In the food manufacturing industry, food safety and quality is everything. Not only is it part of good manufacturing practices (GMP), but it’s the law. Food and beverage plants work with countless ingredients that can cause public health hazards, from microorganisms hiding in ingredient materials to allergens that cross-contaminate products during packaging processes. Microorganisms and other bacteria can even degrade the shelf life of some foods, creating an inferior product that can hurt your company as a whole.
So how do you prevent cross-contamination and unsafe pathogens or undeclared allergens from entering your food? The final step – sanitation. Food must be produced under sanitary conditions in order to be safe, and manufacturers must ensure sanitation is carried out consistently & effectively.
Risks in Food Manufacturing
The USDA requires all food manufacturing plants to meet a certain standard of cleanliness, which includes proper hygiene and regular sanitizing. Of course, there is a good reason for these regulations: these plants are preparing food for millions of Americans, and one mistake can make many people sick.
Some of the most common risks in the food manufacturing industry (many of which can be prevented with proper sanitation) include the following
Earlier in 2020, the CDC reported 101 cases of salmonella across 17 states. They determined that the cause was contaminated peaches, which had been sold to grocers across the nation.
Regrettably, this story is rather common across the industry and it demonstrates the far reach that a single plant’s sanitation habits can have. Because one packing plant in California failed to properly sanitize their facility, their product became contaminated, and people got sick.
According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), an estimated 32 million Americans have some sort of food allergy. These allergies range in type and severity, from a mild rash or itchiness to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Because of this, individuals with allergies must be very careful when choosing foods to buy from the local grocery store — and they need to know with certainty that the things they’re eating don’t contain the ingredient they’re allergic to.
Today’s food manufacturing facilities process thousands of products every day. Some plants process a variety of different foods, which means that it’s always possible for some cross-contamination between ingredients. However, it’s easy to avoid this risk with thorough and diligent sanitization practices and GMP’s.
Perishable foods like meats, produce, and dairy products already have a limited shelf life — but if they are contaminated by hidden microorganisms or other bacteria, they can become inedible even faster. This is a big problem for food manufacturers, as it can impact product quality and eventually degrade your brand value.
Food that goes bad on the shelf is more likely to contribute to foodborne illness — bringing us right back to our first and most common risk. Clearly, it is essential to maintain high cleaning and sanitation standards throughout any food manufacturing plant, and companies must hold sanitization as a top priority.
Cleaning vs. Sanitizing
The USDA considers proper cleaning and sanitization a prerequisite to the industry’s hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP). Without thorough and consistent cleaning and sanitation, a facility cannot provide safe products to the consumer. Both of these practices are essential — and contrary to what some believe, they are not interchangeable.
What is the difference between cleaning and sanitizing? “Cleaning” refers to the process of removing soil from a surface. This is necessary to have a clean work environment, which can help slow the spread of bacteria or even viruses (which is even more important in the post-COVID work environment.
However, while cleaning removes soils, it doesn’t remove what cannot be seen with the human eye — microorganisms – nor does it kill them. This is why facilities must also practice proper sanitizing. “Sanitizing” is the final step of any cleaning process, and it helps kill off any microorganisms that are still lingering on any surface.
If a food manufacturing plant wants to prevent contamination (and they all do), it is absolutely essential to practice effective sanitizing. This means sanitizing surfaces more often and having the right tools at your disposal for an efficient and complete sanitation process.
Sanitation should always be the final step in your plant sanitizing procedure, but that doesn’t mean you can do it halfway. In fact, food manufacturing companies need to be more fastidious about sanitizing than ever before! They need to have the right tools to eliminate microorganisms — and that means embracing alcohol-based sanitizers.
Alcohol-based sanitizing solutions have antiseptic properties that kill germs quickly and more effectively than plain water or alcohol-free solutions. Using an alcohol sanitizer in your cleaning protocol is one of the best ways to ensure a bacteria-free surface.
Find Your Perfect Solution:
But, of course, you can’t simply pick up a bottle of alcohol sanitizer from the drug store. Cleaning Food and Beverage plants requires a more careful approach and specific products. Look for products that are EPA registered food contact sanitations sprays; these require no wiping to effectively sanitize surfaces. Not only will this guarantee that your sanitation is food safe, but it also will cut down your cleaning time, giving you a safe, dry, and sanitary surface faster than other brands. If you use a sanitization system that utilizes a food-safe, quick-drying solution, your sanitation routine can become a quick and painless process that you can easily do each day.
The food manufacturing industry has a great responsibility to provide safe food products to people all over this country. And if you work in one of these facilities, it is up to you to maintain a high standard of cleanliness and sanitation. Not only is the reputation of your brand at risk, but the health and safety of the people who eat your food — sometimes, their very lives — are in your hands.
But if you have the right tools and the right sanitizing solutions, you can ensure clean work stations and safe products every time.
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