Safety and hygiene practices when processing fruits and vegetables

Wednesday March 18 2020
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Workers in a fruit processing plant in Makueni. There should be no wearing of jewellery such as earrings and necklaces, loose clothing and hair that can contaminate the food and the workers should always cover their hair with a net or head band. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Safety and hygiene are crucial in any fruit and vegetable processing plant. But to achieve high standards of hygiene, one needs certain resources. These are:

Provide at least one toilet for every 15 people, which should be separated from processing area by at least two doors if not housed in a separate building.

There should always be soap and clean water provided for staff and visitors. If possible, foot operated or hand sensing taps should be used to avoid recontamination.

Separate changing rooms should be provided for men and female separately.

Provide for lagoons and other water treatment installations to avoid contaminating river or lake water or any land or surfaces. Treat water by lowering its biological oxygen demand.

Personnel health and hygiene

Have periodic medical certification of all staff and interns. This may help identify sick people who will be treated or redeployed to non-food areas.

The downside of this is that it may give the management a false sense of safety. Not all germs are captured at each medical check-up.

Some germs or microbes are shed intermittently and will not be in every stool sample for example. Other germs may be at low levels that cannot be detected but soon multiply.

Someone may also be infected soon after the test hence the need to be hygienic.

There should be no spitting in the plant, and especially in the sink where people tend to think it’s alright to.

Unnecessary talking and laughing should be discouraged. Bands over the mouth may be necessary especially in the semi-finished and finished product areas that’s not yet packaged.

There should be no working with food if one has open cuts, boils, stomach upsets, bad cough and cold.

The staff should have protective clothing and wear flat shoes with a grip

Use clean waterproof dressing on cuts and burns and keep fingernails short, don’t use perfumes as some foods are sensitive and pick up smells.

There should be no wearing of jewellery such as earrings and necklaces, loose clothing and hair that can contaminate the food. Cover the hair with a net or head band and one should not smoke or eat in the processing room.

Safety and hygiene practices

Cleaning chemicals should be stored away from the processing room to avoid accidental spillage and contamination of products. The right concentrations should be used for cleaning for effectiveness.

Food containers should not be used to store cleaning chemicals to avoid any confusion or contamination.

Sweep solid wastes and bin them. Avoid using a water hose as that wastes water.

Don’t allow water to form swamps around your premises and be a good neighbour by not allowing your waste water and indeed any other waste from encroaching their premises.

Wash and boil or disinfect clothes used in the plant every day. Avoid leaving them on window sills, on equipment or on the back of seats to dry.

Wash equipment soon after using, don’t leave it until the next day and keep food, tools and equipment off the floor.
Keep ingredients in sealed containers in a cool dry place or as advised.

Report any birds, rodents or animals for further appropriate action in line with pest control policy.

Don’t leave metal stirrers in boiling liquids, jam, marmalade as they constitute a hazard if touched.

Use chopping or cutting boards as opposed to using hands to chop the fruits and vegetables. Cover burning cooking oil with wet cloth and don’t use water to put out flames.

Large containers with food should be carried by as many workers to avoid spillage, which causes waste and avoid straining. Keep your records of accidents happening in the plant.

Dr Ngoda teaches at the Department of Dairy, Food Science and Technology, Egerton University.