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Sanitation Practices to Minimise the Risk of Food Contamination

According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), global foodborne illnesses cost more than US$15.6 billion each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 76 million illnesses related to food contamination have been reported worldwide from 1999 to 2010, including 325,000 hospitalisation cases and 5,000 deaths. CDC further added that Salmonella, Listeria and Norovirus are among top 5 microbes and pathogens that caused major foodborne diseases around the world. In Malaysia, food poisoning cases have increased 6% in 2013 compared to the previous year, making it one of the top communicable diseases with highest incidence and mortality rate. 

Furthermore, based on the environmental assessment done by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in a food processing facility, they found that hygiene and sanitation are one of the key factors that contributed to Salmonella contamination. Food preparation areas and non-food contact surfaces that were not effectively cleaned or sanitised have high potential to trap and harbour water, organic materials, harmful germs and pathogens.

Pest infestations have also been identified to cause food contamination because pest such as cockroaches, flies and rats are carriers of harmful bacteria and viruses. Additionally, the food plant environment is extremely attractive as it provides ideal conditions and basic necessities such as food, water, shelter and protection for these pests against natural predators.

WHAT IS SANITATION PRACTICE AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT AS PART OF AN EFFECTIVE INTEGRATED PEST MANAGEMENT (IPM) PROGRAMME?

Generally, food processing companies take many precautions during production and raw materials storage to ensure that clean and safe products are being manufactured without disruptions. In order to minimise the risk of food contamination, IPM must be deployed as part of the prerequisite programme against any potential pest infestation. The process usually begins with identification of potential pest that may infiltrate the facility to further understand pest’s behaviour, elimination of breeding and harbourage areas both inside and outside the premises, exclusion from potential entry points and treatment.

However, even when all these components are put into action, poor sanitation may still lead to attraction and breeding of pests in the facility. Once they are inside, they will be drawn towards ingredients or finished goods, eventually contaminating these materials and the facility. That is why sanitation practices are essential to prevent the attraction, breeding or infestation of pests.

EXTERNAL SANITATION PRACTICES

  • Make sure that the plant surroundings are cleaned and well drained as stagnant water can become harbourage area for mosquitoes.
  • Drains and waste disposal areas need to be scrubbed and cleaned on a regular basis to remove any organic build-ups that flies thrive in.
  • Conduct routine maintenance to remove any food waste that may be trapped in the roof as it attracts pest like cockroaches and rats to invade through these vents or other openings. 
  • Garbage bins and refuse containers must be covered and kept in sanitary condition. Make sure that garbage is collected regularly to prevent it from piling up.

INTERNAL SANITATION PRACTICES

  • A thorough cleaning and up-keeping of machineries and equipment must be done diligently to eliminate accumulated food soils.
  • Internal trash containers, both inside and outside of the production areas have to be emptied frequently to ensure that trash does not overflow.
  • Warehouse areas must be kept dry and clean, especially around the loading bays. All doorways should have curtain strips to prevent flies and birds from infiltrating into the storage areas.

“As part of the IPM routine, an effective sanitation programme is key to the overall success of any food processing operation. However, it is also crucial that sanitation activities are designed with professionalism that are tailored to your needs to remain economically feasible while complying to regulatory and audit requirements”, said Ms. Carol Lam, the Managing Director of Rentokil Initial Malaysia.


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