The who, what, when and how of food plant sanitation

The food manufacturer is responsible for the condition of the plant.

The food manufacturer is ultimately responsible for the condition of sanitation in the processing plant. Clearly spelling out the procedures in a Standard Operations Procedures (SOP) manual sets the stage for a clean facility, clarification of what needs to be done and when, and accountability if the plant is found to be deficient or out of compliance.

  • Who is responsible: Normally, a manager is responsible, with tasks being delegated to other workers. In larger firms, a manager that does nothing but sanitation may hold this responsibility. In smaller firms, however, production workers and managers may be responsible to do the necessary sanitation tasks. In extremely small firms, the owner/operator will be the person responsible.
  • What needs to be cleaned: Documentation of what needs to be cleaned should be recorded in the SOP manual. Typically, all surfaces where food comes to mind easily, but other items also need to be considered; some of these items would be ventilation ducts, screens, fan blades.
  • When to clean: Surfaces and utensils that come into direct contact with food should be cleaned frequently. It is common for these items are cleaned every four hours, but may need to more frequently. This would depend on the products being made and the potential pathogens for that particular product. Other items in the plant need to be cleaned but possibly on a less frequent schedule. Again, the schedules and frequencies need to be recorded into the standard operating procedures.
  • How to clean: The SOP manual should outline of how to clean the object, and may include hand cleaning, power washing or some other method depending on the site specific requirements and products. It also includes the type of sanitizers with proper concentration levels to insure safe food production.

It is also important to have an adequate verification program to insure that the procedures are being executed according to the plan. Additionally, the food manufacturer should validate the effectiveness and document accordingly. Validation can be in several forms, but typically is from testing surfaces for presence of pathogens, or from research that indicates of certain procedures are followed, control of pathogens is achieved.

Food processors who are setting up facilities to make products are important to the economy of Michigan. 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 MSU Extension office.

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