Food Processing

Food Processing

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10 Ways To Ensure Food Safety

There are many factors which food processing businesses need to consider when ensuring food safety for consumers. Adhering to the necessary food safety standards and regulations can help prevent outbreaks of food-borne illnesses such as Salmonella, E. coli and Campylobacter

Here are 10 critical areas of focus that will help you to ensure that food safety is applied to your business.

1. Facilities location and design

The design and location of a food processing facility need to be taken into account when ensuring food safety meets the correct standards. Areas that are known to be pest “hot spots” as well as prone to pollution need to be avoided to reduce the risk of contamination. 

Materials used for the internal structure of buildings should be durable, prevent buildup of dirt, easy to clean and maintain, and safe for staff.

2. Machinery and production line design

The layout of the production line should allow easy maintenance and cleaning of machinery and surrounds and prevent contamination of the food products and ingredients during the production process.

 The design of machinery used for food processing also has to be taken into account to comply with food safety regulations. Poor design can result in build-up of food material in hidden places that are difficult to clean. There are standards for machinery design, such as the NSF equipment design standard, to ensure all food handling and processing is performed to a high standard of hygiene. 

The American Meat Institute’s Equipment Design Task Force used the NSF standard to develop 10 principles be addressed when designing machinery used in food processing. 

The 10 principles of sanitary design are: 

  1. Cleanable to a microbiological level 
  2. Made of compatible materials 
  3. Accessible for inspection, maintenance, cleaning and sanitation 
  4. No product or liquid collection 
  5. Hollow areas hermetically sealed 
  6. No niches 
  7. Sanitary operational performance 
  8. Hygienic design of maintenance enclosures 
  9. Hygienic compatibility with other plant systems 
  10. Validate cleaning and sanitizing protocols 

Learn more about the 10 principles here.

3. Pest Control

Pest control plays an important part in food safety. Troublesome insects such as cockroaches and flies can spread food-borne diseases by contaminating food at any stage of production. 

Rodents also spread diseases as well as causing damage to buildings, fixtures and machinery. Stored product insects can damage and contaminate food during transport and storage. 

Investing in pest control monitoring and detection can help prevent pests from entering a food processing establishment, assisting in the compliance of food safety.

4. Waste Management

Provide appropriate containers and suitable waste storage areas. Establish adequate procedures for the storage and removal of waste. This prevents build-up of waste and pests and reduces risk of contamination of ingredients, equipment and products.

5. Cleaning

Establish cleaning and disinfection programs to ensure the correct hygiene standards are met and reduce the risk of a foodborne illness outbreak. 

This includes properly cleaning and disinfecting food preparation areas as well as machinery and utensils used within the food processing cycle to eliminate the microorganisms that cause food poisoning. 

Adhering to the correct cleaning processes will also reduce the risk of pests such as rodents, flies and cockroaches in food preparation and processing areas by removing potential food sources and insect breeding sites.

6. Maintenance

Establishing proactive maintenance measures for premises and food processing machinery to ensure they run smoothly and properly, and ensures the production of safe foods. 

An article from the Food Safety Magazine states that a number of foodborne illness outbreaks can be linked to the failure to ensure equipment is properly maintained under the correct sanitary conditions. They provide an example of a botulism outbreak in the early 1980’s which was caused by improperly performing can reformer machines.

 Pests such as rats and mice can affect the way in which machines perform, gnawing at the power cables and contaminating the components that have direct contact with the products.

7. Personal Hygiene

Installing the correct facilities for staff to ensure proper personal hygiene is met contributes towards meeting food safety requirements. 

Bacteria can easily be spread through biological and physical contamination. This can put foods at high risk of carrying food-borne diseases.

8. Environmental hygiene

Food processing facilities rely on the use of potentially dangerous chemicals for sanitation and pest control. Because of this attention has to be applied to reduce the risk of accidental environmental contamination during the food processing cycle. 

Food safety practices need to be applied to ensure the chemicals stored and used on food processing premises do not contaminate the food products at any stage in production.

9. Correct handling, storage & transport

On top of food production and preparation, food safety also has to be applied during handling, storage and transportation, for both incoming deliveries and products going out to customers. 

A range of factors needs to be considered during these stages to ensure food products do not become contaminated. Temperature and humidity, hygiene of vehicles, containers and packaging, and even cyber security are all factors which need to considering during these stages of the food supply chain.

The FDA provide a guidance on the Sanitary Transportation of Food for all sectors of the food industry. It broadly discusses applicable recommendations for controls to prevent food safety problems during transportation.

10. Staff training

Educating staff on how to ensure food safety practices are followed will help reduce the risk of contamination. Regulations require that food handlers are supervised and trained in food hygiene practices suitable for their work activity. 

Areas which staff should be trained about include: 

  • Hand hygiene 
  • Safe food storage practices 
  • Safe food handling practices 
  • Cleaning for food safety 
  • Pest control