Facilities and Equipment
To consistently produce safe foods, facilities and equipment must be designed and maintained properly. Some equipment may also be needed to support important food safety monitoring and verification activities.
Cleaning and sanitation are important considerations when designing facilities or purchasing equipment. Process, air and worker flow are essential design elements to help maintain separation of raw and ready to eat areas. It may be tempting for those responsible for decisions in these areas to cut costs. Poor or uninformed decisions to save costs can be devastating and cost much more in the long run when they impact food safety or quality. To ensure informed decisions, engineers and architects need to be trained in sanitary design and consult with food microbiologists and other sanitary design experts. An example of equipment design standards includes 3-A Sanitary Standards, Inc. An example of a food plant sanitation reference is Principles of Food Sanitation, 5th Edition and an example of a training program is The Sanitary Design Workshop.
Maintenance and Repairs
Don’t delay equipment preventive maintenance items that can impact food safety and quality. Aging facilities with roof leaks or ceilings that drip need to be repaired. Fix floors that are damaged or allow standing water. Correct flaking paint issues. If products cannot be produced without being contaminated, production must be shut down until corrective fixes are in place. Capital investments may be significant for some repairs, but without management mindset to ensure a production environment that prioritizes food safety, consumers and the business are at risk.
Equipment to Support Food Safety
Process monitoring equipment for food safety may be obvious such as thermal measuring and recording devices. However, in the author’s experience, some companies overlook the risk of physical hazards (e.g., metal, plastic, glass, bones, etc.) in finished products. Examples of equipment that can help manage these risks include magnets, metal detectors and x-ray inspection systems.
This series on food safety has described important factors to achieve food safety by design. Although not an all-inclusive list, we’ve also discussed important topics such as people capability, culture and systems/documentation. The attention to recalls and outbreaks in the media as well as new regulations and increased government scrutiny is clear evidence of the importance of this topic for public health and good business.