Protection from People
Once the positioning of the walls
delimiting the different production
areas is decided, people may still need
to move between the different areas.
Ideally, people and material movements
between a low-risk or raw product area
and a high-risk or RTE product area are
limited or completely avoided. When
designing a new facility, this objective
can be achieved by planning people and
material traffic to keep paths from cross-ing. In existing facilities, passive barriers,
such as lines painted on the floor, may
be needed to provide visual clues to
the employees about the separation between the different zones. Using different colors of paint that can also match
the employee hairnets can provide an
additional reminder. For example, lines
delimiting low-risk areas might be painted in green, signs directing people to
that area can also be green and employees working in the low-risk area may
be wearing green hairnets, while signs
and hairnets for the medium-risk areas
might be yellow and ones for high-risk
areas might be red.
Once the physical barriers or indications are in place, hurdles are needed to
prevent contamination from nonproduction areas or sources, which include
employees, visitors, and contractors
coming from outside the plant or office area of the plant to the production
areas. In general, production entrances
will be equipped with hairnet/beard net
stations, handwash stations, and footwear sanitizers. The level of control may
depend on the hygienic zone entered.
For example, when entering a low-risk
area, employees may walk through a
footwear sanitizer in a transition area;
however, when entering into a high-risk area, employees may change their
shoes to dedicated ones or don aprons
or smocks over their uniform in a vestibule. Entrances to high-risk areas can
be equipped with active hurdles, where
employees need to activate the handwashing station to open the door.
Thought should also be given to
remote entrances to production areas;
for example, if roof access is located in
Protection from the Movement of
production areas and entrances where
employees and contractors can enter di-
rectly from the outside. These entrances
will also need to have hurdles (e.g.,
changing hairnets, smocks, footwear
brushes and sanitizers, handwash sta-
tions, or hand sanitizers) for employees
reentering production areas.
A key concept to prevent cross-
contamination is to have the materials
flow in one direction.
Depending on the
material, this will be
from the lower- to the
higher-risk area or vice
versa. If we look at
the different types of
• Product should
flow from the low-
risk to the high-risk
area by passing through the micro-
bial reduction step.
• Packaging material should be received and stored close to the high-risk area to limit the potential for
cross-contamination associated with
moving packaging through the low-risk area.
• Waste should be transported from
the area where it is generated to a
nonproduction area or to a low-risk
area. It should not be going from
the low-risk to the high-risk area.
If the recycling/compactor area is
shared between low-risk and high-risk
products, precautions must be taken
when waste containers are returned
to the high-risk area (e.g., cleaning
the inside and outside of the waste
container, sanitizing the wheels).
• When designing a new facility or
modifying the wastewater system of
an existing one, the wastewater line
for the low-risk product should not
be connected to the one from the
• Utensils and tools used in high-risk
areas are often dedicated and stored
in those areas. Sufficient space for
storage and cleaning should be
In addition to waste areas mentioned
above, other areas such as sanitation
rooms, employee welfare rooms, and
outdoor smoking areas may be shared
by employees working in areas with different levels of hygiene. Risk from these
areas will also need to be considered
Employee training is equally impor-
tant. When new employees are hired or
when there is a change in the hygienic
zoning program, it is important to
explain the reasons
behind the different
rules and behaviors
they need to adopt.
Having physical barri-
ers and active hurdles
will promote behaviors
that will prevent cross-
The effectiveness of
the hurdles and em-
ployee behaviors can be verified using
different programs. The environmental
monitoring program should include
swab sites from the transition points to
verify the effectiveness of the hurdles.
Audits of Good Manufacturing Practices
and behavioral observations are other
tools to verify whether employees are
following the rules to prevent cross-con-
tamination. If the product is susceptible
to mold growth, environmental air can
be monitored for mold count.
Finally, whether you are thinking
about building a new facility or modifying an existing one, it takes a multi-functional team and time to determine
the optimum hygienic design that will
consider all the different aspects of
effective zoning to ensure both operational efficiency and safe food. n
Richard Brouillette is the food safety director at
Commercial Food Sanitation.
1. Grocery Manufacturers Association. 2010.
Facility Design Checklist. gmaonline.org.
2. European Hygienic Engineering & Design
Group. Hygienic Design Principles for Food
Factories (VDMA Verlag, 2014).
schemes and standards
define hygienic zones