When food is your business, the safety of your product is vital to long-term success, and careful control of all processes in the facility is critical to achieving regulatory compliance. That’s where your Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) plans come in.
To ensure food safety, food-related businesses must adopt a HACCP/GFSI mentality in virtually every aspect of their program—right down to the uniforms that outfit their food industry workers.
To help prevent contamination within food manufacturing, processing, distribution, and retail operations, and to aid general safety of food products, businesses in the food industry must pay careful attention to how work garments worn by food industry employees are designed, maintained, processed (hygienically cleaned), and managed so they are not a potential source of food contamination. Careful controls are vital to minimizing cross-contamination risks and achieving regulatory compliance.
If your food-related business does not have a specialized food service uniform program provider that is HACCP/GFSI-conscious and can aid in your compliance goals, you could be exposing the business to significant risks. That’s because product safety is non-negotiable in food-related industries.
A specialized food service uniform program can help ensure food safety and minimize cross-contamination risks, while removing bacterial contaminants that can colonize on employees’ workwear.
When selecting a uniform provider, businesses should make sure the supplier is HACCP/GFSI-conscious in the following areas.
Hygienic laundering. Food service uniform laundering programs should be based on principles set forth in HACCP and GFSI application guidelines, and address safety risks involved with the process. All garments ideally should be sorted, hygienically cleaned, dried, finished, and poly-wrapped while addressing CCPs.
Ultimately, an effective food service uniform provider should offer a hygienic laundering program that helps reduce microbial contamination threats in four key laundry processing stages, including:
- HACCP/GFSI-specific wash cycle;
- Dryer/moisture removal cycle;
- Steam tunnel finishing/garment pressing; and
- Poly-wrapping (for an added preventive measure to help protect cleaned garments from exposure to environmental contaminants after processing, throughout the delivery process, and prior to being worn).
For example, UniFirst Corp. has a program specifically for the food industry called UniFirst UniSafe Service. This service includes a portal-to-portal process designed to minimize cross-contamination risks, with independent testing showing results of greater than 99.99999 percent reduction in microbial contamination associated with uniforms and other food worker garments. These types of processes begin at customer facilities and extend throughout all garment handling, laundering, and finishing procedures to regularly deliver hygienically clean garments.
Training and product protection processing. HACCP/GFSI-specific training for personnel involved in the processing of food-related customer garments is another important consideration. These specialized education programs should call for individual training of all point-of-contact personnel so that everyone involved fully understands food safety concepts, handling, and compliance. These types of specialized training programs can prove extremely useful, especially when developed in conjunction with a certified HACCP instructor. Such programs show a commitment on the provider’s part to making a positive difference in delivering the results customers need.
Furthermore, as an added measure of security, seek out a food service uniform laundering program that has been verified through scientific testing by an independent laboratory, showing that its services are designed to be effective for killing pathogens found on food industry uniforms and known to cause foodborne illnesses.
Uniform program providers should adhere to the following product protection processing (PPP) steps.
Delivery of clean garments. Hygienically clean garments (poly-wrapped, if desired) should be delivered to a designated area at customer sites.
Pickup of soiled garments. Soiled garments need to be sorted, placed in plastic bags, and put on route truck in segregated containers/bins.
Return to uniform provider’s laundry processing facility. Soiled garments are to be kept segregated during transport.