Lifestyle

Food Safety Areas Often Neglected

Thursday, January 03, 2019

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While having a recent conversation with a friend of mine who was down with the flu, she told me that she had tissue, hand sanitiser and a garbage bag by her bed and was thinking about the amount of germs on her sanitiser bottle. Her exact words: “Who sanitises a sanitiser bottle? Can you imagine the amount of germs on that bottle? I Lysol my doorknobs, toilet, counters, cell phone, but I never sanitise the Lysol container!” And that right there was my inspiration for this week's column. Of course we forget that we need to make sure that all surfaces around us are clean, especially those that come in contact with food, but what happens to those that are out of sight and out of mind? This week we'll be looking at some places where pathogens and other contaminants lurk that may impact food safety.

Drains and pipes

We tend to forget that all dirty water, including a lot of the cleaning water, is extracted via drains, which at times we fail to clean. Let's not forget about improper design of drains that allow bacteria to proliferate. In processing facilities, drains must be designed to ensure that all the floors slope towards the drains and there is no settling of water around the drainage areas. Periodic cleaning and sanitation will also ensure that harmful pathogens are flushed. Some facilities use chlorine tablets in drains after each cleaning is completed to keep standing water in drains clean and sanitised. You should ensure that all water from production lines are led to closed pipes, however, you must ensure that pipes; are not inserted directly into the drains as this may give rise to bacteria growing from your drain into the pipes.

Equipment

Equipment may be one of your most expensive assets in the factory, and you want to ensure that you use it to your money's worth. But there are times when you just need to get rid of them!

Crevices and cracks that are not visible may have pathogens lurking around, but “out of sight out of mind” may prevent you from paying close attention to the pathogens that may be breeding on or in your equipment, especially older equipment with cracks and dents. Flaking paint and corrosion may also directly contaminate the food being processed. While you may have a strict equipment cleaning programme in place – and of course all the places you can properly clean and disinfect during your regular cleaning programme will be safe – you must ensure that areas not visible are tended to, especially the insides of critical processing equipment. And let's be honest, cleaning rusty equipment with paint stripping off does not make it safe. It pains me to see rusty equipment being used to process food, and please, I beg of you, do not use oil paint to cover the rust! Equipment surfaces must be smooth and designed for easy cleaning. Your preventative maintenance programme may include periodic pull-down and cleaning of critical equipment. There comes a point when you really do need to invest in modern equipment which is easier to clean.

Shoes

Pathogens, including Listeria Monocytogenes — one of the leading causes of death from food-borne illness — are present all around us, mainly in dust on the ground. Our shoes are carriers of pathogens; just imagine the places you walk to and through daily. We should ensure, therefore, that mechanisms are in place to keep our shoes clean before entering processing areas where food is handled. One preventative measure is to wear shoe covers or change into sterile shoes when entering production areas. I'm not a big fan of shoe covers as some people tend to reuse them and this will be another source of potential contamination as dirt containing pathogens may accumulate. The cover may even break, exposing high-risk hygiene areas to pathogens.

You know how you're always being told to not wear your shoes in certain areas of the house, right? At home we can have a designated area for removing our shoes or simply not wear the same shoes out and inside the house.

Other important areas or things that we may neglect are our cleaning utensils such as cloths, brooms and mops; pallets, walls and roofing; air filters, condensate drip pans freezer, evaporation plates in freezers and cooling systems; toolboxes and maintenance tools; employee coveralls and coats.

We must ensure that an inventory is kept of all items and areas to be cleaned and a strict cleaning and sanitation programme is in place for all areas.

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