By Michael M. Cramer
Food Plant Sanitation:
Have You Found
As food manufacturers, when we hear
the word “niche” we usually think of an
environment that can harbor and sus-
tain the growth of spoilage or patho-
genic microorganisms. However, a
niche can also be an activity for which
The basis for sanitation is the removal of soils from the manufacturing
environment. There are many benefits
to this process. From a food safety
standpoint, there is the removal of pathogenic organisms, prevention of the formation of biofilms and removal of
potentially harmful chemicals from food
contact surfaces. From a quality standpoint, there is removal of spoilage organisms to improve the shelf life of
refrigerated or ambient product and decrease the opportunities for spoilage.
Sanitation is also used to prevent cross-over of residue from different animal
species as well as preventing flavor impact by cross-over of spices and flavorings. Improved sanitation performance
can also increase productivity by facilitating efficient plant start-up. Finally, effective sanitation processes can also
prevent regulatory action in plants by
Food Safety and Inspection Service
(FSIS) or FDA inspectors.
a person or an organization is best fitted and where there is benefit
from specialization. This article is intended to demonstrate how im-
portant it is to find a sanitation niche, whether it is finding the people
best suited for the sanitation process or eliminating the microbial
niche through specialized sanitation practices.
While the primary focus is typically on the sanitation department, effective sanitation involves a combination of efforts by multiple departments, including maintenance, quality assurance, production and even human resources. However, the
plant manager is ultimately responsible for the implementation and enforcement
of the sanitation requirements. He or she controls the budget for sanitation supplies, training and equipment. They usually initiate the process for capital expenditures for new sanitation equipment or physical plant improvements that can make
sanitation more effective. Top-down management support is vital to set the tone
for the perception of sanitation priority within the plant and, if they demonstrate a
commitment to sanitation and the sanitation crew, their direct reports will generally recognize sanitation as a priority as well. They also should take responsibility
to ensure that the entire plant understands their role and responsibility to sanitation and product safety. Management commitment is the first and one of the most
important aspects of developing a sanitation niche. Management from the top
down needs to be well versed in the importance of the sanitation process to fully
support it. They must understand that sanitation is fundamental to food safety,
quality and productivity.
Food plants may operate under federal regulations or various state and local
codes. All are intended to prevent production of food ingredients or products
that may lead to contamination with
filth, hazardous substances or adulteration. Whether operating under FDA or
USDA, food plants are governed by federal regulations. It is important to recognize that there are regulatory
requirements for maintaining sanitary
conditions in a food plant environment.
The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
is divided into approximately 50 titles
and Title 21 deals with food and drugs.
The good manufacturing practices
(GMPs) were re-codified in 1977 as Part
110 of the CFR. They explain GMP requirements that cover all aspects of food
manufacturing from employee requirements through facility and equipment
design and cleaning.
While FDA has primary oversight responsibility for food, USDA, specifically
the FSIS, has responsibility for inspec-