There is no question that an effective sanitation program is important to the overall success of any food handling operation.
Excellence in sanitation is rewarded by happy customers and happy clientele. A safe clean production facility equals better productivity, less downtime and reduced chances of regulatory incidences or recalls.
These incidents cost time, money and maybe lives, which is why it is important that every food handling establishment develop an effective sanitation strategy.
What is the purpose of a sanitation strategy?
The purpose of a sanitation strategy is to provide a clean and sanitary environment for the handling of food products. A proper and effective cleaning strategy includes cleaning and sanitizing of all food handling equipment in every area of the processing plant. And, a process that is administered in a timely manner. The strategy must be designed to accomplish this objective and remain economically feasible, while it meets or exceeds all the regulatory requirements. The program must be designed with all these goals in mind.
The end result is that if all the goals are not met, the program will be guaranteed for failure.
Your sanitation strategy has to include four basic steps.
The first step to hire a Plant Sanitarian. The second and third steps are to establish written cleaning procedures and schedules. Lastly, step four is to make sure that all sanitation procedures are properly documented.
The Plant Sanitarian is the person who is responsible for the overall strategy. The best person for the job is a third party company that is trained and specializes in Food Plant Sanitation. This person has to be effective, trained and able to implement the strategy. The Plant Sanitarian must also be able to develop an effective cleaning procedure, schedules, training and supervision of the sanitation employees and an ability to verify that all areas have been effectively cleaned and sanitized. When choosing this person one must need to ensure they are a member of the management team and have the support of the plant manager. They also have the authority to take all the necessary steps to ensure that all of the equipment and the entire area of the plant is properly cleaned and sanitized.
Written Cleaning Procedures must include step-by-step methods for cleaning and sanitizing all pieces of equipment. Having a written procedure is a road map for the team on how to properly perform each and every cleaning task, and used a training tool for all employees. The process could be a list of materials and supplies and tasks that need to be performed daily. It is imperative that all employees are equipped to perform the tasks, and protect themselves and their environment from spreading of microorganisms.
Written Cleaning Schedules are important because they document how to properly clean and sanitize the equipment as well provides a documented program for the frequency that each task is to be completed and who is responsible for completing each task. The master sanitation schedule assigns the cleaning tasks that are not part of the daily task, but keeps track of the assigned completion weekly, monthly and quarterly.
All cleaning schedules are custom designed to address the differences in the products, equipment, size of facility and the man power required.
And finally, the strategy has to include a Self-inspection Program. This program includes the pre-operational inspections which are conducted before starting the processing line. These inspections concentrate on the food contact surfaces, however, don’t ignore the overall environment. These inspections are essential because they ensure that each food contact surface is in fact clean and sanitary. This may include taking swab samples to test for microbiological load. All findings of this pre-op inspection must be corrected prior to starting the line
Monthly inspections allow for inspection covering all areas of the operation and must include all food contact surfaces, framework and the processing environment, with special care to floors, walls, ceilings, drains and overhead structures.
Your inspection also has to include the processing area, raw material warehouse, finished product warehouses, packaging material storage areas, shipping and receiving areas and the outside groups. The documentation of the findings of each inspection and the corrective action taken to resolve each discrepancy has to be kept on file.
A periodic review of these reports by the plant sanitarian will assist in the evaluation of the overall effectiveness of the sanitation programs. This review will aid in the recognition of problem areas so that appropriate changes in the program can be made.