The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting normal operations for countless food and beverage manufacturers. This disruption may occur due to limited staff numbers (as a result of social distancing requirements, layoffs, or staff sickness); additional sanitation requirements in relation to the control of COVID-19 transmission; changes in the level of production (up or down); and even site shutdown. These in turn can lead to a loss of resources for, or focus on, food safety sanitation.

Food manufacturers have a legal obligation to produce safe food and it is therefore essential that routine sanitation practices continue and that additional sanitation is undertaken after a period of shutdown. Employers also have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of their workforce, including minimizing their risk of COVID-19 infection. Ask us about Color Coded Cleaning Tools and Shadow Boards!

 

Sanitation for food safety

Review your sanitation SSOPs and ensure you have the right tools for the job

  • Review Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) for required tools and equipment
  • Review your color-coding plan
  • Check all shadow boards, tool racks, and storage locations for tools that need to be replaced

Check individual work stations to ensure the correct material handling tools are present

  • Ensure that all tools are present in their correct areas
  • Make sure tools match the established color-coding plan

Discard any tools that are damaged or that are in poor condition

  • Damaged tools can harbor microorganisms and allergens in deep gouges or cracks
  • Pieces or materials may break off in production areas, causing foreign body contamination
  • Damaged tools can injure employees

Clean brand new tools before their first use in your facility

  • Even new tools could be contaminated with allergens, microbes, or foreign bodies
  • Manufacturers of cleaning and material handling tools do not sanitize or sterilize tools before they are shipped to end-users unless they specifically state otherwise
  • Even tools that are individually wrapped should be cleaned before their first use

Clean existing tools

  • Tools that are not properly sanitized and dried after use or prior to shutdown may become a source of contamination on re-use
  • Cleaning and material handling tools themselves can be vectors for pathogens

Clean the nooks and crannies

  • Include spots or areas within the facility, equipment, or tools that are hard-to-reach or inspect
  • They are much more difficult for the sanitation crew to properly clean and disinfect. It’s critical to carefully clean.

 

Sanitation for COVID-19 control

This cleaning is what should be done on an ongoing and frequent basis when the plant is back in operation

  • Surfaces that are commonly touched by employees should be cleaned more frequently. These include:
  • Consider adding a unique color to your color-coding plan to specifically clean these non-food contact surfaces
  • Tools should also be cleaned between use by different people to lessen the chance of spreading COVID-19

 

Train staff on the importance of food safety and COVID-19 safety plans

Training is an important step in building and maintaining a food safety culture. This applies to general food safety plans and enhanced COVID-19 safety plans. A culture of food safety includes:

  • Strong leadership that encourages cooperation
  • Ongoing food safety training for employees and higher-ups
  • Engaged and informed employees
  • Self-audits built into the work structure
  • An organizational structure based on a complicated chain that gives more people moreresponsibility instead of a direct flow
  • Empowered employees who share responsibility for and are rewarded for practicing food safety
  • A robust food safety plan that contains preventative measures and controls