After an extended holiday from my column, I would like to get back to basics and examine how to educate sanitation crews. If a sanitation crew knows both why they are doing the job and the importance of doing it correctly, they can take pride in the accomplishment of a job well done. I will use my sanitation handbook as a reference guide.
Sanitation training does not have to be difficult to teach or learn once you get the basics down. The basics are applicable to nearly all situations, and they work as well in a meat, produce, fruit, or vegetable plant. There are additions to the basics for the processing of pasteurized or cooked items. This extends to fats, oils and greases, proteins, and most importantly, bacteria.
The goal of every sanitation program is to rid the processing environment of bacteria and to prevent bacteria from entering the plant, whether it invades via people, insects/vermin, or equipment. One way to accomplish this is by using a hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) system for sanitation. Do not confuse this with the HACCP plan for food safety.
To meet our goal of eliminating pathogenic bacteria in the processing area, we will study the following: food plant sanitation, sanitation equipment, food pathogen microbiology, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) testing, cleaning chemistry, sanitizers, sanitation hazard analysis work points (SHAWP), cleaning chemistry, personnel, and zoning scheduling. I will present the material in a manner that is easy to understand. We will take our time and cover each area, starting with food plant sanitation. I will cover the remaining topics in subsequent articles. At the end of each column, I will provide questions so that you can determine what you have learned. I will supply the answers to the questions in my next column.
It is important that you periodically review these basics. Do not assume you already know them; even star athletes must train in the fundamentals of their chosen sport. Food plant sanitation is more important than a football game. After all, if a football player fouls up, he only disappoints the fans. If a plant’s sanitation program fails, hundreds of people can get sick or die.
Training sanitation personnel is essential because of the types of products processed and the complexity of processing equipment. Better training will directly reduce personnel turnover and, ultimately, positively affect the bottom line.
Background of Sanitation
In the past, companies did not think sanitation was important. It was a job that was hard, dirty, scheduled for the swing or graveyard shift, sometimes dangerous, and generally low-paying. It was an entry-level position with minimal training. Usually under the supervision of the production department, it took a back seat to production. When the number of recalls began to increase, however, things began to change. Companies placed sanitation under the auspices of the quality assurance department; it had become clear that sanitation had a direct effect on food safety and product quality.
We must pay even more attention to the quality of sanitation personnel. Training sanitation personnel is essential because of the types of products processed and the complexity of processing equipment. Better training will directly reduce personnel turnover and, ultimately, positively affect the bottom line.
Several factors contribute to a complete sanitation and food safety program. One is the type of food contact surface. There are many materials that constitute a food contact surface, including stainless steel, rubber, plastics, fiberglass, concrete, metal belts, soft metals, and, in rare cases, wood, such as that found in pallets.
Another piece of the puzzle is the soil that gets into places it does not belong. For instance, a ready-to-eat product running on a food processing line is considered food. When it falls on the floor, it is considered soil. Soil is food product or residue that does not belong on the contact surface. The most common soils are proteins, fats, oils, grease, carbohydrates, sugars and mineral deposits like calcium carbonates, and burned-on carbonaceous material from hot oil processing.