Food processing facilities know that a good sanitation program is essential to food safety. But, it can be easy to miss crucial considerations when developing sanitation policies. As an auditor, I regularly see non-conformities related to sanitation and would like to highlight six of the most common issues I repeatedly come across. That way, you can address these non-conformities and avoid them in your plant.
The Leading Sanitation Non-Conformities and How To Avoid Them
1. Using Containers for Both Food and Non-Food Materials
Do not use containers designated for food products to store other materials. Once the product container is reintroduced back into the process, after having used it to store other materials, there is a risk for cross-contamination and foreign material (e.g., plastics, nuts, bolts, staples) to your product.
2. Not Labeling Chemical Containers
The chemical containers require proper identification to prevent inadvertent adulteration to the product—even if it is just water. Some pesticide chemicals, fumigant solutions, cleaners, degreasers, and sanitizers can be mistaken for water. Having personnel trained in proper chemical use is just as necessary as chemicals being correctly identified and effective procedures in place.
3. Improper Use of Containment Trays
The storage of bulk chemicals on spill containment trays is a GMP standard that aligns with the EPA regulation for secondary containment systems. According to 40 CFR part 112, a containment system must have a sufficient capacity to contain 10% of the volume of the containers or the volume of the largest container, whichever is greater. Be mindful of the chemicals sharing the same containment tray to prevent inadvertent chemical reactions. Never mix acid solution on the same spill containment tray as an alkaline solution to avoid chemical reactions such as creating harmful gases.
4. No Designated Storage for Product Contact Tools
Product contact tools are the least controlled aspect in production, and that is why this part of your process is at the highest risk for cross-contamination. If the product contact tools do not have a designated clean place for storage, personnel are more likely to leave them on the platform floor where the tool can come in contact with whatever everyone is stepping in. It is best to designate a place for storing the product contact tool near the area where you use the tool.
5. Improper Cleaning of Air Compressors
Air is often overlooked as a food safety hazard, but cleaning equipment air compressors are prone to misuse and contamination. The nozzle requires utmost care and should be treated the same way as a product contact tool because this device blows over the processing equipment. Personnel may know that this equipment is used for cleaning. Still, some may not understand that scrubbing the air wand nozzle into crevices of the product screens or even the floor can potentially transfer material into the device. This behavior poses a risk for the spread of mold, spores, and other microbiological, chemical, and physical hazards into the device and then over different areas of the process.
6. Unprotected Product Streams
Product streams must be protected from potential contamination by overhead traffic. Pay attention to any walkways that cross over production lines to ensure that protections exist to prevent falling materials. It is also essential to regularly inspect long-existing equipment for any welding that may have come undone or gaps widening in connecting junctions. New repairs to equipment may also change the product flow and lead to new areas with open product streams.
After you’ve verified these six steps, download the Sanitation Practices checklist in our GMP Template series. This checklist can act as an internal audit of your sanitation processes.