Hygiene is an essential part of every aspect of life, whether it is personal or environmental. However, when it comes to food, hygiene directly affects the health of its consumers. Especially in a food processing plant, where there is large-scale production of food products, any unhygienic practice can put the health of thousands of consumers at stake. If your facility does not conform to the standards of cleanliness, there is no surety of what can be present in your food products. However, maintaining hygiene in a huge setup is a momentous task, especially when it does not only mean surface cleaning but safety down to the microbiological level. To help you ensure the cleanliness of your plant and hence the well-being of your employees and customers, here are some tips for you to consider.
1. Schedule Thorough Cleaning Sessions:
Prevention and protective strategies to keep your food processing plants free from contaminants can not give you an outcome alone. Once you have followed all the protocols and guidelines for achieving good hygiene levels at your plant, you will have to schedule cleaning drills. This is even more important if your plant is located in a place with a bad air quality index, such as Yorkshire. The air pollution in Yorkshire is soaring high and has hit the worst possible level, which means that your processing plant needs frequent cleaning sessions to ensure a safe and dust-free environment. You can hire professionals who provide large-scale industrial cleaning services, which range from regular maintenance to deep cleaning.
You can also instruct your employees to thoroughly clean the plant using all the appropriate protocols and procedures. Train them on how to keep the processing plant free from contaminants and dirt. Even with an apparently clean environment, you can never know the potential pathogenic microorganisms that might be breeding. It necessitates frequent inspecting and air monitoring to ensure the environment is clean at the microscopic level.
2. Pest Control and Prevention:
Pests are the most notorious source of contamination and germs in a food processing plant. Their short reproduction cycles and fast mobility puts every area of your processing plant at risk of contamination. House flies, rodents, cockroaches, beetles, etc., pick up germs from contaminated places and can carry pathogens such as E.coli, Salmonella, and Listeria, which are the infectious agents of many food-borne illnesses. It is necessary to devise an effective pest control program for your plant and keep them in check.
To control flying pests, install screen doors on the standard doors. However, these might not work for the dock doors, and you can go for air curtains. It is an invisible air barrier that a directional flow of air creates, separating the two environments effectively. However, airflow should be from inside to outside and not the other way around. It would result in sucking the pests rather than keeping them away. For rodents, such as rats and mice, eliminate their possible breeding sites such as the retired equipment, junk, food, and water sources. Dumpsters are a favorite breeding site for flying insects, so keep them closed and away from open doors.
Consider installing traps, baits, and insect killers to control pests inside the plant and clean them regularly. Whatever strategy you follow must be documented and automated along with being effective. It will help you analyze any trouble areas and hotspots of pests inside or near the facility.
3. Use Appropriate Construction Materials:
The construction design of the plant should be such that it minimizes the harborages of microorganisms and pests and should be easily cleanable. The interior walls and floor should be resistant to sanitizing chemicals and corrosion and sealed properly. Also, you need to ensure they are non-absorbant, flat, smooth, and do not have any pits or cracks that accumulate dirt and harmful bacteria.
For interior walls, you can go for seamless poured concrete or fiberglass panels with a smooth finishing since it lacks seams. Glazed ceramic tiles are reasonable for wet processing areas such as dairy and beverage plants. Avoid using wood as a construction material since it is porous and highly absorbent. The same strategy applies to the floors, but the material should not be too slippery so as not to make walking on it difficult. Moreover, angle it for an adequate slope to provide good drainage and avoid water from accumulating.
4. Proper Flow Pattern:
The design of your facility should ensure a proper flow channel for the physical segregation of raw and processed food. The flow should be unidirectional with a logical sequence, starting from the raw material building to the distribution area. The movement of the wastewater should be opposite to that of the manufacturing process to avoid contaminating food products.
You can ensure the separation of raw materials from processed foods by installing doorways with the anti-back-tracking feature. There should be positive air pressure in the finished products room to avoid the entry of contaminants. Also, impose restrictions on the staff working with the raw materials from entering the area with finished products and vice versa to avoid cross-contamination.
5. Personal Hygiene of the Staff:
The personal hygiene of the staff will ensure they do not bring any contaminants inside the facility. For this purpose, provide appropriate facilities, such as changing areas, handwash facilities, separate footwear for the factory, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Demarcate the critical points indicating extra caution and usage of PPE for the employees. Before entering these areas, also provide them with sanitizer sprays. Try to minimize their contact with the food products and provide them with appropriate utensils or make the process automated. Improper personal hygiene practices will taint the outcomes of all the costly hygienic measures you might have installed in your factory.
Maintaining high hygiene standards might require you to go out of your way, but it will help your brand grow to be reliable and well-trusted amongst consumers. Distributing hygienic and safe products is your ethical responsibility as an enlightened citizen. Following proper guidelines and incorporating hygiene practices as routine work will help eliminate obstacles and lay a foundation for quality assurance.