Training the employees in any type of food-handling operation is not an easy task. There are so many different areas of concern: GMP (good manufacturing practices), HACCP programs (hazard analysis critical control points), product safety programs (glass control, allergen and organic food storage, quarantine procedures, etc.), and other requirements.
The job of getting the sanitation team trained to work effectively in a food processing plant or distribution center can be daunting. Sanitation employees are a lot more than custodians or janitors, as sanitation is vital to the production of uniformly high quality products. Sufficient training for the sanitation team can be accomplished after standard operating procedures are developed. Effective training involves teaching the employees why such measures that are necessary. A trained crew will be motivated to accomplish these tasks.
The quality control, processing, warehouse, maintenance, and other personnel in the plant should also be involved in the sanitation processes. This puts the whole matter of sanitation in perspective – as a matter of spoilage prevention, quality assurance, and prevention of possible foodborne illness outbreaks. A total sanitation program includes environmental sanitation as no area or aspect of the plant can be overlooked. This also includes personal hygiene practices, which can be one of the most common means of transmission of bacterial contamination from one person to another via food.
Why Sanitation is Necessary?
There are several aspects involved in training of the sanitation employees. First, the employee must understand why a food plant must be cleaned and sanitized:
- To remove old soil that will contaminate the next food process.
- To remove and prevent bacterial buildup.
- To meet governmental standards.
- To prevent insect and rodent harborages.
- To improve the shelf life of the food.
- To reduce the chance of off flavors.
- To prevent the staining and filming of the equipment.
- To increase the thermal efficiency of the equipment.
- To lengthen the life of the equipment.
- To improve employee morale.
- To increase the pride in the operations of the plant.
- To remove odor-causing bacteria.
- To prevent slips on floors (safety factor).
There is no single factor as important to the processing of food products as a clean and sanitary plant.
After this instruction is understood by the employees, the written program must be reviewed.
It is necessary to have complete written instructions. In a food-handling operation, there are many caustic chemicals, and misuse can cause serious harm to the employees.
Using the wrong chemical can also leave a residue on the food-contact surfaces that will adulterate the product. This could result in the loss of products or worse, poisoning the customers.
Several different elements must be present in the written cleaning program. Simple step-by-step instructions should be developed for cleaning every food-contact surface, non-food-contact surfaces, floors, walls, overhead pipes, etc. The program should include all of the different areas of the facility, including all storage areas, restrooms, break areas, and ancillary rooms (boiler, compressor, electrical, etc.)
The written program must include the name and concentration of the chemicals to be used. It is not sufficient to state that “a degreaser is used.” Instead, the actual name of the chemical must be listed (i.e. ABC brand Cleanser 1). This will eliminate any possible confusion about the chemical usage. Remember to also include the proper procedure for the use of sanitizers and rinsing.
Include a list of the actual equipment to be used. This is especially important in plants producing a cooked product, as different cleaning equipment should be color-coded to prevent cross-contamination. If this is the case, an explanation of the color code system should be posted on the walls of the facility in several locations as a reminder. Also, give instructions as to how to clean and properly store said equipment. All equipment must be cleaned and put away after each use. All vacuum cleaners must be emptied, as insect and spider eggs can hatch within.