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Focusing on hygienic design

20 March 2017

As interest in hygienic engineering and design in food processing continues to grow, Food Processing spoke to Eric Partington, regional chair of EHEDG UK & Ireland, about the latest news from this section of the organisation, new guidance and the benefits for the food sector. 

For readers not familiar with EHEDG, can you provide an overview of the organisation and explain why it is so relevant to food and drink manufacturers.
The European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) is an international consortium of equipment manufacturers, food producers, leading research institutes and public health authorities who collaborate with equipment manufacturers, food producers, research institutes and public health authorities to promote and improve food hygiene at every stage of food manufacture and processing. EHEDG and its regional sections are not-for-profit organisations that work for the benefit of the food industry. EHEDG has operated all over the world for over 25 years; it now has member companies in 55 countries and regional sections in 22 of them. In a global industry which is dealing with increasing demand for pre-prepared foods and a reduction in the use of preservatives, its work in the field of hygienic design has never been more important.    

How do you support food and drink manufacturers?
We provide training and best-practice guidance in the form of Technical Guidelines.  At any one time EHEDG has more than 400 experts worldwide developing new Technical Guidelines or updating existing ones. It has published more than 45 of these, on subjects as diverse as hygienic design principles for food factories and food-grade lubricants and the design of hygienic pipe couplings. This guidance is shared with the industry via EHEDG’s comprehensive Yearbook as well as via EHEDG approved training programmes, bespoke seminars and conferences.

EHEDG's collaborative approach is a key strength in an industry which, until recently, has had no forum for sharing knowledge on how the design of food-processing equipment and facilities can significantly affect food safety, and our regional section enables food and drinks companies to gain support, and to be involved with EHEDG at a local level.  

What activities has EHEDG UK & IE been involved with since its creation in 2015?
We have supported industry in a number of ways. Specifically, we have worked with Universities and other academic bodies to raise awareness of the importance of hygienic engineering and design to undergraduates; we have been delivering training to individual companies, and we have been communicating the key principles of hygienic engineering and design via industry events held by bodies such as the Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST), the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and at trade exhibitions. Members of EHEDG UK & Ireland have also been contributing to the development of new EHEDG guidelines for the industry.

What key EHEDG guidelines (Technical Documents) have been launched in the last 12 months?
Document 43 – Hygienic Design of Belt Conveyors in the Food Industry, and Document 47 Guidelines on Air Handling Systems in the Food Industry - Air Quality Control for Building Ventilation have both been finalised in the last 12 months and are now available to any EHEDG member. 

What other developments are happening at EHEDG UK & Ireland?
Only next month EHEDG is holding, in conjunction with the IFST, a Hygienic Engineering Conference at Campden BRI. In the longer term, I’m very pleased to confirm that our submission to host the next EHEDG World Congress in the UK in 18 months' time has been accepted. 
What is the EHEDG World Congress and what benefits might it bring to the food and drinks industry when it is hosted in London in 2018?
The EHEDG World Congress is a summit held every two years for researchers, engineers and equipment-specifiers from food-production-related industries. It focuses on core topics related to hygienic engineering and design in food and drink processing environments. 

One of the key benefits of bringing the Congress to London is that it will enable us to significantly increase awareness among important stakeholders such as Government and key media for the size, scope, economic impact and global leadership capabilities of our food and drinks industry.  At the moment, it is a little-known fact that food and drink is the UK’s biggest manufacturing industry and it leads the World in many fields. The Congress will give us a good opportunity to support the work of other bodies who are looking to address this lack of awareness. 

The Congress will also provide an opportunity for organisations to connect and collaborate with food and drink companies from all over the world as well as obtain the very latest Best Practice guidance from experts in hygienic engineering.  As the Congress is being held jointly with Food Matters Live, organisations will also get the chance to showcase their products and expertise to a global audience. 

What are your key goals in the UK & Ireland for the next 12 months?
As a group we want to expand our support for the industry and particularly for SMEs. We recognise that SMEs often lack the internal resources or expertise to operate technical departments, but they still need access to globally recognised, market-leading knowledge and research in order to improve their own standards and to compete. All of this can be provided to them by EHEDG and our hope is that SMEs engage with us and take advantage of the services EHEDG has to offer in order to further improve standards in their own operations. We would invite any organisation which is looking for impartial advice, guidance and training to get in touch with us. 

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