The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting normal operations for countless food and beverage manufacturers. This disruption may occur due to limited staff numbers (as a result of social distancing requirements, layoffs, or staff sickness); additional sanitation requirements in relation to the control of COVID-19 transmission; changes in the level of production (up or down); and even site shutdown. These in turn can lead to a loss of resources for, or focus on, food safety sanitation.
Food manufacturers have a legal obligation to produce safe food and it is therefore essential that routine sanitation practices continue and that additional sanitation is undertaken after a period of shutdown. Employers also have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of their workforce, including minimizing their risk of COVID-19 infection.
Sanitation for Food Safety
Review your sanitation SSOPs and ensure you have the right tools for the job:
•Review Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) for required tools and equipment
•Review your color-coding plan
•Check all shadow boards, tool racks, and storage locations for tools that need to be replaced
Check individual work stations to ensure the correct material handling tools are present:
•Ensure that all tools are present in their correct areas
•Make sure tools match the established color-coding plan
Discard any tools that are damaged or that are in poor condition:
•Damaged tools can harbor microorganisms and allergens in deep gouges or cracks
•Pieces or materials may break off in production areas, causing foreign body contamination
•Damaged tools can injure employees
Clean brand new tools before their first use in your facility:
•Even new tools could be contaminated with allergens, microbes, or foreign bodies
•Manufacturers of cleaning and material handling tools do not sanitize or sterilize tools before they are shipped to end-users unless they specifically state otherwise
•Even tools that are individually wrapped should be cleaned before their first use
Clean existing tools:
•Tools that are not properly sanitized and dried after use or prior to shutdown may become a source of contamination on re-use
•Cleaning and material handling tools themselves can be vectors for pathogens
Clean the nooks and crannies:
•Include spots or areas within the facility, equipment, or tools that are hard-to-reach or inspect
•They are much more difficult for the sanitation crew to properly clean and disinfect. It’s critical to carefully clean gaskets, hollow tubes and supports, rough welds, gaps in equipment, dead-ends and joints and crevices.
Sanitation for COVID-19 Control
This cleaning is what should be done on an ongoing and frequent basis when the plant is back in operation:
•Surfaces that are commonly touched by employees should be cleaned more frequently. These include handrails, door push plates, turnstiles, utensils, cart and bucket handles, taps, hoses, cleaning tools, machine control panels, scales and bulk ingredient bins.
•Consider adding a unique color to your color-coding plan to specifically clean these non-food contact surfaces
•Tools should also be cleaned between use by different people to lessen the chance of spreading COVID-19
Train Staff on the Importance of Food Safety and COVID-19 Safety Plans
Training is an important step in building and maintaining a food safety culture. This applies to general food safety plans and enhanced COVID-19 safety plans. A culture of food safety includes:
•Strong leadership that encourages cooperation
•Ongoing food safety training for employees and higher-ups
•Engaged and informed employees
•Self-audits built into the work structure
•An organizational structure based on a complicated chain that gives more people more responsibility instead of a direct flow
•Empowered employees who share responsibility for and are rewarded for practicing food safety
•A robust food safety plan that contains preventative measures and controls
Remco and Vikan have numerous resources available online:
To view the full line of Remco products available from Spill 911, click here.