Adhering to best hygiene practices is the one thing that dairy plants cannot cut corners on. Standards are already very high in the dairy supply chain. However, despite limited time and resources, the pandemic has reinforced the importance of producers conveying confidence and having robust and proactive HACCP and hygiene protocols in place.
Health, safety and wellbeing expectations have increased. During the pandemic, strong consumption levels in all dairy categories — including cheese, yogurt and butter — reshaped the industry, with producers demonstrating their resilience. Now, new regulations — including the recently passed U.S. bill, the “Food Allergen Safety Treatment Education and Research Act” — are placing dairy production sanitation programs under renewed pressure.
In the hospitality sectors, the pandemic journey has focused, where possible, on removing human touchpoints. Yet cleaning of manufacturing and processing machinery is not a contactless task. Instead, companies such as Fortress Technology have focused on developing smarter designs to enhance hygiene and safety measures.
Easy cleaning tips
Routine risk assessments and audits help to control the introduction of foreign material into products. External eyes provide a different perspective. Many internationally recognized audits, including those offered by AIB International, follow set standards and provide a complete 360-degree review. Since COVID-19, there are also a number that can be performed virtually and still offer recognized certifications.
Protocols should be formalized and included in staff training. Every cleaning process needs to be verified and documented. As part of a validation process, regular tests, including swabs of critical control points, should be scheduled to ensure these areas are hygienic and allergen-free.
For in-process contaminant inspection equipment, look for smooth, crevice-free contact surfaces on conveyor, pipeline and gravity systems. This is partly to ensure that no traces of product, allergens or bacteria are left, but also to reduce the risk of cleaning agents not being fully rinsed away.
When selecting an inspection system, care should be taken to identify equipment with an ingress protection (IP) rating appropriate to the washdown regime and water pressure being applied.
Product residues, including allergens, can be especially troublesome in dairy pipeline systems processing liquids, semi-liquids and slurries. Special attention should be paid to the reject unit. Ideally, this will be easy to roll out, dismantle and clean working parts before securely reattaching to dairy vacuum pumps
Good housekeeping is ultimately common sense. Most dairy processors are strong custodians of good hygiene practices. However, given the numerous critical control points in a manufacturing plant, we advise our customers to regularly and systematically revisit potential hygiene hazards as part of a regular risk assessment and food safety program.