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Debra Smith
Debra Smith
Global Hygiene Specialist

Top 6 Hygienic Design Questions with Experts' Answers

During our “Achieving Hygienic Design Compliance: What every food industry stakeholder should know” webinar, industry experts discussed the principles of hygienic design and what the current regulatory and global food safety standard requirements are within the EU and US.

Deb Smith, Vikan’s Global Hygiene Specialist; Dr. Jim Hartley, Global Sanitation Director for Mondelez International; Patrick Wouters, Global Hygienic Design Leader for Cargill and EHEDG; and Tim Rugh, 3-A Sanitary Standards Inc.’s Executive Director all answered questions both during and after the webinar. Below are six Q&As that we think you might find interesting. Some questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.

1. Are there any reliable international standards or guidelines available for hygienic design requirements for the food industry?

  • EHEDG offers a wide selection of guidelines.
    3-A SSI has a catalog of purchasable sanitary standards.
  • GFSI Scopes JI (for equipment and building providers) and JII (for food businesses) will form the basis for Certification Program Owners (e.g., BRCGS, SQFFSSC 220000, and others) to develop the standards for hygienic design in the near future. EHEDG has written a white paper on the subject.
  • Additionally, there are also other credible organizations, including NSF and AIB that develop general or sector-specific hygienic design standards and guidelines.

2. Are there any international guidelines available to audit the hygienic design of food equipment & cleaning tools?

Currently, both BRCGS and FSSC22000 have interpretation guides that contain auditing guidelines regarding the requirements for both food equipment and cleaning tools. Vikan also has several publications related to the hygienic design of cleaning tools that may help.

Choosing hygienically designed cleaning and food-handling tools
Are your cleaning tools food safe?
Decontamination of food industry cleaning brushware – a matter of hygienic design

3. Are there any reliable studies to show that investing in hygienically designed equipment or facilities would improve an organization’s profitability and/or help them prioritize risky CapEx (capital expenditure) projects?

Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that is difficult to provide a tangible answer to. Common sense would tell us that having a building of good hygienic design, filled with equipment of good hygienic design, and operated by knowledgeable and conscientious people, should deliver better food safety and cost savings related to sanitation (chemicals and employee time), product waste, and recall.

However, systematic benchmarking studies have not (yet) been done. What we do know is that, where problems have occurred due to poor hygienic design, the companies involved went bankrupt, closed, received massive fines, or their leaders ended up in jail!

4. Are 3-A SSI and EHEDG related in their purpose, missions, and roles? What are their key similarities and differences?

3-A SSI and EHEDG are partners who peer-review their standards and guidelines and maintain a positive and collaborative relationship on hygienic equipment design. Many members of EHEDG are also actively involved with 3-A Sanitary Standards. At the 2024 Anuga FoodTech in Cologne, the two organizations shared a booth and gave a joint presentation at the event’s “Speakers Corner.” Generally, they share comparable objectives but are focused on different geographical markets. EHEDG serves mostly European and global customers, and 3-A SSI has a strong presence in the US, where regulatory sanitarians rely on the organization’s trustworthy and credible training and education resources.

By harmonizing their expertise, 3-A SSI and EHEDG both provide all food stakeholders with a unified and informed perspective on hygienic design that helps shape the future of the industry and collectively raises the bar for hygienic design excellence.

5. How can we educate food equipment suppliers and processing sites on hygienic design requirements, especially in developing countries where legal regulatory frameworks on such requirements may not exist?

EHEDG is available and equipped to deliver hygienic design training in any country in the world. Currently, they are delivering trainings in several Asian countries and some in Africa. Upcoming (public) training sessions are listed at this page.

Bespoke training can also be requested via the Training Request Form. EHEDG also provides an e-learning module that people can use to train themselves with online. This is accessible after a login for their members. Feel free to contact EHEDG if you would like to get access to their e-learning application as a non-member.

Additionally, 3-A SSI offers a variety of free e-learning modules on the foundational elements of hygienic equipment design. The materials combine the elements of traditional live seminars with the accessibility and flexibility of online learning. These resources are available at this page.

6. What features should we typically look for when selecting hygienically designed equipment?

These are generally defined in 3-A, EHEDG, and similar industry-standard guidelines. Some of the characteristics of hygienically designed tools that set them apart from conventional tools are as follows:

  • Easily cleanable, smooth surfaces
  • Non-toxic, non-absorbent, and corrosion- or wear-resistant under recommended conditions of use
  • Constructed of appropriate food-contact-compliant materials (according to local regulations)
  • Rounded internal angles
  • Self-draining surfaces
  • No crevices or gaps where contaminants may get lodged and be difficult to remove

EHEDG Guideline 8 provides further information on the principles of hygienic design and is available to download, for free, in numerous languages.

Disclaimer: The responses given to these selected questions are the professional opinions of the industry experts involved and are not necessarily endorsements of any of the products and services mentioned. Companies should conduct their own site-specific risk assessments and develop their own hazard controls as part of their food safety plan.

For more information and support, please feel free to contact: