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When it comes to hygiene... think like an auditor!

12 March 2017

The prospect of a visit from a hygiene auditor can be a source of great trepidation as any instance of non-compliance can result in costly production delays, the requirement for additional investment, or even a hefty fine. 

It is important to remember that auditors are important in helping to maintain the high standards that the food industry in this country can be justly proud of, says Sue Springett, commercial manager at Teknomek. Auditors are not there to catch anyone out. As long as your business is working to the specified criteria, you should have nothing to fear. Getting the basics right is a first step to reducing any sleepless nights.

Firstly, bear in mind that the auditor will be assessing hygiene throughout a facility. This doesn’t start at the production floor – changing rooms, washing facilities etc, are equally important. A further benefit here is this makes it easier to instil best-practice and to maintain a hygiene culture throughout the business.  

The next point should go without saying. Be sure that the materials used in your processing equipment and furniture are food-grade. This means it must be resistant to corrosion and robust enough to withstand harsh cleaning and sterilisation regimes. 304 grade stainless steel has become a food industry standard because it is chemically inert so it will not contaminate foodstuffs, either in terms of taste or colour. It is also sufficiently durable to be sterilised using processes such as high pressure and high temperature cleaning without losing any of its properties.

When considering the audit process, it makes sense to work backwards from the cleaning process. The auditor will not just be looking at the equipment and furniture itself, they will be assessing hygiene across the entire facility. When an auditor looks underneath the cupboard, it isn’t just the floor that’s being checked. 

As such, it is important to consider accessibility in the design of the furniture itself – is it easy to clean at the back or underneath for example? Poor quality design also has the potential to create a breeding ground for germs. Look out for ‘dirt traps’ – gaps, and ledges, rough edges or folds dirt or mould can collect. Also, ensure that there are clear drainage points for liquids and beware of flat surfaces that could collect water (and germs).

While it is easy to overlook the design of furniture and other equipment, it really is worth remembering that the Devil is always in the details when it comes to an audit. 

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