Safety in the food manufacturing industry is critical for both workers and the end consumers of the products. While regulations are extensive, food-processing safety can be achieved with proper sanitation, equipment maintenance and full employee training.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provides a complete list of Good Manufacturing Practices
(GMPs) for the food processing industry. Common food safety problems are broken down into four categories:
• Microbiological safety
• Chemical safety
• Physical safety
• Other considerations
The majority of more frequent problems occur due to lack of training and equipment maintenance. Deficiencies in training were noted across all sectors. FDA studies also show that poor equipment and plant sanitation are leading issues in several manufacturing categories including baked goods, frozen products, meat and poultry.
Contamination of food products can occur before, during and after processing. Sanitation procedures must be documented including complete details of any equipment disassembly procedures, chemicals and methods used. The time required, amount of chemicals used and water temperatures should be recorded.
Employees must use the proper protective products to prevent contaminating work areas and food during manufacturing. Gloves, hair nets and face masks are common forms of protective wear. Workers must also protect themselves from bacteria or pathogens that may be contained in the raw materials they are processing.
Workers must understand and follow all equipment guidelines. No one can be permitted to operate any machinery without the required training. Employees must be aware of the location of emergency shut-offs.
In addition to understanding how machinery works, employees must be dressed appropriately. Employees should not be permitted to wear clothing or jewelry items that could become caught in machinery. The possibility for entrapment endangers workers and loose items can end up contaminating the food being processed.
In addition to keeping equipment clean during use, regular maintenance procedures must be followed. Proper maintenance protects both the manufacturing process and the employee using the equipment. Broken seals could release oils into the processing system. Dull blades
can slip and cause products to jam in the machinery. Worn out belts can snap, injuring nearby workers and contaminating any food on the processing line.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also discusses food security
in manufacturing, which comes under a different definition than food safety. Security measures must be taken to prevent deliberate contamination of products. Tampering by chemical, biological or radioactive means must be prevented with the use of security systems and access controls.
General safety rules apply to all manufacturing environments:
• Employees must use the correct personal safety equipment.
• Machine guards must be in place when equipment is operating.
• Only qualified personnel can provide any equipment repair or maintenance.
• All chemicals used in cleaning or equipment maintenance must be appropriately labeled.
• Trip and fall prevention measures must be in place including wet floor signs or other means of indicating hazards.
• Wires or cables cannot be damaged or frayed. Cables should not be exposed along the floor, presenting a trip hazard. Exposed cables and wires can also be damaged from forklifts or other vehicles.
By following sanitation guidelines and adequate training procedures, employers can keep both the food chain and their employees safe. To achieve maximum safety results, all employees, supervisors and managers need to be involved in the training. These standards must also be applied to any sub-contractors and suppliers.
About the author:
Carol Sabovik is the Marketing Manager of TPC Wire & Cable Corp. in Macedonia, OH. TPC Wire & Cable is a leading wire and cable manufacturer that supplies industrial components used in harsh environments including food manufacturing, such as cables, wires and electrical components. TPC’s products are designed and engineered to withstand harsh conditions including abrasion, impact, and extreme temperatures.
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