Sunday, August 9, 2009

Guest Blog: Listeria monocytogenes and Food Processing Equipment, 3/3

The following Guest Blog first appeared as a three-part series in French on Le Blog d'Albert Amgar, a regular feature on, and is reproduced here in English (translation by Phyllis Entis) with the kind permission and cooperation of its author, Albert Amgar.

A continuation of Listeria monocytogenes and Food Processing Equipment, 1/3 and 2/3

Equipment suppliers have made some progress, but they still have a way to go. Thus a large manufacturer of packaging equipment can make the following claim:

“Perfect hygiene. Outside and in!

The whole of the B 310 can be soaped and washed down. 
And every part of the machine is easily accessible for cleaning:

  • The inside of the tilting lid in a comfortable standing position and in a good light.
  • The control cubicle and the inside of the machine – with removable side panels.
  • The conveyor belt – which is loosened at the touch of a button and can be removed completely.
  • The smooth, sloping stainless steel surfaces with no recesses or sharp edges.”

All of these elements point to true progress. But why indicate that a machine is designed for easy soaping and washing down?

Also, there is no mention of a set of instructions, as I alluded to in part 1/3 of this series of articles. In fact, it’s difficult to believe that “washing down” would be a recommended cleaning method. AFSSA, the French Food Safety Agency, in its discussion of biofilm control, suggests, “… it is essential to minimize the amount of water used. Water not only encourages microbial growth, but can also be a contaminating channel as when running over a biofilm it carries and spreads a part of the micro-organisms that compose it, which may be pathogenic” (such as Listeria monocytogenes).

Sanitary design, therefore, must facilitate cleaning; nevertheless, not just any compound can be used for cleaning. Strict rules apply.

Since I began with Maple Leaf Foods, it is appropriate to reflect here the Company’s Food Safety Action Plan, as given on their website:

  • Improved sanitization.
  • Doubled the amount of environmental testing.
  • Increased the amount of food testing.
  • Strengthened our product recall procedures.

Personally, I would have much preferred that the Company would have begun by improving their cleaning protocols. To illustrate, the following is a video distributed by the Company to demonstrate the cleaning and disinfection procedures in use in Maple Leaf Foods’ Bartor Road processing plant – the source of last year’s Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Be observant, and don’t hesitate to improve equipment design, cleaning procedures, cleaning practices, and cleaning materials. And above all, pay close attention to the management of the cleaning crew. A contamination problem is always a management problem.

About Albert Amgar: Albert Amgar lives in Changé near Laval in Mayenne, France. He worked as young scientist at the Parasitology and Tropical Medicine Service of the Pitié Salpétrière Hospital and later spent 12 years in the pharmaceutical industry. In 1989, he became director of a new association of agro-food industrialists named ASEPT in Laval (France). He was the general manager of ASEPT until his recent retirement.

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