Today it is truer than ever, hygienic design is everyone’s responsibility. And the foundation knowledge required for effective performance is far more extensive than ever before.

The entire culture of a food processing operation must be invested in hygienic design, starting with the facility designers to everyone involved in the production, packaging and distribution of food products.  In today’s world, the term “sanitary design” and “hygienic design” are commonly used to describe the same requirements for food processing and facilities.  Hygienic design is a process or a set of design principles to manage hazards and reduce food safety risks in food processing equipment, processes and facilities.

Equipment design is a critical part of the hygienic design process, but it is only one of many inter-related elements.  It is imperative for food processors to take a holistic approach to the design and also look at all of these segments: facility design, cleaning and sanitizing, operational design and GMPs, and the quality programs and regulations for the individual industries.  Failure to address hygienic design in any of these segments will result in failure of the overall hygienic design process. 

3-A SSI is recognized for a long and comprehensive record in developing criteria for the design of food processing equipment and systems.  Here are some of the basic hygienic design criteria for equipment addressed in the inventory of 81 individual equipment standards and 10 3-A Accepted Practices for processing systems:

  • Materials of construction, whether metals or on-metals, must be inert, nontoxic, noncorrosive, non-contaminating and impervious to moisture.
  • Surface finishes must be durable, free of cracks and crevices and smooth to a minimum measure of 32 Ra (roughness average) for a product contact surface.
  • Joints of various types must be cleanable, crevice-free and bacteria-tight.
  • Drainability – All surfaces must be free draining and properly pitched or sloped to prevent any liquid pooling.
  • Cleaning and inspectability are fundamental to equipment design, manufacture and installation.  If you cannot see it, you cannot clean it!
  • Construction elements such as dead ends, gaskets, gasket retaining grooves, O-rings and seals, threads, springs, shafts and bearings must be bacteria-tight and accessible for cleaning, sanitizing and inspection.

Key variables

Equipment design, along with the appropriate cleaning method, represents just one set of many variables to consider in developing the Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOP). The design criteria for processing equipment — from installation, operation and maintenance to cleaning and sanitation — are fundamental to an effective SSOP.  

This is where the baseline design criteria encompassed by 3-A Sanitary Standards for processing equipment play an indispensable role. The new 3-A SSI standard, “ANSI/3-A 00-00-2014, 3-A Sanitary Standards for General Requirements,” covers the sanitary design, materials of construction, and fabrication techniques for dairy and for other food and beverage equipment that’s used to handle, process and package consumable products where a high degree of sanitation is required.

Conformance to hygienic design and construction principles reflected in 3-A Sanitary Standards improves and facilitates cleaning and sanitation programs.  It also facilitates validation. Without proper hygienic design and construction, validation of cleaning efficacy is difficult, if not impossible.

Comprehensive knowledge

Ask any hiring or placement specialist about the qualifications most sought after today for the rising food industry professional and you will quickly find that competency in the primary occupation (engineering, quality assurance, packaging, etc.) is just the starting point. To stand above and apart from others, successful rising professionals must have comprehensive and multidisciplinary knowledge that reflects all phases of the modern food processing operation.  Many university programs are now adapting and expanding the training of future industry professionals, but career professionals must rely on a number of resources to help enhance their personal skills.

Local, state and federal governmental agencies are authorized and responsible for bringing safe food from the farm to the consumer’s table.  All of these agencies have regulatory requirements for operational hygiene and hygienic design requirements for food processing equipment and facilities.  It is critical to know the individual requirements of the regulatory agency that cover your application.

Regardless of the type of equipment or the location, the general principles of hygienic design are the same. Professionals need to chart a path to grow in the breadth and depth of knowledge that will enhance their career and the goal of food safety for the industry they serve.