Avoiding Accidents

by Joe Stout
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Afew weeks ago, I boarded a small aircraft on a late afternoon flight from Salt Lake City to Chicago. Scheduled to be well over a 3-hour flight, the captain came over the loudspeaker with a pair of tradeoffs. To the delight of everyone , he announced we would be departing and should arrive on schedule. The second briefing wasn’t as well-received. We soon learned the onboard restroom wasn’t functioning and anyone who would need to use the facility during the flight was encouraged to deplane immediately and take a later flight. No one left the plane.

Because I was upgraded to first class, I was repeatedly offered beverages and persistently declined. I was far more conservative than some of my fellow travelers, who ordered at will from the drink menu. I marveled at their courage.

Planning and taking a strategic path has always been part of my daily routine. The same approach when applied to sanitary design will enhance the robustness of our cleaning processes to support food safety. This can be a legacy we proudly leave behind as an industry. No other activity has a greater impact on the ability to consistently produce safe, high-quality food products for current and future generations.

A state-of-the-art design for the equipment and the facility in which it will be installed is second to none. The better design enhances cleanability to remove soils, allergens, pathogens and other substances. A sanitary design allows manufacturers to map traffic patterns for employees and materials to assure separation of raw and readyto-eat areas. Without a design for cleanability, items of concern (allergens, pathogens, etc.) may find their way into a finished product and compromise consumer safety.

MAINTAINING PRINCIPLES. I continue to be a strong advocate for the use of sanitary design principles. In 1998, while at Kraft Foods, our team developed a set of principles for equipment design. Later, when I had the opportunity to lead the American Meat Institute (AMI) Equipment Design Task Force, we started our process with these idioms as a model. The Grocery Manufacturers Association’s equipment design principles for lowmoisture products also used these standards as a starting point. These are each accompanied by facility design principles.

These principles have been excellent tools for teaching and encouraging an understanding of design concepts, rather than providing an untold number of prescriptive mandates. These allow for thinking and planning on how to continuously improve and drive designs to new and better levels and, at the same time, promote food safety.

If you are not familiar with the various principles of design, I strongly encourage that you learn their applications and use the associated checklists.

With these engaging principles you can expect to become a partner in building a bridge to food safety though sanitary design.

Kraft’s seven principles: 1. Separate raw from ready-to-eat. 2. Must be cleanable. 3. Made from compatible materials. 4. Smooth and accessible surfaces. 5. Must be self draining. 6. Framework not penetrated. 7. Proper ventilation.

AMI principles (focused on wet-cleaned areas): 1. Microbiologically cleanable. 2. Made of compatible materials. 3. Accessible for cleaning and inspection. 4. No liquid collection. 5. Hollow areas hermetically sealed. 6. No niches. 7. Sanitary operational performance. 8. Design of maintenance enclosures. 9. Compatibility of hygienic systems. 10. Validated cleaning procedures.
GMA principles (focused on dry-cleaned areas): 1. Cleanable to a HACCP level. 2. Made of compatible materials. 3. Accessible for cleaning and inspection. 4. No material collection. 5. Hollow areas sealed. 6. No niches. 7. Sanitary operational performance. 7.1. Design of enclosures. 7.2. Compatibility with other systems. 8. Validated cleaning methods. 9. Separated processes. 10. Meet personnel and equipment requirements.

Planning for state-of-the-art equipment and facility designs takes a deliberate approach requiring discipline. It cannot be cavalier, by chance, or stop and go. It must be continuous. When it’s time for a design review, you need to connect cross-functionally with sanitation, quality, engineering, manufacturing, personal safety and procurement to gain the right inputs and perspectives.

Back on the flight, the person to my right begged the flight attendant for forgiveness and pleaded to use the nonfunctional restroom. Eventually, she was allowed to do so. All of this could have been avoided through better planning on the part of the airline and with a small exercise of caution by passengers. So be prepared and plan ahead. The future of food safety is counting on you. •

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