The Food Safety Modernization Act and the Global Food Safety Initiative have changed the game for those in the food processing industry. With new regulatory hoops for food safety managers to jump through, sanitation is trending upward as a top concern.
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The industry has responded with new sanitation technologies that not only help meet regulatory requirements—they also allow companies to better manage and monitor their sanitation routines. As part of a well-planned and executed sanitation program, new technologies can help companies control costs, improve food safety, and reduce worker safety risk.
In the midst of this crowded space, how do you decide which advancements provide a usable benefit and have a positive return on investment? Let’s examine seven technical trends that can help a modern food facility manage often-complex sanitation programs in the face of increasing regulatory challenges.
Trends Simplifying Sanitation
1. Automatic and centralized chemical dispensing. New options for dispensing sanitation chemicals deliver more accurate and consistent chemical solutions by monitoring and controlling product concentrations and rates. These integrated chemical handling systems help ensure concentrations are within acceptable and safe limits, reducing worker and food safety risk.
A centralized chemical handling system can save money by reducing chemical waste and labor costs through more efficient applications. Wall-mounted equipment saves usable storage space and can reduce accidents from chemical handling and mixing.
Transitioning to this system does take some up-front investment. New food processing facilities are increasingly fitted with chemical handling piping, so these plants often just require some forward-thinking and planning to install the computer-controlled system. Existing plants can also incorporate this technology, but be sure to conduct a thorough technical review to determine feasibility and evaluate costs versus long-term benefits.
2. Digital recordkeeping and chemical responsibility. In an age where chemicals must be managed and tracked down to the drop, the industry is moving rapidly toward digital recordkeeping and chemical tracking tools to maintain a safe and verified food supply.
Digital recordkeeping tools allow users to keep real-time reports on usage, ensuring no surprises when it comes time for an audit. In addition to meeting regulatory standards, keeping digital records allows the user to provide valuable information to the end-user as well. With consumer-driven scrutiny over chemical use in the food processing industry, digital records prove that all chemicals are being used responsibly and without worry of chemical residues.
Digital records have operational benefits as well. A digital chemical inventory system can keep real-time reports on chemical usage to spot inconsistencies that may signal procedural drift. Digital systems also can automate supply ordering for more efficient purchasing and cost management.
As part of digital recordkeeping, be sure to use calibrated and well-maintained instruments that accurately measure chemical traceability. These systems not only make the user’s job easier—they can trace back chemicals from suppliers and automatically document shifts in chemical regimens.
3. Advances in rapid micro-testing. Rapid microbial testing kits are growing in popularity in the food processing industry to screen for possible contamination in production environments. But it’s important to understand how to use these tests in conjunction with an effective sanitation program.
Think of these kits as tools to uncover red flags. By screening for different groups of bacteria, rapid tests indicate that something in the plant could be unsanitary. Use these results to step up sanitation in those areas. More thorough follow-up lab tests are needed to verify results and determine if deeper cleaning is warranted.
As with all new technologies, consulting with chemical and/or sanitation service suppliers can determine how these new sanitation options fit into a specific operation and food safety program.