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.