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Food premises get a clean sweep

24 March 2020

Equipment used to clean food and drink premises can often be a major source of cross-contamination. David Hagelthorn, senior marketing manager at Hillbrush, specialist hygienic cleaning tool and shadow board manufacturer looks at the importance of choosing the correct cleaning equipment.

It is the ultimate responsibility of the food industry to ensure that the products they source, process and pack can be safely consumed, so physical, chemical and biological cleanliness is an absolute prerequisite for food safety. A robust and effective cleaning programme is therefore, of course, a must and the regime will form part of HACCP procedures and audit requirements. Ensuring that you are using the correct tools to implement that programme is just as important as the cleaning regime, but the choice available is vast and often confusing, with many variations and designs to choose from.

Efficiency and effectiveness in their ability to clean equipment and reduce contamination are the essential requirements for food manufacturers should consider when purchasing cleaning tools. They need to offer the protection against threats and dangers you can see and, more importantly, for those you can’t – 24 hours a day.

Cleaning equipment is often used over large surface areas and can collect and spread contamination. Data has shown that 47% of the cleaning equipment used can be positive for Listeria monocytogenes which demonstrates that cleaning equipment can be a major collection point for pathogens.

Incorrect storage, failure to replace old or faulty cleaning tools, and incorrect design of cleaning equipment are all key factors contributing to potential microbiological hazards. Cleaning should reduce the risk of bacteria, not contribute to the loading on equipment and the environment.

Using clean equipment that is fit for purpose and effective sanitising of equipment between use is one line of defence to prevent bacterial contamination. But a second line of defence that is increasing in popularity and reduces the threat of cross-contamination is the use of anti-microbial cleaning tools within the food production environment. These can provide round-the-clock anti-microbial product protection. 

Anti-microbial cleaning tools are specifically designed to prevent the growth and reduce the risk of bacterial cross-contamination, minimise foreign body contamination and support HACCP (hazard analysis critical control point) and 5S (workplace organisation) best practice with colour-coded segregation (see the factory and colour diagrams). 

With incidents of food poisoning from food manufacturing on the rise, the need for improved cleaning practices – especially in difficult to reach places where bacteria can collect and spread – has been identified.

Other initiatives designed to assist production and processing sites include the use of colour-coded tools. Although a standard within the industry for some years, there are now specific references included in the BRC Retail Standard and UK Retailer Codes of Practice on using colour-coded tools to reduce the risk of cross-contamination. Assigning specific coloured cleaning tools to areas to control allergen usage, high-risk and low-risk factory zones, floor cleaning and food contact equipment is looked upon favourably by customers, auditors and inspectors. They demonstrate that you take hygiene and cleaning seriously and organise procedures effectively in your business.