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The bigger picture for food hygiene28th of June 2012
Food-safe detergents for cleaning down surfaces are a basic necessity when equipping a hygienic food preparation environment. But in the bigger picture there are plenty of other products that can help to avoid the risk of cross-contamination, as Ann Laffeaty finds out.
Most of us accept the vital role that food-safe detergents play in keeping surfaces and equipment clean in the food preparation sector. But peripheral products such as gloves, wipers, colour-coded cloths, hand hygiene equipment and easy-to-clean dispensers all have their role to play in the hygienic food environment. And some manufacturers would argue that such products and systems are at least as important – if not more so – than kitchen chemicals.
For example, Evans Vanodine’s international sales manager Peter Thompson believes that the use of hand sanitisers is the single most effective aid to controlling cross-contamination in the food sector.
“Around 70 per cent of micro-organism transmission in food preparation areas comes from the hands and clothing of the food handlers themselves,” he said. “So it is essential that an effective barrier to such contamination is used throughout the work process - in addition to the typical entry and exit hand disinfection stations in the catering or food production area.”
He says alcohol-based skin and hand disinfectants need to be placed at multiple points throughout the work area to help provide this security. “Food producers should also be able to satisfy themselves the product used meets the requirements of the EN1276 disinfectant test for food process areas,” he adds.
Evans Vanodine’s Handsan product - which meets this requirement – eliminates all food contamination bacteria and fungi as well as many pathogenic viruses according to Thompson. The product also contains a skin conditioner and pH buffers. “These help to prevent adverse reactions in high usage areas – a problem often associated with cheap unformulated alcohol solutions and sprays,” he said.
Thompson adds that today’s food processors are beginning to realise the limited effectiveness of bactericidal hand soaps. “Instead they are falling back on alcohol-based products which provide the hygiene security they need to produce safe food.”
Sempermed head of marketing Birgit Schnetzlinger says gloves are another example of a product that is crucial to good hygiene in the food sector. “Wearing gloves is a visible sign of hand hygiene and shows that hygiene is a vital part of the company policy,” she said. “And in areas where there are insufficient hand washing facilities, wearing gloves is the only solution to guarantee a proper hygienic standard.”
The company offers a range of nitrile gloves aimed at the food preparation sector. Semperguard Nitrile Xtra Lite gloves – which are blue in colour – are designed for use in behind-the-scenes food production areas where HACCP standards are required, while Sempermed’s recently-launched Semperguard Nitrile Xenon gloves are a thin white nitrile glove specifically designed for use in front-of-house areas.
“Disposable gloves are gaining more popularity in the food sector due to a higher awareness of hand hygiene,” said Schnetzlinger. “The thin nitrile material offers wearer comfort and good tactile properties when cooking, while the white colour is appreciated when food handling in front of the customer.”
Nitrile gloves have traditionally been used mainly for industrial work safety applications until now, she said. “However, innovative technologies allow for the production of very thin nitrile gloves. These combined with new nitrile formulations - designed for higher comfort - open up new areas of application.”
Another new product – this time from Tennant’s Orbio Technologies Group – can actually be used in the place of traditional cleaning chemicals in the food sector according to the manufacturer. The Orbio 5000-Sc has been described as a cross between an on-site cleaning solution generator, a holding tank and a dispenser.
Based on Tennant’s ec-H20 water technology it uses tap water plus electricity and a small amount of salt to create a multi-purpose cleaning system. This is said to be able to clean away most types of soiling including fats, proteins and organic oils which makes it particularly suitable for food environments, according to marketing director Jeff Johnson. He compares the simplicity of the system to that of a domestic water tank.
“The Orbio 5000-Sc doesn’t require a high level of operator expertise – it doesn’t even have an on-off button. It turns itself on and refills itself using low concentrations of sodium hydroxide to clean away substances such as oily fats and proteins.”
The unit is around the size of an average fridge freezer – but this is because it is mostly tank, says Johnson. “It makes the cleaning solution at a rate of around three litres per minute so if someone comes along with a large scrubber dryer to fill, the solution needs to be made up and ready,” he said. “The solution can be stored in the unit for months before use.”
Tork manufacturer SCA argues that products such as user-friendly antimicrobial soaps - coupled with hand moisturising agents - are also crucial to food safety since they help to promote good hand hygiene practices among staff. The company has recently launched an antimicrobial foam soap aimed at the needs of the food preparation market.
“Tork antimicrobial foam soap is effectively a soap and hand sanitiser in one and is effective against various types of microbes as well as bacteria,” said SCA product and segment manager Charlotte Branwhite. “It has been approved according to four EU standards and contains moisturising agents to ensure that it doesn’t cause skin conditions such as dermatitis, even when used frequently.”
The company also offers a moisturising agent - Tork Premium Hand and Body Lotion – for food areas where frequent washing could dry out the hands of staff and cause skin conditions such as dermatitis. The lotion is perfume and colour-free and comes in a drip-free dispenser to avoid the safety hazard of trips and slips in the kitchen.
Gojo Europe offers a hygiene management system specifically developed for the food processing and preparation sector. The system, which comprises soaps and hand sanitisers in purpose-designed dispensers, uses colour coding to easily identify hand washing and hand sanitising products.
“This breaks down language barriers and makes the system simple to use with a choice of touch-free or manual dispensers,” said European marketing manager Suzanne De Maine.
The range, launched in December 2011, is designed to simplify a complex range of regulations and worker compliance issues. “There are many opportunities for cross-contamination in a food processing plant and this has the potential to cause untold damage,” said De Maine. “For instance it could lead to plant shut-down due to contaminated product; products that are unsuitable for sale; loss of reputation; damage to brand image and loss of customer loyalty.
“By ensuring that effective, easy-to-use hand hygiene products are readily available at all the ‘critical points’, food companies can guard against these risks. While also providing the added benefit of supporting their employees by demonstrating their commitment to safeguarding their personal health and well-being.”
Gojo’s products for the food sector include manually-operated FMX food processing dispensers and TFX touch-free versions. These can be used to dispense antibacterial foam soap or mild foam handwash, or the company’s Purell hand sanitiser. The refills are sealed as opposed to bulk fill, and a fresh valve is included with each refill.
“Good hand hygiene systems are not merely ‘extras’ for food processing companies – they are essential to the smooth running of their entire business,” said De Maine. “If just one employee doesn’t follow proper hand hygiene procedures that one person could put the entire workforce – and company – at risk.”
And she says the Gojo hygiene management system has been designed to complement the various other hygiene procedures that need to be followed in food processing companies. “We work closely with manufacturers in this sector to make sure that our products deliver the right results for them,” said de Maine.