With thousands of deaths worldwide caused by food contamination, food manufacturers and distributors need to take particular care in ensuring contaminant-free work environments
Food contamination generally refers to any spoiled or tainted goods that are unfit for consumption whether from bacteria, parasites or toxic substances. With an increasingly globalised market, contaminated food from one part of the globe can impact consumers living on the other side of the planet.
Illnesses caused by bacteria, parasites and cross-contamination during food manufacturing can be
dangerous for the consumer – especially where allergies are concerned.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, worldwide, 600-million people (or one in every 10) fall ill from contaminated food each year resulting in 420 000 deaths.
Food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances causes more than 200 diseases ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Of these, diarrhoea is the most common and causes 550-million people to fall ill and results in 230 000 deaths annually.
During processing or production, food can be contaminated for a variety of reasons ranging from pest infestation to poor handling of the product. While some contamination happens during the preparation process, the WHO notes that manufacturers and distributors still carry the primary responsibility.
To prevent contamination, the industry needs to ensure food is stored at the correct temperature and that processing and packing takes place in a clean environment. For manufacturers that still rely on workers on a factory floor, it is important to ensure that no bacteria or contaminants are brought in.
Reusable or disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) can be invaluable to achieve this. The contaminant-free clothing can be put on just before entering the factory floor and removed on exiting. It is important that the PPE is not reused and is disposed of every time the worker leaves the factory floor.
To simplify access to disposable PPE, employers can consider a vending machine solution, which allows workers to select the required PPE from a sealed machine. The machine can also provide reports on stock movement and quantities.
To further ensure a clean environment for processing and packaging, the factory floor and equipment should be cleaned thoroughly and regularly. One way of improving sanitation is to ensure the cleaning process is done the same way every time with strict checklists and procedures.
A checklist can also assist in clarifying cleaning tasks and ensuring the correct products are used in each cleaning process. Visual aids can be helpful as they are easy to understand. It is also important to ensure that no shortcuts are taken during the cleaning process.
A contaminant-free workplace should always be a first priority, as it ensures the production of quality products, while protecting consumers and the company’s reputation.