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Good hygiene relies on good design

11 August 2018

To ensure that a food factory is easy to clean and maintain it is vital to understand the importance of hygienic design of all the equipment chosen. 

The suitability of the design and ease of cleaning can lead to a reduction of food contamination and food poisoning incidents. It is unfortunate then that when planning and designing equipment for a food factory the hygiene element can often loose out to the initial cost of an item. This is a mistake, says Jordi Claraco Anguera, a food safety management system specialist at Campden BRI. “When designing equipment the significance of gaps and sealants can be overlooked. Gaps are hard to effectively clean and can encourage pests such as insects and rodents. They can also encourage food debris build up and microbial growth. These areas should be sufficiently sealed and the efficacy of these seals needs to be reassessed regularly.”

Thinking about the flow of the factory when designing it will also assist good hygiene. Ingredients should flow away from storage areas without crossing over cooked food. Careful placement of sinks will help prevent food contamination as well. Dirty water can splash and contaminate food and equipment so sinks should be separate from food preparation areas and maintained in a clean state.

“Consideration of how easy the factory is to clean at an early stage of the design process is also beneficial,” said Claraco Anguera. “Cleaning, like the movement of food and raw ingredients, should follow a flow and be directed from clean zones to dirty zones. Cleaning that is quicker and easier to carry out is a major benefit to both food safety and productivity.”

The design of equipment within the food preparation areas is also important and this should be based on a balance of operational requirements – both personnel and process safety – and hygienic requirements – relating to food safety. According to Claraco Anguera, the equipment used to prepare food must not pose a risk to health, or bring about an unacceptable change in the food composition or deteriorate the taste, smell, texture or look of the product. Further, anyone handling food should be adequately trained.

“Pathogenic viruses are an emerging problem for the food industry,” continued Claraco Anguera. “Although they may not grow on or in foods, they can be carried on their surface. Viruses have a low infective dose and there is limited knowledge of how they react to common microbiological controls.” Some of the most important viruses associated with foodborne infection are Norovirus, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E. Good hygiene practices before, during, and after food preparation can reduce the chances of contracting an illness. “BRC Global Food Standard for Food Safety Issue 8 will require all production areas with open ready to eat products to have a risk assessed environmental monitoring programme for pathogenic and spoilage organisms,” concludes Claraco Anguera.

The term ‘hygienic design’ comprises the hygienic design of structural elements, components and production facilities so those manufacturers of equipment used in the food industry who adopt the principles of hygienic design are helping their food industry customers to ensure the cleanability of the materials, surfaces and constructional elements of the equipment. So, by employing hygienic design principles, equipment vendors can support the food industry in its endeavour to sustainably increase food product quality and safety.

Principles of hygienic design
Minebea Intec has published a whitepaper document which looks at the principles of hygiene design and offers examples and recommendations as well as explaining why the focus should always been on hygienic design when choosing new equipment for food plants.

Hygienic design can also offer resource cost savings. Increasing costs for wages, energy and quality assurance means that the cleaning of plant facilities and machines in the food industry is not an inconsiderable cost factor. In addition, the efficiency of production can be reduced due to cleaning-related downtimes. So, the less contamination that is able to reside on machines and in facilities, the shorter the cleaning times and downtimes, resulting in lower total operating costs.

Hygienic design can also support companies in their efforts to reduce energy consumption and to protect the environment and production facilities which can be cleaned easily, quickly and effectively will also result in a reduction in the consumption of energy and cleaning agents.

The Minebea Intec whitepaper on hygienic design can be downloaded from:

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