September is National Food Safety Education Month. While food producers must practice safe food handling throughout the year, this is a good time to re-focus your team on the importance of a food safety culture.
Polaris MEP asked three experienced Rhode Island food manufacturing pros for their advice. Read on for their thoughts and a new food safety training resource.
Lean Manufacturing Improvements Under the “Arch of Safety”
Polaris MEP clients know that Lean Manufacturing techniques create a sustainable competitive advantage. They also create a sustainable safety mindset. This is because a fundamental part of Lean is that all improvement is conducted under the “Arch of Safety.”
Food Safety is all in the design of the cell layout, or plant layout or your process sequence.
While you improve and then standardize processes, do so with safety in mind. Set start-up and closing procedures tied to the sequence of value-added processes. AND make sure that those procedures include preventing contamination, cleaning up potential hazards, etc.
In a workcell, tools, bins and equipment should be clearly labeled and delineated by product type.
Lean improvements should be approached as Safety first, Quality second and Efficiency third, in that sequence.
– Nathan Bonds, Project Manager, Polaris MEP
Back to (Big) Basics for Fall Food Safety
Food safety in the fall season can be sensitive. Some days it will be warm. Other days it will be cool. All in the same week!
Keeping in mind the big basics of food safety helps teams during the Fall and beyond.
1. CLEAN: Washing hands with soap and warm water and thoroughly drying them is the first best step.
2. COOK/CHILL: Keep cold foods cold, warm food warm and hot foods hot. Temperature abuse can decrease the quality of food, in turn causing illness and at times, even death when consumed.
3. SEPARATE: Conversations on allergen control have reached an all time high today. The 8 big allergens, as stated by the FDA are Fish, Shellfish, Tree Nuts, Peanuts, Soy, Wheat, Eggs and Milk. Based on FDA research, Sesame Seeds will officially become an allergen as well, in 2023.
Segregate foods with allergens and store them in clearly marked spots in the plant. Non-allergen flour should go above the flour with allergens in case a spill were to happen.
Wash foods with allergens separately and with separate (labeled) tools. Even the slightest hint of an allergen can be very damaging to someone who is allergic, so make sure every team member is committed to using extreme caution.
– Lorraine Oliveira, Food Safety Quality Manager, Calise & Sons Bakery Inc.
Walk the GMP Talk for Safe Food Production
While many of us who are subject to following Good Manufacturing Practices or GMPs are familiar with the human aspect (proper use of hairnets, no cologne / perfume, nothing stored in pockets above the waist, etc.), often we forget about the physical building aspects of GMPS.
Next time you walk through your facility, consider the following:
• Do any doors (man doors, trailer bays, etc.) have a gap? Any light shining through should be addressed immediately. A mouse only requires a space the thickness of a pencil to enter.
• Does your facility have an HVAC system? If so, make sure all vents are kept clean and any filters are replaced on schedule.
• Are there any roof leaks? Use leak divertor kits as a temporary fix and schedule permanent repair immediately.
• Date any temporary fixes used in the facility and arrange to repair as soon as possible.
• Repair any cracks in the floor as soon as possible; ingredients and liquids will remain in them.
• Make sure pest control devices are kept current and are not blocked (and that the pest control method used is food safe).
Following these simple guidelines will help ensure that your facility remains safe for food production.
– Chris Cinieri, Project Manager, Polaris MEP
NEW Resource! Online Food Safety Training Courses
Our sister MEP (Manufacturing Extension Partnership) Center in New Jersey offers five online food safety training programs, open to food and beverage manufacturers in Rhode Island and across the country.
Online, self-paced training is a smart option for supplementing in-person training and/or helping new workers improve their skills. There are five courses in all:
- Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP)
- Readiness Online Course
- Food Allergens Online Course
- Food Defense Online Course
- Food Recalls and withdrawals Online Course
- HACCP Overview Online Course
Click here to learn more about the NJMEP online food safety courses available to RI manufacturing businesses: https://www.njmep.org/blog/course_catalog/food-manufacturing-online/.