By Keith Warriner, Ph.D.
Developing a Cost-
Plan for Small-to-
There is little doubt that the advent of sanitation regulations in the late 18th century was the most important and ef-
fective food safety initiative in history.
Even though Hazard Analysis and Criti-
cal Control Points (HACCP) is widely
Small processors have a culture of independence and a tendency to push
back on regulations imposed or advice
provided by inspectors. One must also
consider financial aspects of plant sanitation, given that productivity is frequently measured in terms of
throughput that is negatively affected by
line downtime, such as when plant
cleaning occurs. Regardless of the underlying reasons for deficiencies in sanitation, it is possible to develop a
cost-effective plan on limited resources.
There are volumes of literature on developing sanitation plans available from
government and stakeholder groups and
the internet. Small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) typically don’t have the
time to wade through this sea of information, and so it is more productive to
focus on the important factors linked to
improving sanitary standards within a facility. To this end, the following will provide a focused guide to the importance
of procedures in developing a sanitation
program in small-to-medium-sized food
heralded as the most effective food safety system, the fact is often
missed that many of the improvements in food safety standards are
attributed to enhanced sanitation that forms part of the prerequisite
Despite the importance of sanitation within the food processing environment,
there continue to be foodborne illness outbreaks linked to products produced
under unsanitary conditions. The most high-profile example was the listeriosis outbreak of 2008 where deli meat was contaminated via an insufficiently sanitized
slicer. Poor sanitation practices can be witnessed almost everywhere from large food
processing operations down to the small businesses selling their products in local
markets. Indeed, poor sanitation is the leading violation encountered in processing
plants and foodservice establishments. So why does sanitation remain a neglected
area in some food processing facilities? There is the “human factor” whereby the
food worker or handler regards the food simply as a product and is not conscious
of the fact that it is destined for human consumption. In addition, it is possible
that the workers are inadequately trained and/or management does not fully understand the critical features of sanitation. With regard to the latter, there have been
several foodborne illness outbreaks where pathogens were discovered in the food
processing environment, although the management did not understand what the
results meant or what actions were to be taken.
Food Handlers and
The human factor is one of the critical parts of developing, implementing
and maintaining sanitation programs. It
is vital to involve food handlers in developing the sanitation program and to
provide training in procedures to follow
and the relevance of the different steps.
Management has a vital role in motivating workers to follow procedures and
implementing novel training methods.
Simply providing documents is insufficient. On-the-job training and leading
by example provide a more effective
means of relaying information.
Facilities and Product Flow
The first step in developing any plan
is to ensure that the facility can be sanitized. Absorbent surfaces and inaccessible contact surfaces all lead to
inadequate sanitation regardless of diligence in preparing the sanitation program. The presence of standing water is