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Are your cleaning tools hygienically designed?

12 July 2021

Debra Smith discusses the importance of hygienic design for cleaning and food handling tools. 

Hygienic design is related to how easy something is to clean as well as to the materials it is made of. The principles of hygienic design have been defined by the European Hygienic Engineering Design Group (EHEDG) which states that equipment should be/have:
• Free of crevices and contamination traps e.g. use of smooth joins, absence of small holes, recesses, and sharp internal angles.
• A smooth surface finish (Ra less than 0.8µm).
• Easy to clean (and dry) e.g. quick and easy to dismantle/re-assemble, or of one piece construction, or with easy access to all areas for cleaning and disinfection.
• Made of food safe materials i.e., non-toxic (in compliance with EU food contact material legislation).
• Well constructed and durable.
• Non-absorbent.
• Appropriately temperature and chemical resistant – for example to dishwashing and autoclaving, cleaning and disinfection chemicals.

Hygienically designed production equipment will be quicker and easier to clean, and will minimise the risk of product contamination by microbes, allergens, foreign bodies. This, in turn, maximises food safety and quality, reduces the risk of product rejection or recalls, and minimises food waste. 

However, when it comes to the equipment used to clean the food production environment and production equipment, very few cleaning and food handling tools are developed with good hygienic design in mind.

Cleaning equipment and utensils have been shown to be a major source of contamination and studies have found that cleaning equipment often follows poor hygienic design principles. 

The hygienic design of brushware poses a particular challenge. The most commonly used construction method involves the drilling of holes into a solid plastic block and then stapling tightly packed bristles into the holes. This creates possible dirt traps both within the holes and between the bristles. Other brushware manufacturing techniques do exist – for example, fused bristles and resin set – but all have been shown to have hygienic design issues.

Due to the poor hygienic design of brushware some high-risk dry goods environments, like baby formula manufacture, use brushes just once and then throw them away, rather than the risk the possibility of cross contamination.

Cleaning the cleaning tools
The ability to clean the cleaning and food handling tools themselves is critical to ensuring food safety and quality, and the application of good hygienic design principles makes this possible. This may be the driver behind the audit requirements of GSFI food safety schemes operated by BRCGS, and ISO (FSSC22000). BRCGS – section 4.11.6  states that ‘cleaning equipment shall be; hygienically designed and fit for purpose’, while FSSC22000 ISO/TS 22002-1:2009 – Part 1: Food manufacturing 11.2 Cleaning and sanitising agents and tools: states that ‘Tools and equipment shall be of hygienic design.’

There are many reasons why the application of hygienic design to cleaning and food handling tools is so important. The ability to quickly and easily decontaminate a cleaning or food handling tool not only saves time and effort but also improves food safety, quality and shelf life. 

Using the hygienic design principles defined by EHEDG, Vikan has developed a range of equipment for use in areas where hygiene is critical. The range includes Ultra Hygiene handles, Ultra Hygiene squeegees, a range of food handling tools, and its Ultra Hygiene Technology (UST) brushware. All feature a fully moulded construction, minimal presence of crevices and contamination traps, smooth surface finishes, easy access to all areas for cleaning and disinfection, and durable construction. Additionally, all are made of non-absorbent, EU and FDA food contact compliant materials, which are appropriately temperature and chemical resistant.

Vikan is passionate about improving food safety and quality through the application of hygienic design in its products, the Ultra Hygiene and food handling tool ranges have been developed with this in mind The new and improved Vikan 20 litre bucket, for example, features open, sloped carrying handles that make it easy to clean and drainable. It also features sloped drainage holes in the base, to aid drainage when stored upside down.

Debra Smith is global hygiene specialist at Vikan.

A copy of a new Vikan whitepaper – Choosing hygienically designed cleaning and food handling tools – can be downloaded from:

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