Hygiene: environment and culture
By Nigel Blitz
(Food Hygiene Specialist, Campden BRI) and
Bertrand Emond (Head of Membership and Training, Campden
BRI) - March 2020
Good hygiene starts with design – for food premises and equipment. The flow of raw materials,
ingredients, packaging, people and utilities through a food area can markedly reduce or increase the
risks of product contamination. For example, building materials and the finish on surfaces (e.g. floors, walls, ceilings) influences cleanability, whilst good air management (e.g. filtration, decontamination, controlled directional movement) can reduce cross-contamination.
The ease with which equipment can be accessed and cleaned has a significant impact on how effective operatives and cleaning materials are in removing contamination. The European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group (EHEDG) provides guidance documents on designs that allow for more efficient cleaning, reducing the risk of problems with hazards (e.g. bacteria, viruses and allergens).
When to clean, how to clean and what chemicals to use are also critical decisions. Detergents are used to
remove ‘soil’ (e.g. food residue). It is important to consider the type of soil you wish to remove when
choosing a detergent. Many rapid methods are
available to assess how well soil has been removed. Disinfectants, on the other hand, are used
to kill microorganisms. It is important to consider the efficacy of the disinfectant against the target
micro-organisms – such as Listeria, Salmonella and E.
A fresh pair of eyes will often see things that are missed by those who work in an environment ‘day-in
day-out’. It is often simple things, like the position of equipment in relation to entrances or vents,
that can cause big problems. An external hygiene specialist who understands food and drink production can do this - whether as an auditor (to prevent problems) or trouble-shooter (to solve them). Using specialist techniques like advanced microbial DNA profiling they can also trace (and suggest ways to eliminate) sources of contamination.
People themselves are both a vector and source of contamination. The right protective clothing, including
footwear and hairnets, is essential – as is the design of the changing, sanitation and hand washing
facilities for maintaining the integrity of flow between low- and high-risk areas. Hand hygiene must not be neglected, even in a pressured production environment – both the choice of hand soap and the
hand washing technique are
‘People’ also open the wider area of culture in food safety: the way that people behave in relation to
hygiene and food safety. The
Safety Initiative defines food safety culture as “shared values,
beliefs and norms that affect mindset and behaviour toward food safety in, across and throughout an organisation”. Food safety is a shared responsibility and all employees have a role to play. Although often seen as nebulous, culture can in fact be measured, as can improvements in food safety culture. We’ve previously put together a
white paper to help
companies achieve excellence in their training programmes to strengthen their
food safety culture. We also worked with Taylor Shannon International to develop a
culture excellence programme that
quantifies culture in an accurate, meaningful and
easy-to-understand way. Highlighting strengths and risks enables targeted focused improvements in culture – maximising the return on the use of precious time and resources.
This article is an excerpt from
NFU Mutual’s Food Hygiene Report for 2020, which includes the latest
research on the issue and views from experts in hospitality, retail and food manufacturing.