Site selection for food processing facilities help to insure food safety

Siting food processing facilities in a way that avoids environmental hazards can be an important step to enhance food safety and quality.

When a food processor decides to establish a location, either through construction, building out a kitchen in a rehabilitated facility, or moving into an existing kitchen, consideration should be given to the location and the neighborhood. The food processor should evaluate nearby properties to determine the present and past uses. The processor should be concerned with the external factors that could affect food production from a quality and food safety perspective.

Evaluation of the neighborhood is an important consideration in rural and urban settings. In the rural setting, careful attention should be given to farming operations on adjacent sites. The processor needs to consider the amount, type, method of spraying, and drift mitigation plans for the crop protection products used in adjacent fields. In urban areas, similar consideration should be given to the type of businesses located near the proposed food processing facility. The food processor must evaluate the type of airborne hazards, find ways to mitigate the hazard, or choose an alternative site if adequate management of the hazard cannot be achieved.

The food processor should develop a site assessment that includes a summary of the owners and activities that are occurring on adjacent properties. From the site assessment the processor will have the basic information to develop a risk profile and mitigation plans based on activities on the adjacent properties. Mitigation efforts might involve creating barriers, such as diverting water run-off or insuring that the food processors building is properly sealed. It may also change the processes, for instance food production may be suspended when potential airborne drift is planned or evident.

 The final step is to verify and validate that the site evaluation and plans are working and physical barriers and procedures are effective. This would require periodic testing in and around the production facility to determine if hazardous residues from adjacent properties are present. Good record keeping is essential in reducing the risk to the processor should any troubles occur. 

Food processors who are evaluating facilities for start-up operations and others who need assistance in determining how to control pests in their food processing facilities, can call educators at Michigan State University Extension and Innovation Counselors at the Michigan State University Product Center assist businesses in the establishment of good practices to improve business effectiveness. For further information and assistance with employee communications please contact your local Michigan State University Extension office.

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