sanitation plan is to minimize cross-contamination and cross-contact through better hygiene and cleaning practices. But—what happens when workers can’t feasibly reach that tall ceiling fixture or get a brush to follow the curves of a spiraling pipe? If employees don’t have the right tools for the job, they’ll end up improvising sub-par solutions, or—even worse—they just won’t clean that area.

Here are some examples of specialty tools solving common cleaning problems in food processing plants:

High walls

Standard handles just aren’t going to reach all the way up a factory’s walls. Use a telescopic handle to clean walls top-to-bottom. Because they’ll need to be adjusted many times, handles should be easy to extend and shorten. Ideally, they should also be hollow to minimize weight for worker comfort and to make the handles easier to control at longer lengths.

Ceiling and pipe condensation

Sometimes handled by makeshift tools like a sock on a telescopic pole, cleaning condensation is vital to food safety and deserves its own tool. Condensation dripping into food or processing equipment can lead to microbial cross-contamination and a costly recall. Use a condensation squeegee to prevent drops from forming and falling into products. A condensation squeegee catches and drains water from overhead into either tubing or bottles to keep products safe.

Large tanks

Specially designed tank brushes have curved heads to reach every angle. When combined with an easy-to-use telescopic handle, workers can reach to clean the tops, sides, and bottoms of tanks, all without having to pull out a cumbersome ladder.

Long pipes

Pipe brushes need to be the right diameter to reach the interior walls, but they also have to be the right length to reach through the pipe, or debris will build up just out of reach. Remco offers pipe brushes on stainless steel handles that can be lengthened again and again with 30-inch extenders to reach through the longest pipes.

Curved or helical pipes

Stainless steel handles are flexible, but only to a degree. For truly helical pipes, a nylon handle will follow all of its curves while being strong enough to get the pipe walls clean. Nylon is FDA-approved for food contact and can follow through even the most spiraling pipes.

Overhead pipes

Condensation isn’t the only worry when it comes to overhead pipes. These surfaces are often repositories for dirt and contaminants since workers have a hard time reaching around and over them to clean. Use an overhead adjustable-neck brush to get them clean. The brush should have a flexible head to reach over and on the side of pipes. An adjustable neck will allow workers to reach pipes at any angle. Combined with a telescopic handle, an overhead brush is especially useful for reaching high pipes.

Machinery with blades

Though ideally most bladed machinery like bowl cutters are disassembled for cleaning, often this isn’t the case. A brush with a hand guard to help protect workers allows dangerous machinery to be cleaned in place more frequently.

Cross-contamination and allergen cross-contact can both be prevented by better hygiene practices. When you’re able to fully clean your facility, you’re able to control the spread of contaminants. These tools can help solve your common cleaning problems.

 

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.”

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: Zones and Critical Control Points

Understanding Zones and Critical Control Points in Color-coding

Just about every food processor knows that complying with food safety regulations from the FDA and other regulatory bodies is a vital aspect to the success of their overall operation. Without achieving this compliance, it would be fairly difficult to run an effective food processing program. The list of recalled food products seems to grow every day, most being the result of some sort of cross-contamination, and those recalls can cost millions of dollars. The old adage, “better safe than sorry,” definitely comes into play when talking about protecting against recalls. Color-coding is one simple method to help keep your food processing operation as “safe” as possible.

One of the most important FDA-proposed rules is HACCP. Complying with HACCP regulations is an important part of any food processing operation, and knowing where the critical zones are and preventing cross-contamination from happening is an integral part of this compliance. Currently, there are HACCP procedures for dairy, juice, retail seafood, and retail and food service.

Let’s back up for a second, HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points. HACCP is a preventative approach to the identification, evaluation, and control of food safety hazards that may cause illness or injury when not properly controlled. Put simply, HACCP is designed to help control the threat of cross-contamination from biological, chemical, and physical agents. According to the FDA, “any action or activity that can be used to prevent, eliminate or reduce a significant hazard” is considered a control measure. Color-coding is an excellent example of a control measure.

Once potential food safety hazards are identified, critical control points can be documented. The FDA defines a critical control point in a food manufacturing process as “a step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.” Knowing where the critical control points exist in a food production process is essential to designing an effective HACCP plan.

Included in the many HACCP compliance resources available from the FDA is an example of a decision tree to help a food processing operation identify critical control points, seen below. Using a decision tree like this is not a mandatory part of the process, but it is valuable as a tool to facilitate the development of a thorough food safety program.

FDA Example of Decision Tree

Since color-coding is a control measure, color-coding zones often coincide with critical control points or groups of critical control points. For instance, a color zone may be assigned to an area where raw meat exists in a facility, since raw meat poses increased risks of bacterial contamination. There may be several critical control points that require other control measures within that one color zone, such as testing for contaminants or refrigeration of the raw meat prior to processing. Once the meat has been cooked, a different color may be assigned to the zone following the raw meat area to prevent bacterial cross-contamination into the finished product. For this purpose, color-coding is an excellent and simple way to visually confirm that equipment is in the appropriate critical zone in a food processing facility.

When color-coding is implemented, it is easily apparent which zones are which, and what they represent. Because of this instant recognition, separating contaminated food before it goes out to the public becomes easier. And we all know that internal recalls (or no recalls!) are less costly than public recalls.

To find out if color-coding is appropriate for your food processing facility, download our worksheet below.