Joe Cordray, Iowa State University, Department of Animal Science

PROCESS EXPO | Expert in Residence
Sanitation: One of the Most Important Things You Do Each Day
Joe Cordray Ph.D. | Iowa State University

Sanitation has always been very important in the food industry. All plants should have written procedures describing what they will do before the start of operations to assure they have a sanitary environment for processing food AND written procedures outlining how they will maintain a sanitary environment during processing.

Sanitation procedures should be designed to prevent both cross-contamination and allergen cross-contact. Cross-contamination is the unintentional transfer of foodborne pathogen from a food (where it may occur naturally) or insanitary object where it may be present. Allergen cross-contact is the unintentional incorporation of a food allergen into a food. A company’s sanitation procedures should address: employee hygiene, employee food handling practices, processing equipment and utensils, process flow, plant design and layout, general procedures for cleaning and sanitizing, and physical separation of raw and ready to eat product.

When designing and executing your sanitation program, you should always pay attention to details. For instance, when washing and sanitizing equipment and floors, you should wash from the top down and sanitize from the bottom up. If you sanitize from the top down, when you are sanitizing the floor you may splash unsanitized material back onto surfaces that you have already sanitized.

Today’s consumers are demanding more Ready-to-Eat (RTE) products. Of particular concern is when RTE products are exposed to the environment prior to packaging. For products that have been heat processed, this is referred to as the post-lethality processing environment. Environmental pathogens such as Salmonella and Listeria are major food safety hazards for RTE products exposed to the processing environment prior to packaging.

Daily records should be kept of your sanitation activities. If corrective action is needed, it could include re-cleaning, re-sanitizing, and retraining of employees. Being proactive in developing, implementing, and maintaining a good sanitation program can provide both food safety and good shelf life for your products.