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Stine Lønnerup Bislev
Stine Lønnerup Bislev
Hygiene and Compliance Manager

Five steps to control Salmonella in a food processing facility

What foods do you associate with Salmonella?
Most likely your answer will be raw meat and eggs, not flour or nuts. Nevertheless, Salmonella is a very resistant bacterium and can survive in all kinds of foods.


Salmonella in brief

Salmonella is a major cause of foodborne disease. Salmonella bacteria are estimated to cause over 90 million diarrhoea-associated diseases worldwide every year.
The most common symptoms of Salmonella infection are diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours after eating the contaminated product. The illness usually lasts 2 to 7 days, and most people recover without treatment. But for susceptible populations, Salmonella infection can be severe and even lead to death.

 

Common sources of Salmonella in the food industry

Salmonella is a pathogen that is prevalent in the gut of many animals such as poultry, pigs, cattle, and pets, as well as in insects and people. Salmonella can get into soil, water and food from the faeces of animals or people. The bacteria can easily be introduced into and spread throughout food production facilities via raw ingredients, dirty packaging, equipment and workers’ hands and clothing.
Once introduced into a food production environment, Salmonella thrives in moist, warm environments such as drains, floors and processing equipment.


Even low-moisture foods are at risk of Salmonella contamination!

Salmonella is most often associated with meat, eggs, milk, and raw fruits and vegetables. However, ‘low-moisture foods’ such as infant formula, spices, nuts, peanut butter, flour and chocolate can also be contaminated with Salmonella. Historically, low-moisture foods were not considered a food safety hazard because they have low water activity – less water available for microorganisms to grow. Yet Salmonella can survive in a wide range of pH levels, temperatures and water activities. Salmonella is thus able to survive in all kinds of foods and on surfaces for long periods of time, even up to several months.

 

Five steps to control Salmonella in the food industry

1.
Prevent Salmonella entering the processing facility

  • Ensure that only clean and disinfected equipment, tools and utensils are brought into the processing area

  • Test your incoming raw materials and segregate ingredients that pose a risk for Salmonella contamination

  • Implement proper pest control measures

  • Employees must be free of Salmonella infections, be trained to understand the potential sources of contamination, and use the hygienic practices and procedures needed to prevent the spread of Salmonella in the facility

 

2.
Undertake proper cleaning and disinfection procedures

Cleaning can be divided into wet cleaning (for meat, vegetables and dairy products) and dry cleaning (for low-moisture foods).

Wet_Dry_Graphic_EN

In the wet cleaning procedure, detergents and disinfectants can be used.

When performing dry cleaning, you will need to avoid using water, and disinfectants must evaporate quickly. If needed, a controlled wet cleaning with minimal use of water can be performed. Be sure to dry equipment after controlled wet cleaning, as any remaining moisture could increase the risk of microbial growth and cross-contamination.

All cleaning and disinfection procedures should be validated, to make sure they are effective, even in worst-case soiling scenarios.

The effectiveness of validated day-to-day cleaning and disinfection procedures should be monitored/verified by visual inspection, ATP or microbial swabbing as appropriate.

For all cleaning procedures, maintain a cleaning schedule with descriptions of what, where, when, by whom and how to clean.

 

3.
Implement Salmonella contamination prevention procedures

Choose the correct cleaning methods to avoid spread of contamination.
Avoid using high-pressure hoses. Whenever possible, clean equipment in physically segregated areas and minimise cleaning in open food-production situations. When cleaning floors and other dirty surfaces, avoid splashing and aerosol contamination of product-contact surfaces.

Divide production into zones for raw and processed food handling.
Use site colour-coding plans to separate areas for different levels of hygiene control, e.g. zones for raw and processed foods.

Use dedicated and colour-coded cleaning equipment and food handling tools.
Colour-coded cleaning equipment and food handling tools give you visual assurance that only equipment colour-coded for use in a given zone is used. This makes it easier to avoid Salmonella cross-contamination via equipment and tools between, for example, raw and processed zones.

If you store your cleaning tools on colour-coded wall brackets or shadow boards, it is easier to ensure that the tools remain segregated by colour during storage. Correct storage facilitates allow for faster drying of cleaning tools and reduces the risk for Salmonella cross-contamination among tools

4.
Use equipment of good hygienic design

Choose cleaning equipment and utensils of appropriate hygienic design to facilitate easy cleaning and prevent microbial growth. Hygienic design features include smooth surfaces, one-piece construction, easy dismantling and a lack of crevices and coatings. Read more about the hygienic design of food industry brushware in this whitepaper

5.
Monitor Salmonella in the environment

Develop a program for routinely sampling your production environments for Salmonella. An environmental monitoring program (EMP) will assess the effectiveness of your overall hygienic practices, monitor the environment for transient pathogens and help mitigate potential harbourage and growth niches.
Be sure to include cleaning equipment in your environmental monitoring program.


Want to learn more?

Further guidance on the use of colour coding for controlling Salmonella, and on the selection of hygienically designed brushware, can be downloaded here.

Colour coding guide

Cleaning Tool Maintenance whitepaper

Hygienically designed brushware whitepaper

 

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