Amid trade tensions and international supply chain disruptions, the world’s food supply has become increasingly insecure. Fearing the impact of inflation, some governments even banned agricultural and food product exports in 2022 to protect their national supply. In this fragile landscape, any food waste could be devastating to importers relying on shipments.

That’s why food plant sanitation is more vital than ever to protecting the global food supply — but it’s also becoming more challenging to maintain. Alongside growing microbiological concerns and changing regulations, the global labor shortage and high turnover rate in the industry makes it easy for protocol breaches to put food at risk. Here are three food plant sanitation basics that supervisors need to instill in their workforce:

1. The Difference Between Cleaning and Sanitizing

Cleaning is any sort of process or activity designed to remove residue, debris, dirt, and other forms of soil from workstations, equipment, floors, and other surfaces throughout a food plant. Sanitation is any process or activity that reduces the number of microorganisms on a surface, usually with chemical agents or thermal technology that kill bacteria, mold, yeasts, and viruses. Workers must always clean surfaces before sanitizing them.

2. How to Maintain Food Plant Sanitation With TACT WINS

To properly clean and sanitize surfaces, plant workers and supervisors must consider eight key elements, encompassed by the acronym TACT WINS:

  • Time: Amount of contact time a cleaning or sanitizing agent needs to dissolve soil or kill pathogens
  • Action: Type and amount of physical force a worker needs to apply to effectively remove soils and pathogens
  • Concentration: Type and amount of cleaning and sanitizing solution necessary to remove soils or kill pathogens
  • Temperature: Temperature range a cleaning or sanitizing agent needs to be at to function effectively
  • Water: Amount of water workers need to remove soils, dilute solutions, and wash sanitizers from surfaces
  • Individual: Specific employee(s) assigned to each cleaning process who must be properly trained and held accountable for their performance
  • Nature of soil: Type of dirt, or “soil,” that needs cleaning (such as grease). Each type of soil requires specific cleaning and sanitizing agents to be successfully removed.
  • Surface: Type of surface that needs cleaning or sanitizing, which affects the cleaning agent needed. For example, strong industrial cleaners can deteriorate rubber and should not be used on mats.

3. How to Prevent Cross-Contact and Cross-Contamination Through Tools

In addition to maintaining clean and sanitary surfaces, workers should also be trained on how to avoid spreading pathogens to other surfaces and areas of the food plant. The best way to accomplish this is by clearly delineating the different tools, equipment, and zones throughout a facility. For example, color coding equipment used for raw meat vs. cooked meat or chicken vs. beef can prevent pathogen spread between departments. This allows facility workers to know when tools and equipment are being used incorrectly and quickly decontaminate affected areas.

Meeting Global Compliance Standards for Food Plant Sanitation

Food plant sanitation is a universal science, but regulations vary from country to country and region to region. Make sure your food safety and sanitation program complies both with laws of the region you operate in, as well as those of the locations you export to.

By learning and following best practices, you can maintain universally accepted standards. AIB International’s Food Safety and Sanitation Online for Non-U.S. Exporters course offers more than 21 hours of world-class training specifically designed to get new hires up to speed and reinforce lessons for seasoned employees. The course has been updated with the most recent integrated pest management protocols, environmental control strategies, and pathogen cleaning techniques. Learn more about the course here.

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