Personnel and personal hygiene

Personnel and personal hygiene

Personal hygiene is one of the most important aspects of good manufacturing practice (GMP) in the food manufacturing industry. Personnel are both reservoirs and vectors of microorganisms and can act as a source of microbial contamination to food products. There are a number of different mechanisms of product contamination caused by personnel, and therefore a number of ways in which it can be reduced and controlled. Managers of food production facilities must take responsibility for the implementation of a comprehensive hygiene policy, and provide facilities and clothing, effective training and assurance that effective employee and visitor hygiene practices are carried out.

People who work around open food may contaminate the food or surfaces that the food may come into contact with. Hygiene usually refers to cleanliness and especially to any practice which leads to the absence or reduction of harmful infectious agents. The subject of personal hygiene is constantly evolving and, by its very nature of being ‘personal’, is influenced by a range of ethnic, cultural and personal views.

In the food industry the term ‘personnel’ is often taken to mean only operatives employed on the factory floor, but it should also include managers, engineers, contractors and visitors. Successful training and control measures for these operatives, who routinely handle food products, can be negated if other people passing through the processing area do not adhere to the same control measures. Personal hygiene should apply to everybody.

This white paper outlines the many issues relating to personal hygiene in food processing areas. In addition, we have published many guidelines related to specific aspects of food hygiene. Of particular relevance to this report is Campden BRI Guideline 62 Hand hygiene: guidelines for best practice.

People and microorganisms

Food poisoning outbreaks caused by food workers

The published literature confirms that food poisoning outbreaks can be caused by contamination from personnel, and reinforces the need to ensure strict personnel hygiene procedures in the food industry. Guzewich and Ross (1999) reviewed published scientific literature for the period 1975-1998 and concluded that food workers, particularly those that were ill, could serve as the source of infection in food poisoning outbreaks and that hand contact with food was a mode of contamination.

The Committee of the Control of Foodborne Illness of the Association for Food Protection evaluated data on food worker-associated disease outbreaks. They found a total of 816 reports with 80,682 between 1972 and 2006 (Greig et al., 2007). Outbreaks were caused by 14 agents, including: norovirus or probable norovirus (338), Salmonella enterica (151), hepatitis A virus (84), Staphylococcus aureus (53), Shigella spp. (33), Streptococcus (17) and the parasites Cyclospora, Giardia and Cryptosporidium (23). Multiple foods and multi-component foods were identified most frequently with outbreaks, perhaps because of more frequent hand contact during preparation and serving.