Understanding the Regulatory requirements
Cleaning and sanitation are key regulatory requirements in the food industry. Many food recalls happen because of poor sanitary practices, and a significant proportion of these relate to Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes cross-contamination incidents within a food plant.
In the U.S., 21CFR 117 FDA regulations are clear about the importance of regular cleaning to prevent allergen cross-contact and cross-contamination of food products. Section 117.35 on “Sanitary Operations” clarifies that the food-contact surfaces of equipment must be cleaned and sanitized as necessary, and that non-food contact surfaces must be cleaned regularly.
Additionally, FSIS legislation based on Federal Meat Inspection Act, Poultry Products Inspection Act, and Egg Products Inspection Act also emphasizes proper cleaning and sanitation to ensure the sanitary conditions necessary to produce safe food. Cleaning surfaces in these establishments will need some efficient and effective form of mechanical agitation using manual cleaning tools to remove rigid soils, e.g., surface biofilms.
In Europe, the General Food Law (Regulation (EC) No 178/2002) imposes general obligations to provide safe food. And according to Regulation (EC) No 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs, food businesses are required to implement procedures to prevent unsafe foods.
Under these laws, food manufacturers, caterers and other businesses in the food chain are responsible for and obliged to:
- Provide safe foods
- Implement procedures to prevent unsafe foods (including appropriate sanitation controls)
- Be able to trace their food one step back and one step forward,
- Withdraw and recall unsafe foods
- Cooperate with competent authorities
Industry and Global Standard Expectations
GFSI-based certification standards have provided a series of benchmarks for harmonizing global food safety programs to an agreed level of industrial expectation. The common standards focus greatly on using the right types of cleaning tools, as stated:
- According to BRC Global Food Standard – Food Safety, Section 4.11.6, “Cleaning equipment shall be hygienically designed and fit for purpose, suitably identified for intended use (e.g., color-coded or labelled), cleaned and stored in a manner to prevent contamination.”
- SQF Code, Section 10.2.9.8 states: “All equipment cleaned after use or at a frequency to control contamination and stored in a clean and serviceable condition to prevent microbiological or cross-contact allergen contamination.”
- FSSC 22000 – ISO 22002 Prerequisite Programs on Food Safety – Part 1: Food Manufacturing, Section 11.2 on ‘Cleaning and Sanitizing agents and tools’ states: “tools and equipment shall be of hygienic design and maintained in a condition which does not present a potential source of extraneous matter.”
Sanitation best practice
As explained in part one of our blog series, during the sanitation process, manual cleaning of surfaces and equipment becomes inevitable. This is because not all the equipment and facilities within a food production environment are designed for CIP or other automated methods of cleaning, and it is these that need to be cleaned and disinfected manually.
Sanitation is not just about the cleaning and disinfection of surfaces and equipment but should be a holistic, risk-based methodology, aimed at significantly minimizing or preventing product cross contamination (by allergen, microbes, and foreign material) within a facility. Illustrated below are the components of an integrated sanitation approach: