A high standard of hygiene is a prerequisite for safe food production, and the foundation on which HACCP and other safety management systems depend. Experts agree that integrated hygiene and food-safety management systems in food production — especially in the manufacture of meat and poultry — can give rise to exceptional improvements in food-safety performance, but require a high level of commitment and complete, functional involvement. Sanitation is a dynamic and ongoing function and cannot be sporadic or taken lightly. That said, hygiene, specifically when it comes to hand- and boot-washing, must become a way of life, and as natural as getting up in the morning, for our industry’s plant employees. And suppliers, with their many offerings and innovations, are helping workers maintain this standard of cleanliness.

As set forth by the Nebraska Department of Agriculture (NDA), all persons working in direct contact with food, food-contact surfaces, and food-packaging materials must conform to hygienic practices while on duty to the extent necessary to protect against contamination of food. NDA says the methods for maintaining cleanliness include wearing outer garments — including boots or footwear — suitable to the operation in a manner that protects against the contamination of food, and maintaining adequate personal cleanliness by washing hands thoroughly (and sanitizing if necessary to protect against contamination with undesirable microorganisms) in an adequate hand-washing facility before starting work, after each absence from the work station, and at any other time when the hands may have become soiled or contaminated.

Sanitation systems must be in place for use by personnel working along a food-processing line, such as the eviscerating trough of a poultry-processing plant. For example, a reservoir should supply warm water through a fluid manifold which extends along the trough. A return line should be connected between the end of the manifold to the reservoir for recycling unused water, and a plurality of wash stations should be spaced along both sides of the trough and include conduits which connect with the manifold.

Facilities with hot water for hand-washing must be provided and must be convenient to food-handling areas. This is a standard all meat and poultry plants must follow. All personnel involved in food-handling are required to thoroughly wash hands with soap under warm-running, potable water. Where required, employees must use disinfectant hand and boot dips.

Suppliers'contributions to plant hygiene …

In the never-ending battle to safeguard our industry’s manufacturing plants from contaminants, manufacturers are constantly developing new equipment to help processors enhance food safety. Here are some of the latest developments from suppliers.

Zee Co. of Chattanooga, Tenn., recently debuted Relieve Ultra, a foaming handsoap line. While handsoap itself is nothing new, Relieve Ultra has been developed to keep antimicrobial capabilities while also containing emollients to keep hands from getting dried out and chapped.

“We’ve always had similar types of products, but no one has gone to the customer with a truly effective and efficient product,” says Greg Atchley, national accounts manager for Zee Co.

GOJO Industries has hit the target with its Purell brand of hand sanitizing gel. The Akron, Ohio-based company has unveiled new ways of getting the product onto the floor.

People who are making deliveries, or in a work area for a limited amount of time, can help prevent cross-contamination with the company's new TFX Touch Free Dispensing System. Requiring “no hands to use” and placed at entryways, the ease of use will help encourage employees and visitors alike to use the product.

New Sanitizing Wipes also raise the convenience level of using Purell gel. They can also remove light soil from hands.

Atlanta-based Zep Superior Solutions has come out with several products for both hand and boot sanitizing. The company’s products use a variety of sanitizing chemicals in developing products, such as iodine for Zep-I-Dine, quaternary ammonia for both Zep Foam SanTM for hands, and alcohol for the Alcohol Spray Sanitizer.

The Zep Door San, using quaternary ammonia, is effective for boots while FS Anime-Z is effective for both boots and gloves.

Randy Karcz, director of sales and marketing for Brookfield, Wis.-based Hydrite Chemical Co., says the company is particularly proud of Entryguard, a new boot wash and doorway foaming compound introduced in April 2008. The quaternary ammonia-based product contains a new foam enhancer that produces drier, longer-lasting foam at much lower concentrations than conventional quaternary compounds. Karcz says that Entryguard has been able to reduce the amount of quaternary ammonia by 35 to 65 percent and help conserve water at major meat-processing plants.

Meritech of Golden, Colo., offers several pieces to fit a variety of processor needs.

The ProTech offers both hand- and boot-washing capabilities. Using only 0.4 gallons of water, it is activated by infrared photo-optical sensor and has a hand-wash compliance indicator. The push-button activated MBW2 effectively cleans boots in an 8-second cycle. And the CleanTech2006 comes with optional boot dip pan, turnstile and hand dryer.

According to William B. Smith, vice president and CFO of PolyConversionsInc., Rantoul, Ill., says that the company’s PolyWogs would be useful for boot cleaning.

The disposable wipes use quaternary ammonia as a disinfectant and is appropriate for impervious surfaces in meat plants.

It is formulated for the meat- and food-processing industries, reduces the load of bacteria on impervious apparel and removes processing residues.