Poor hygiene practices in food processing plants have a lot of repercussions. When food is not handled and processed hygienically, consumers can suffer from food-borne illnesses or food poisoning.
Every year in the United States, 3,000 people die from food poisoning, and one in every six Americans suffers from it daily. You can check here my response.
Effects of Food Poisoning
Symptoms of food poisoning could include the following:
- abdominal cramps
- body weakness
Some of the more severe conditions require hospitalization since the risk for dehydration could potentially lead to death. And in the past two years, the added worry for Covid-19 heightened the need to implement strict measures to abet this catastrophe. This became particularly essential; thus, a food industry specialist made a post about this.
Food processing plants that will not take into account these factors can run the risk of the following:
- product recall
- revocation of license to operate
- reduced staff morale
- damage to reputation
Best Hygiene Practices for Food Processing Plants
Instead of facing these risks, many business owners choose to prioritize sanitary practices, and here are some of the best hygiene practices in food processing plants:
- Timed Handwashing
Handwashing is crucial in food processing plants because it lowers the risk of cross-contamination and pathogens’ transfer during production. All employees must strictly enforce the when, where, and how of proper handwashing. The management must provide signages and a timer to remind the staff regularly.
- Hygienically-designed Factory Uniform
Staff members must be provided with hygienically-designed factory uniforms. These uniforms must be HACCP-compliant. HACCP or hazard analysis critical control point is the body that oversees the standard in food-related industries. Most factory uniforms should have no pockets above the waist and no buttons anywhere.
- Company Launders The Uniform
To ensure that uniforms are washed correctly and no harmful cleaning agents are used in washing, most companies require that they clean the staff’s uniforms. Improperly washed uniforms could still have bacteria in them, and VOCs or volatile organic compounds in bleach and other commercial cleaning agents, when used in large quantities on clothing, can be harmful when incorporated with food.
- Prohibit The Use Of Jewelry And Piercings
Pieces of jewellery and piercings can accidentally fall into the conveyor belt and cause problems with production; that’s why many foods production plants prohibit their use on site. When introduced to food and consumed, foreign particles can cause severe problems like choking and internal organ lacerations.
- Use Of Foot Dip Disinfection
Employee footwear can harbour millions of bacteria and harmful microorganisms, which could land into food through the vents around the plant. The practice of having foot dips with a sanitizing solution at all the entrances of plants will ensure that their footwear is sanitized completely before they enter the food processing area.
- Properly Restrained Hair
Hair, whether on the head or in the face, should be adequately restrained; that’s why the improvisation of beard nets or snoods for male workers who don’t want to shave became necessary. Facial hair for men is six times more likely to be shed than the hair on their heads. And it’s common knowledge that hair is dirty. Depending on ethnicity, many people don’t wash their hair every day, which could lead to the accumulation of oil in the scalp, which could trap dirt, pollen, and sweat. When this gets into contact with food, contamination will occur.
- Training And Certification
Staff should get regular training and recertification to update their knowledge of sanitary practices. Often, a new standard will be rolled out, and the team must receive training and certification. Knowledge is a significant deterrent in the occurrence of many malpractices in food handling. Ignorance of staff with hygienic practices should never be an excuse.
- Periodic Maintenance Of Equipment
All equipment in food processing plants must be cleaned and maintained regularly, following the standards stated in the equipment manual. Employees tasked to do this must be sufficiently knowledgeable, and supervisors or team leaders must check the completion. Pieces of equipment that process raw materials like meat may contain salmonella and E. coli. These harmful pathogens could cause diarrhea, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections when ingested.
Food is the number one commodity globally, and in the United States alone, there were over 34,000 food and beverage processing plants in 2015.
The fast-paced life of many people led to the industrialization of food. People needed something easy to prepare, which gave way to many innovations with processed food.
Sadly, due to mismanagement, negligence, and lack of knowledge of sanitary standards, several food plants were forced to close because of the consequence of malpractice that led to death. Hygiene practices are strictly enforced now at home because of the fear of Covid 19, more so with facilities that handle food.