Bakers Journal

Features Business and Operations
Guest Column: June 2010


June 4, 2010
By Paul Medeiros

Topics

Planning on renovating or expanding your bakery? Here are five tips for keeping your contractor alert to food safety.

Planning on renovating or expanding your bakery? Here are five tips for keeping your contractor alert to food safety.

I once observed an electrician in a restaurant kitchen working directly over open containers of hamburger condiments. Bits of plastic and wire were flying everywhere, and his soiled toolbox was sitting directly on the food preparation table. 

This kind of situation is more common than you think – even in processing plants. 

Most food companies exercise due diligence by ensuring they source food ingredients from approved, experienced, trained and regulated suppliers. 

But many forget about monitoring risks associated with contractors.

Equipment installers, electricians and general contractors can transport dangerous pathogens and allergens into and throughout your facility. The risks associated with construction-type activities are well known and documented. 
For example, Listeria monocytognenes can survive in dust for more than 150 days. Therefore, dust control during any kind of contracted work is crucial. The 1998 Ballpark Franks Listeriosis outbreak resulted in 101 cases, 15 deaths and six miscarriages. That outbreak was theorized to have been caused from contaminated dust released through construction activities. 

In addition to dust, contractors run the risk of bringing allergens, pests, pathogens and chemical hazards into food plants. Improper work practices can also contaminate food and create security risks.  

Guelph Food Technology Centre consultants can help fix food safety and sanitation problems resulting from improper equipment and facility design, installation and construction.

Given the potential damage to a company’s products and brand, it is important to recognize the risks associated with contracted services and to put controls in place to reduce or eliminate those risks. Here are some important tips to remember:

1. Develop and maintain a list of approved equipment suppliers and contractors

  • Limit selection of contractors to those with food experience and recognized food safety training. Certification to a recognized food safety standard is an excellent indication that the contractor takes food safety seriously.
  • Develop specific food safety protocols for contractors. Communicate those protocols in writing during the project quotation phase.
  • Develop and maintain a GMP-related performance rating system for your contractors. Disqualify contractors who do not meet your criteria.

2. Conduct a risk assessment with your contractor and plan for  measures to control those risks
Consider specific measures such as:

  • Washing and sanitizing of contractor tools prior to entering your facility;
  • Physical segregation of the work area via tarps and other methods;
  • Job-specific food safety/GMP training for contractors;
  • Provision of uniforms to wear while on site; and
  • Routes for equipment and material entrance to the job site as well as waste exit routes and protocols.

3. Plan out the project details

  • Confirm that the control measures generated through the project risk assessment have been translated into specific project protocols and procedures and communicated.
  • Confirm design to ensure sanitary design principles are maintained.
  • Confirm material and chemicals used during the project meet regulatory and food safety requirements. (Chemicals and materials are listed on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Reference Listing of Accepted Construction Materials, Packaging Materials and Non-Food Chemical Products.)

4. Monitor and document contractors and their work

  • Assign someone to monitor contractors while on-site.
  • Communicate regularly with contractors. Comment on any observed issues immediately.
  • Let contractors know that they are to communicate any potentially unsafe events or observations to you immediately.

5. Ensure a safe transition back to production

  • Thoroughly inspect and sanitize the area prior to resuming operations. In most cases, conduct double sanitation. In high-risk areas, verify sanitation through swabs or other means.
  • Revise sanitation, maintenance, premises and other prerequisite/GMP programs based on changes brought about through the work.

Where appropriate, intensify environmental testing and product sampling following the work to ensure contamination has been prevented.

These extra measures often equate to additional work for the food plant and the contractor. Most contractors are open to this sort of effort, but the best ones actually initiate it. The additional work may not be easy, but if everyone were doing it, we wouldn’t experience so many recalls, lawsuits and ruined businesses.


Paul Medeiros is manager of consulting services at Guelph Food Technology Centre. Contact him at pmedeiros@gftc.ca.


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