Food industry cleaning tools have long been identified as a major source and vector of cross-contamination. In 1990 UK Government funded study data, used to establish food industry guidance on microbiological sampling, showed that 47% of the cleaning equipment tested was contaminated with Listeria. Because cleaning tools are common to all food production facilities, and are used throughout, they have the ability not only to collect contamination but also to spread it, if poorly managed.
Fortunately, this has been recognised by the Global Food Safety Initiative. Key elements of GFSI approved food safety schemes, including those operated by the BRC and ISO (FSSC22000), are their directives concerning cleaning equipment.
Andy Freer, Vikan’s Sales Manager for the UK Market, presented his recommendations for GFSI scheme cleaning tool compliance to a receptive audience during the recent Foodex 2018 exhibition at the NEC, Birmingham. He started his talk by highlighting scheme requirements concerning cleaning equipment and hygiene.
He quoted the BRCv7, saying: “Cleaning tools should be hygienically designed, fit for purpose, suitably identified for intended use, (which is basically the use of colour coding), and cleaned and stored in a
hygienic manner to prevent contamination.”
Then FSSC 22000 technical standard on Food Manufacturing:
“Cleaning tools should be hygienically designed and maintained in a condition that does not present a potential source of extraneous matter.”
“There are lots of compliance pitfalls out there for food manufacturers
so here are some tips on how to select and maintain your cleaning tools,” Andy noted, before delivering his recommendations.
First, use hygienically designed cleaning tools. These are tools that are designed specifically to be easy to clean, and designed and manufactured with hygiene in mind. For example, hygienically designed cleaning tools have no sharp internal angles or crevices where debris can become trapped. They are either of one-piece construction or can easily be taken apart and cleaned. They also feature smooth surfaces that offer no possible refuge for potential contaminates.
Second, cleaning tools should be made of legally compliant food-contact materials, which in the EU relates to EC Directive Nos. 10/2011 and Regulation 1935/2004. Equipment should also be supplied by the manufacturer with EU compliant Declarations of Compliance.
Third, make sure the cleaning tool you’re using is fit for purpose. Not all equipment has to be of the highest hygienic design. A foam bladed squeegee is excellent at removing liquids from surfaces but its foam blades are not hygienic, as they can’t be fully decontaminated. So this type of squeegee is great to use in low risk, wet areas. By contrast a fully moulded, single-blade squeegee may not be as efficient at removing liquids, but its good hygienic design means that it can easily be cleaned and disinfected. Consequently, this would be a good choice in a high risk, ready-to-eat food production area. By way of a compromise a moulded, double-blade cassette squeegee removes liquids well and is easy to disassemble and clean. Hygienic design has to be considered in relation to the equipment purpose.
Fourth, you must have a specific, detailed programme in place to show that you’re keeping your cleaning tools clean and maintained. This programme should include the areas where the equipment is being used; who is responsible for cleaning the cleaning equipment; how often it is cleaned; and what methods are used. The programme should also detail overall goals, monitoring and verification arrangements, post-cleaning inspections and start-up inspections. This includes validating that your system works – which can take some trial and error.
Lastly, cleaning tools should be cleaned and disinfected, and inspected for damage and wear before being used, and records should be kept of the inspections. Poor maintenance of cleaning tools will be a target. Makeshift repairs with tape, for example, are sure to draw the auditors’ attention. And all tools should be stored appropriately on, preferably colour-coded, racks or shadow boards to show auditors that you’re on top of managing your cleaning tools.
Closing with a quiz
After noting that Vikan continuously monitors developments in food-safety standards and regulations – and updates its products and documentation to comply with these – Andy closed his talk with a fun quiz, based on the information he had just presented.
The winner took home a hygienically designed Vikan bucket filled with useful cleaning tools and other delights.