Tip of the Week: Stopping Hidden Danger In Its Tracks: Prevention Series

We're continuing our Hidden Dangers: Prevention series this week by turning our attention to fresh produce. Each product segment in the food industry faces unique risks and hazards related to the processes and equipment they use. We're highlighting some segment-specific hidden dangers and recommending prevention measures to stop them in their tracks. 

Hidden Danger

Maintaining water quality standards can be a cause of major concern in fresh produce operations. We've seen produce sites that use recycled water (in-house) as a rinse water. Under the equipment might be tubs of water with piping systems in there. Is there mold growth in the tubs of recycled water? What is the cleaning schedule for the pipes and the whole system?

Solution

When used appropriately with adequate quality water, antimicrobial chemicals help minimize the potential for microbial contamination of processing water and subsequent product contamination. The effectiveness of an antimicrobial agent, as well as the amount that should be used, depends on the treatment conditions (i.e., water temperature, acidity [pH], water hardness, contact time, amount and rate of product throughput, type of product, water to product ratio, amount of organic material, and the resistance of pathogens to the particular antimicrobial agent). 

In some countries, particularly in the eastern hemisphere, hypchlorite solutions are not allowed to be used to address residual “biocides” in produce. Some facilities are moving away from hypochlorite solutions and are using either ozonated water, electrolyzed water, or simply a continuous stream of a clean running water to wash and rinse the produce. In any case, we insist on microbiological verification of the technology used to prove that it's working and demonstrate a dosage control is in place (ppm/ltr etc.).

Hidden Danger

Organic debris can accumulate in drains leading to unsanitary plant conditions. 

Solution

Consider a drain map and include these drains on the Master Cleaning Schedule to routinely remove organic matter. Ensure cleaning utensils are designated for drains only!

Hidden Danger

Catwalks over exposed product and product zones can lead to some gnarly product-contamination concerns.

Solution

Ensure catwalks with open grating do not pass over areas of exposed fresh or fresh-cut produce or food-contact surfaces. Include this as part of your design standards and self-inspection program to ensure catwalks do not pose a risk to product zones below.

Hidden Danger

HVAC and cooling systems are risks for leaking condensation. 

Solution

If possible, install drainage lines for these systems away from exposed product zones. Include them on your maintenance and sanitation schedules to ensure they remain free flowing.

Hidden Danger

Air inside a processing plant can be a vehicle for product contamination by mold, yeast, dust, or pathogens if not properly controlled. 

Solution

Where fresh and fresh-cut fruits and vegetables are exposed to open air, we recommend that air quality be monitored to ensure that it is of suitable quality. Using positive, negative, and ambient air pressure differentials to direct potential airborne contaminants away from microbial-sensitive areas. For example, negative air pressures in raw product areas, microbiology laboratories, and restrooms may help to keep air from those areas from flowing into the processing areas. Similarly, positive air pressure can be maintained in areas such as the processing and packaging area.

Comment
Print Friendly and PDF