The hygienic design of the food manufacturing infrastructure, particularly the factory and the processing equipment, is fundamental to the safe manufacture of food products. The hygienic design of factories provides:
- Defence against external factory hazards (chemical pollution, airborne microorganisms, flooding, pests etc.)
- Defence against internal factory hazards - no harbourage sites and ease of cleaning
- Internal flows of people, product, packaging, air and wastes to prevent cross-contamination
- Security against deliberate contamination
- The maintenance of hygienic conditions via structure rigidity and material durability – appropriate foundations, steelwork, floor slabs, surface finishes
The hygienic design of food processing equipment provides:
- No small surface irregularities such as crevices that could provide microbial harbourage sites or growth niches
- No small dead areas that could provide harbourage for allergenic materials
- No large dead areas that could provide harbourage for materials that could provide brand protection issues, such as meat species or for pests
- No contamination of the product with foreign bodies arising from the equipment (glass, metal etc.)
- No contamination of the product with chemicals arising from the equipment e.g. lubricants
- Drainability to prevent the retention of e.g. cleaning chemicals and to aid quick drying.
Indeed, many of the product recalls we see in the EU are related to cross-contamination of the food product from the processing environment or processing equipment rather than from failures in the manufacturing process. Hygienic design is thus a key prerequisite in managing food safety and wholesomeness. Hygienic design also leads to increased food product quality, by management of the product line flows, and reduced manufacturing costs via ease of cleanability.
Further to this, the processing environment and equipment must be maintained in this hygienic state, which is practically undertaken via cleaning and disinfection programmes and planned preventative maintenance.
To control or eliminate the hazards arising from the manufacturing infrastructure, the Congress will offer practical best practice that can be implemented by food manufacturers immediately, as developed via EHEDG guidelines. In addition, a vision for future control may be glimpsed from current academic research in this field.