To minimize food safety risks in the food industry, it is of vital importance that growers implement various control measures, based only on the identified risks.
Some of the main control measures are the implementation of cleaning and disinfection programs for work areas, proper hand washing of staff, and even disinfection of water used both for direct contact with fresh produce and contact surfaces.
All these activities require cleaning chemical substances (soap, detergent, disinfectant, degreaser, etc.), which, if used properly, minimize risks, but if this does not happen, far from controlling risks, it is likely to introduce hazards to the process that compromise food safety.
For this reason, here are some tips based on current regulations that will help you to use and handle these substances correctly.
When choosing the substance, it is important to make sure that the molecule is safe for the intended use, i.e., suitable for use in the food industry. It is necessary to investigate at what concentration it is safe for contact with the hands of the personnel or with the vegetable to be processed. If it has been tested as microbial challenges or if it is on the FDA list of safe substances.
When chemicals are received, it is a good practice to inspect the containers to verify that they are not damaged, that the seals have not been compromised, that the information on the label is not visible, or that the expiration date has expired.
Once the integrity of the containers has been checked, they should be stored away from food or other raw materials that may be affected by contact with them, in a separate or delimited place.
While they are inside the warehouse, they should be kept closed and identified and follow the recommendations that are generally made on the label, for example, that it should be a ventilated and cool place, that direct contact with sunlight should be avoided, etc.
It is recommended that the warehouse be kept closed to prevent unauthorized persons from having access to the substances and misusing them, in addition to restricting access and maintaining safety signs in compliance with Mexican official standards NOM-018-STPS-2015 and NOM-026-STPS-2008.
Always keep at hand for the people in direct contact with the cleaning chemicals the following documentation support:
Technical data sheets where the mode of use can be seen.
Safety data sheets where you can find what to do in case of an emergency.
Procedures for use, including proper dilution of each chemical.
Visible labels with expiration date, substance identification, and other relevant information.
Finally, to be used in the best way to avoid unnecessary risks, the personnel who are going to use them should be trained to consider:
Use protective equipment based only on the supplier’s recommendations.
Dilute the substances based on the procedures.
Follow cleaning and disinfection procedures as described.
Avoiding incompatible mixtures.
Dispose of residues in such a way that they do not create new hazards.
All these recommendations and obligations are made only based on Mexican and international standards, certification schemes, and above all on the experience of other companies that have seen the importance of following them, which is why Veggies from Mexico adopted them as part of its weekly inspection.