An Introduction to Helping Your Program Become ‘Above the Best!’

By Henry C. Carsberg, P.S.

I n the past, many food processors thought that by throwing some chemicals on their equipment, and the stronger the better, that they were doing an acceptable cleaning job. They thought the sanitation crew was a necessary evil, composed of mystical gnomes who worked in the plant at night, unsupervised, then vanished come the dawn and everything was “cleaned-up”.

Too many times I have encountered food processing management who view sanitation with an exasperated attitude of “It’s just something I have to do!” The sanitation/food safety crew is treated with little respect, and we wonder why there is such a high turnover in staff. If chemicals can be bought at a cheap price, they consider that a “good deal,” never taking into account the real costs of a food safety/sanitation program as that of labor and attitude.

This is just an introduction of what will be a continuing series of articles intended to assist you and your food safety/sanitation program to become “above the best.”

My name is Henry Carsberg, and I have been invited to write a monthly column on food safety/sanitation for this magazine. So, just who am I? I have over 30 years in food plant sanitation, either on the crew, in management or as a consultant. I spent 20 years in mechanical construction, and after that, I returned to the food safety/sanitation profession selling chemicals. I saw a very large void in the technical aspects of sanitation and recognized the new requirements looming on the horizon as HACCP became an issue, initially impacting the seafood industry. I know and understand how equipment works and what it takes to clean and sanitize it. I have extensive training and practical experience in most all aspects of food safety/sanitation and food products.

In this column, my goal is to pass on to you, the reader, what I have learned, experienced and taught over the years. I have contributed to college level textbooks, Food Quality Journal, and other professional publications and have written and published my own sanitation handbook. My approach here will be to make the science of food sanitation and safety simple and easier to understand, no fancy buzzwords, no smoke and mirrors. I will do my best to present the high tech part of food safety/sanitation in a manner that can be easily understood and used by all who work on the sanitation crew, as well as quality assurance.

What do I do? I have a firm that provides sanitation/food safety programs to processors, such as audits of all types, training and motivation workshops, plant analysis for food safety and self auditing systems. My goal is to allow the processor to gain more business and to have his food safety/sanitation program become a profit center, not an expense. How do we do that? Read the column each month and find out!

Even as you are reading this, times are changing. Sanitation has become one of the most critical issues in food processing today. Just examine what has happened in the past five years. Increasing governmental regulation, (and trust me, you haven’t seen anything yet) HACCP, changing customer perceptions and demands, outside auditing, and the list goes on. Heavy domestic and international competition are also strong motivators for better sanitation practices. Right now, somewhere in the world, is a competitor working very hard to be the best, and when you meet him in head-to-head competition, he may very well beat you. You can rise to the challenge. You can become processors whose products and practices are truly “above the best!”

An effective program, one that encompasses a systematic approach to sanitation technology, will be a key competitive factor in the future of our industry. A food processing sanitation manager is going to have to be a well-rounded and well-educated person. Knowledge is power, and power turns into profits. The criteria will be how to do something better and more efficient than anyone else. It is this attitude that will make the difference.

So is “sanitation technology” just a glorified term for “cleaning up”? No, unless you take into consideration profits and customer retention. The cleaning and sanitizing of a food processing plant is vital to maintaining the total processing environment in a clean and safe manner that will affect all aspects of plant operations. We must reduce or eliminate the opportunity for food to become infected with food-borne pathogens or to become adulterated. This can only be done through the design and implementation of a complete sanitation system that includes a variety of aspects.

Following are some of the main topics we will be covering in this series, and I just may add some new wrinkles as time goes on. Please, do not look for high tech jargon. As I said earlier, I want my articles to reach everyone and for you to use my column as a tool to improve your operation.

Here is a brief outline of what I will be covering:

• Microbiology—A review and study of the basic food borne pathogens, their characteristics, how they function, etc.

• Micro and ATP testing—Capabilities and techniques for testing for bacteria on food contact surfaces to determine how well the sanitation program is working.

• Clean Chemistry—Products used to remove food soils, etc. Which basic ingredients are to be used to determine meeting eight criteria I will cover in the course of these articles.

• Sanitizing Chemistry—Various products that are used to kill bacteria. Which chemistry to use and what ones are best for your needs based on the various types of food technology. I want to provide a broad base, not just for produce. Times change, and we must be prepared to meet those changes and new challenges.

• Cleaning Equipment Systems—Methods and equipment to apply and remove cleaning chemicals and sanitizers to remove organics in the most cost effective method, both in chemistry and labor.

• HACCP and ISO—The relationship and demands of the sanitation/food safety team to meet HACCP requirements.

I will be coming from the aspect that knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have about food safety/sanitation, the higher the competition will have to rise to meet your level, which I hope will become “above the best!” Please feel free to input your ideas and comments. I can be reached at [email protected] or (360) 293-8719.

© 2005 Columbia Publishing

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