The 7 Deadly Sins of Food Contamination

Success comes with its fair share of rewards, but also more than a few responsibilities. Increased demand for product, expanded product line, new technology... all signs that a company is growing in the right direction. The truth is that within this welcome dynamic is also a very real commitment to quality in production and facility operations. The answer is not as simple as "just make more!"

Honest assessments of work environments and manufacturing processes help tell the whole story, and plan intelligently to meet and sustain growth. Knowing the 7 Deadly Sins of Food Contamination can eliminate costly pitfalls that affect product integrity, the health and wellbeing of employees and consumers, and hard-earned reputations.

  1. Plant expansion that requires building additions
    Building additions require HVAC for occupancy. The manufacturing flow in the building and the addition may "upset the cart" with respect to air balance and pressurization.
  1. Adding more food cooking/processing areas in the plant with exhaust fans
    When exhaust is added to remove heat, a steady supply of makeup air is needed for the process. Without it, negative pressure in the building will become evident.
  1. Negative building pressure
    Engineering errors with the HVAC design contributes to a negative building pressure condition. This leads to microbes entering the food manufacturing environment through every area with the least air resistance.
  1. Lack of proper air filtration
    Food manufacturing plants should have a minimum of MERV 15 final filters for all makeup air units supplying air to the food manufacturing areas.
  1. Refrigeration condensing units
    Food manufacturing zones requiring temperatures in the low 40 Fahrenheit range often have refrigeration condensing units. Although these units efficiently supply the temperature range desired, they do not supply any makeup air, and the drip pans can contribute to contamination.
  1. Dust from food manufacturing processes
    Dust from food manufacturing processes collects on everything where the mixing processes take place - this is especially true for rafters and support beam structures where makeup air is brought into the building. Moisture easily mixes with the dust to create a microbial mix that contaminates the final product.
  1. Raw product and mixing areas
    This should be the most negative area in the plant, but positive to the atmosphere. Quite often the air from the raw product and mixing areas is allowed to enter the packaging area, thus creating an environment for contamination.

The key is prevention. In fact, the FDA will soon hold manufacturers to a more stringent standard regarding daily operations to safeguard consumers. Careful consideration of expansion or renovation and a sincere commitment to best practices will yield more than increased output... they will also greatly reduce the risk of needing the public's forgiveness.

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