By Marcelo Lilla

If you have had recurrent positive microbiological results for pathogenic organisms, even with a good cleaning process and detailed operations procedures, maybe your problem is generated by a failure in the sanitary design of your equipment or in your overall infrastructure.

Sanitary design is a set of standards and conditions related to food hygiene and considers all structural and equipment designs, repairs, modifications, or purchases to reduce the potential contamination, cross-contact, and pest infestations, and to facilitate cleaning efforts. Food processing plants use sanitary design to prevent physical, chemical, and biological contamination of their products. Through a good sanitary design, you can also create maintenance processes that include the selection of proper cleaning compound, sanitizing materials, and methods of use for food processing equipment.

A small crack, a hole, a non-sanitary weld, or even an irregular surface in the equipment may represent an opportunity for accumulation of organic material and microbial growth. The combination of food, water, temperature, and time are preponderant for unwanted development in the equipment and structures.

Salmonella and Listeria monocytogenes are two common microorganism that can grow in equipment and industrial sites. Listeria is associated with humid and cold conditions, but Salmonella is widespread in food manufacturing facilities with a warmer and drier climate. They could, however, be found in both environments at the same time. Food processors should also avoid accumulating allergenic ingredients that provide a considerable risk of cross-contamination.

Three fundamental points to consider when working on the sanitary design of any equipment:

  • Compatibility: the materials used in the construction of the equipment and the building structures, must meet requirements based on their intended conditions of use. Therefore, materials must be inert to the product, non-reactive to cleaning and sanitizing chemicals, corrosion resistant, and non-toxic.

  • Accessibility: all equipment parts must be easily accessible to ensure the cleaning and removal of waste product.

  • Design: the final design of the equipment should minimize the accumulation of ingredients or other unwanted substances that could jeopardize food safety production.

Companies often overlook adequate sanitary design because it is seen as an additional cost, yet it is the first step toward reducing and even preventing food contamination risks, establishing high hygiene standards, and providing  food-safe, sanitary conditions.

Utilizing sanitary design principles in your facility may result in long-term success by preventing extra costs related to smaller production interruptions, minimizing the risk of potential recalls due to contamination, pre-operational expenses, lower internal complaints, and a decrease in hazard situations.

If you are interested in learning more about Sanitary Design or Sanitation in general, review the following online courses and Instructor-Led Trainings currently available:

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