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Cleaning is a critical step in the management of food safety and quality.
Cleaning tools have been identified as a major source of contamination - 47% of the cleaning tools sampled as part of a major, UK Government-funded study were found to be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes (CampdenBRI, 1990).
Whether this result was due to the poor hygienic design or poor hygienic maintenance of the cleaning tools is unknown but GFSI food safety and quality schemes now recognize that both of these are essential in order to minimize the risk of product contamination.
Our Global Hygiene Specialist, Deb Smith, has reviewed the most current versions of each of the top four GFSI food safety schemes, summarized key information related to cleaning tool selection, use and maintenance, and offers some top tips on how to optimize cleaning tool audit compliance.
Many food producers are subject to regular audit to ensure food safety and quality. These audits can be conducted by internal quality personnel, or by external retailer or standard and scheme auditors. The requirements of each audit will vary.
Internal audits tend to be very site or process specific. External audits tend to be more generic and focus on application of best practice. Business to business, e.g. retailer to manufacturer, audits are more prescriptive, detailing specific requirements across all sites that produce for them. However, all stress the importance of implementing controls based on risk assessment.
GFSI food safety and quality scheme requirements
With regard to external food safety and quality audits many of these are now conducted by, or on behalf of, one of the four main Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) approved food safety schemes, these being the
Between them these four GFSI approved schemes cover over 25,000 certified suppliers in over 140 countries. Food manufacturers who hold GFSI scheme certification are able to demonstrate their compliance with food safety and quality standards more easily and thus protect and improve the reputation and income of their business.
Each GFSI scheme details comprehensive requirements with regard to the maintenance of food safety and quality.
Below is a summary of the current requirements related to the selection, use, and maintenance of cleaning tools.
BRC v.7 (2015)
FSSC 22000 (2005)
ISO/TS 22002-1:2009 (2013) Prerequisite programs
on food safety - Part 1: Food manufacturing
Cleaning and sanitizing programs shall be established and validated by the organization to ensure that all parts of the establishment and equipment are cleaned and/or sanitized to a defined schedule, including the cleaning of cleaning equipment
Cleaning & sanitation programs shall be monitored at frequencies specified by the organization to ensure their continuing suitability and effectiveness
SQF code 8th Ed.
Section 10.2.9.2 & 10.2.9.8
IFS v.6 (2014)
Vikan are Company Members of the European Hygienic Engineering Design Group (EHEDG) and I am a Committee Member of the UK:IE Regional Section.
EHEDG are an independent, not-for-profit organization populated by academic and industry volunteers who seek to ‘...promote safe food by improving hygienic engineering & design in all aspects of food manufacture.’. This is achieved through the development and provision of hygienic design related guidance, training, and certification.
Making something that is ‘hygienically designed’ means that it has been designed to be easy to clean. It also means that it will be fit for purpose with regard to its durability and its materials of construction. EHEDG Guideline 8 "Hygienic Equipment Design Criteria" defines some fundamental principles with regard to the hygienic design and construction of food industry equipment.
Cleaning tools that come into contact with food directly or indirectly should be made of materials that are compliant with the following regulations (and subsequent amendments and updates):
There is a legal requirement for manufacturers of cleaning tools to the food industry to provide on request,
Equipment that is EU food contact compliant can display the ‘Glass & Fork’ mark.
It is important to note that:
Always ask your cleaning tool supplier for evidence of EU compliance.
To optimize GFSI scheme audit compliance cleaning tools should be managed in the following way:
A generalized cleaning tool cleaning decision tree is provided below.
The methods and frequencies of cleaning will depend on many things. Consequently, the key to determining an effective decontamination program is to base it on risk assessment.
*Hazard - a biological, chemical, or physical agent that has the potential to cause harm.
Prioritize control of the high-risk scenarios identified.
Cleaning tools should be:
It is recommended that descriptions/images of what is acceptable and what is not, and records of tool inspection and replacement be kept for auditing/due diligence purposes.
Do not make poor quality repairs to damaged equipment as this can increase the safety risk to the food product.
Cleaning tools can be stored on color-coded wall racks or shadow boards. These;
The use of color-coded cleaning equipment and area zoning plans can provide a visual check that only equipment color-coded for use in that area is used.
Top 5 tips to aid audit compliance
To help you further meet your audit requirements Vikan can supply a comprehensive range of hygienically designed, durable, EU (and FDA) food contact compliant, visually distinctive cleaning tools and tool storage solutions, in a wide range of colors. We also offer a free service to provide color-coded site plans and a series of white papers that provide further details on various audit compliance issues.
Declarations of Compliance and white papers are available to download from our website:
What information is mandatory in a Declaration of Compliance (DoC)? The nine items you need in a DoC.
At the centre of our work with food safety and hygiene is our dedicated Hygiene Department. Find out what they can do for you!
Read Vikan’s recommendations on how to avoid this frustrating problem.