Food safety

Revised food safety guideline

By Phil Voysey - 1 October 2020

Guideline 55: a practical guide on the design, implementation and control of cleaning and disinfection of food factories

Phil Voysey discusses the importance of a guideline on cleaning and disinfecting food factories, and the approaches taken to update one already in circulation.

Making products in a facility of a high hygienic standard is an essential requirement of the food industry. Ensuring factories are cleaned and disinfected effectively is a fundamental prerequisite for the safe production of food and drinks. This involves decisions on when to clean, how to clean and what chemicals to use to remove physical, chemical and microbiological contaminants.

For many years, cleaning chemical suppliers helped food manufacturers design and implement their cleaning programmes, including writing cleaning schedules with them. This all came as part of the service package that the chemical suppliers would provide along with their cleaning products. This is a service that they still provide, however, with the introduction of a comprehensive guideline, manufacturers have acquired a little more independence.

In order to capture best industry practice for cleaning and disinfection of food factories, in 2008 we put together a working party of food manufacturers and cleaning chemical suppliers. These professionals produced Guideline 55: Cleaning and disinfection of food factories: a practical guide. The impartial advice in the guide reflected on the principles of how to produce and operate effective cleaning schedules and plans, which could be applied in a consistent way across the food industry. It enabled food manufacturers and chemical suppliers to understand the theory as well as putting this into action in facilities that they were familiar with.

The guide helped industry understand various aspects to cleaning and disinfection, including:

The importance of a standardised guideline

Guideline 55 helped food manufacturers comply with the EU regulations 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs and 853/2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin. Complying with these regulations is essential if a manufacturer wants to remain in business.

In putting the guide together, members of the working party were able to come to a consensus on the best approaches of cleaning based on their personal experiences. As a result, the guide became comprehensive by covering areas such as how to clean particularly tricky areas including drains and floors. It also dealt with errors that are commonly made. In some cases, hygiene staff in food companies were able to use the guideline as a definitive ‘authority’ on approaches to specific hygiene-associated issues, thereby giving them leverage for persuading management that their approach to an issue was the most appropriate, even if it meant management spending money!

The guideline also helps the industry consider the costs and consequences of not cleaning properly and/or frequently enough. As well as protecting the consumer, it has an economic basis in the prevention of product loss due to microbial spoilage

Guideline 55 highlighted how soiling of surfaces and equipment is unavoidable but put focus on the practical ways of preventing these residues from accumulating. With this guide, food manufacturers gained a level of independence, in the sense that they were not reliant solely on their chemical supplier for definitive information on the practices they needed to follow. Having the document readily at their disposal, with instant access to guidance, manufacturers were able to regularly adapt their cleaning processes as their factories developed. Now it is Guideline 55 itself that is adapting.

Updating Guideline 55

Since publication of Guideline 55, a number of changes have been made in the management of hygiene in food production. It is essential that the guideline aligns itself with these changes to reflect the most up to date thinking, research and developments in cleaning and disinfection. With this comes new legislation and chemical cleaning products that the industry must comply with and be aware of.

For example, new controls have been introduced concerning sanitation, such as those in the US, under the Food Safety Modernization Act. In addition, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has requirements concerning cleaning (both microbiological and allergens). Cleaning is also included as an integral part of the food safety management system in the Codex Alimentarius. The guideline needs to align itself with the new cleaning chemicals and techniques that have become available, and products that are no longer used. This has also been coupled with the production of different product types, equipment and methods.

The one-year project

To remain relevant and up to date, we’ve updated Guideline No. 55: ‘Cleaning and disinfection of food factories: a practical guide’. The update came as part of a one-year project funded by our members.

The project took a number of approaches to ensure the guideline remains the comprehensive go-to document. The approaches included:

The project also included a practical element: the creation of short educational videos that advise on how to carry out key aspects of hygiene in production. They’re now live and include:

What stage is the guideline at now?

Guideline 55 is in the final stages of production and will be made available by the end of this year.

Additional guideline for Listeria control

A second of our member-funded projects will follow a similar approach to this one. It will produce an up-to-date ‘one-stop-shop’ guideline document on controlling Listeria during food production.

As 2018 saw the largest listeriosis outbreak ever recorded, the need for this guideline became clear. Listeria monocytogenes-contaminated South African polony sausage caused 200 deaths and it became apparent that the food industry still does not have the measure of this pathogen. This project will run for two years and the guideline will become available in 2021.

What are the latest findings on cleaning food factories?

What are the latest findings on cleaning

Join us online on 24 November where we’ll bring together experts with specialised knowledge of cleaning and disinfection of food factories to discuss the latest trends and findings. From effective allergen cleaning/testing to the challenges associated with cleaning equipment, if you’re involved with keeping food and drink factories clean and disinfected then this is an event that you will not want to miss!

Find out more here.

Phil Voysey
+44(0)1386 842069

Phil Voysey

About Phil Voysey

Phil is a Section Manager in the Microbiology Department at Campden BRI and his Section’s duties include organising and running microbiology training courses and the Campden Microbiology Proficiency Scheme. Read more...