While it’s likely that uniforms, garments and other apparel are not a weak spot for a production facility when it comes to food safety, it is important the understand the risks of substandard care, cleaning and handling.
What your employees wear while they’re handling ingredients, manipulating production processes and more is of high importance in order to ensure you have a clean and secure production environment.
One of the main purposes of food hygiene workwear is to minimize cross-contamination risks. Uniforms and other garments can become a risk to your product through both microbiological contamination and physical contamination.
Also, partnering with a uniform supplier that can easily ensure the steps are being taken to minimize the hazards of improperly cleaned and sanitized garments is advisable.
Corvium, a food safety solutions specialist in Reston, Virginia, says some workplace attire dates back generations and still serve the same general purpose.
The company says it is vital for employees in high-risk situations to have company-provided uniforms, especially long-sleeved coats or smocks. Outside clothing can haul bacteria, hair, buttons and other pollutants into the facility.
“In order to ensure maximum protection, uniforms should not leave work,” the company says. “They should be laundered, and a clean uniform should be put on at the start of the day and placed in a designated area at the end of the day. Company coats can also protect wearers from dangerous pathogens and many types are fireproof.”
Hair nets and beard nets are also a must. Employees should cover all hair on their head, face and ears. While there is no proven risk in an end consumer ingesting a strand of hair, the simple act of a shopper finding hair in the product is a risk for supplier and retailer alike.
Glove should be a no-brainer. They’re essential for keeping workers safe and for keeping the food supply safe. Wearing gloves can help employees prevent their hands from getting injured or dirty when handing food and can also prevent themselves from contaminating food with pathogens.
The FDA food code recognizes a various grade of gloves to be single-use or multiple-use, depending on cleanability, durability and strength.
Footwear, whether company-issued or personal, should be finitized before and after entering a food plant. Foaming boot sanitizers at the entrances can be closely monitored to ensure they have correct levels of sanitizer and water. Sticky mats can also be used to ensure sanitary-sensitive areas are free of foreign substances.
Daymark Safety Systems, based in Bowling Green, Ohio, offers disposable solutions to many hygiene apparel needs. This can make it more likely that employees are changing into clean garments when necessary.
“Aprons are an important component of facility safety and disposable aprons help prevent cross contamination when preparing food and using cleaning chemicals,” the company says.
They can be thrown away upon completion of a task or when they become soiled, leaving the clothing clean and uncontaminated.
Daymark also offers disposable poly sleeves, which are used in conjunction with gloves during food preparation. These sleeves protect the wrists, arms and clothing. Again, when a task is completed or when sleeves become soiled, they can be pulled off and disposed of.
Daymark’s line of disposable gloves can accommodate a range of foodservice uses. Close-fitting vinyl gloves and loose-fitting poly gloves are ideal for tasks requiring dexterity, the company says.
Blue nitrile gloves are powder-free and all-purpose, while 22-millimeter long-sleeve gloves and 18-millimeter latex gloves are great for working with chemicals and dishwashing.
To prevent cross-contamination, disposable gloves should be changed when they become soiled, when changing tasks, when handling raw meats, and at least once every four hours during continual use.
Not only is white historically the color of most food safety hygiene apparel, it’s also vital because it can be bleached and it easily shows dirt, bodily fluids or any other potential contaminants.
Tips for employees
· Uniforms, aprons and garments should be clean at the beginning of each sift and changed whenever necessary.
· Any hygiene apparel needed for the job should not be work outside of the food preparation area.
· Do not use handkerchiefs or towels to wipe or blow your nose. Instead, use disposable tissues.
· Wear disposable gloves.
· Damaged, frayed or deteriorating uniforms, aprons or garments should be discarded.
· Uniforms should not have pockets above the waist and should not include any buttons.
A standardized approach to minimize laundry hazards
Aramark, based in Philadelphia, uses its VeriTEX QC process when supplying production facilities with hygiene apparel services. The process, which is a third-party, internally audited laundry and delivery system, includes:
· A proprietary set of strict Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures
· HACCP-trained employees
· Garments washed with an EPA-registered laundry disinfectant that achieves a complete kill of certain organisms, including Listeria monocytogenes, Escherichia coli 0157:H7 and Salmonella enterica
· Finished garments that are covered to avoid cross-contamination during transport
· On-going process monitoring and data validation
· Third-party internal audits of our HACCP plan, personal hygiene policy, pest control program and MSDS for chemicals
Five essentials of food industry uniforms for HACCP compliance
Philadelphia-based Clean Rental Uniforms provides tips to make sure your employees comply with HACCP standards.
Snap-front processing coats instead of button-downs
A single loose button can ruin an entire production run and cost you big money in lost product and time. Not only does snap-front clothing protect the product from contamination, it also protect employees from hazardous spills since these garments can be removed quicker than button-down options.
Pocketless shirts and pants
The best bet is to not include any pockets on work uniforms. If pockets are necessary, make sure they are not above the waistline. Pockets enable employees to store belongings on themselves that could contaminate your product and it’s also a space for debris or other contaminants to be transported around the facility.
Fitted garments prevent spills
Uniforms should be fitted with proper sleeve and body lengths. Not only does this help prevent spills, they are also more comfortable, which can help improve your employees’ productivity.
Use durable, long-lasting materials
Made sure your food safety garments are crated from durable materials. Food processing uniforms should only be worn once before being washed, which means they will be hitting the wash cycle early and often. If they can’t stand up to heavy washing, they’ll need frequent repairs. Damaged uniforms can leave employees exposed and products at risk of contamination.
Cleanliness that meets high standards
Sanitation should be a major priority. Partner with a uniform rental company that cleans garments up to FDA, USDA and HACCP standards.