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The Impact of Unsafe Practices in the Food and Beverage Industry

Worldwide, 1 in 10 people fall ill from contaminated food and 420,000 people die every year, according to the World Health Organization. More than 19,000 food manufacturing employees were injured on the job in 2015 and nearly 50 industry workers were killed each year between 2011 and 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics relates. 

Food and beverage companies have a huge responsibility: to ensure safety for their customers and for their workers. While maintaining the highest standards when handling products to prevent food contamination, companies must also protect workers from various hazards, to keep them safe on the job.

Find out how to avoid risks in the food and beverage industry.

What is cross-contamination

Cross-contamination is the cause of most foodborne infections, and it happens when bacteria or other microorganisms are unintentionally transmitted from one item to another. It most commonly occurs when bacteria are transferred between raw and cooked food. Cross-contamination can occur in three situations:

1.    The worker who handles the food can spread the contaminant. 

If workers handle raw meat without wearing gloves and then touch other food products without adequately washing their hands, they will transfer bacteria from one food to another. 

2.    Bacteria spread through contaminated equipment.

Improperly cleaned equipment and surfaces can cause cross-contamination. Bacteria can spread on chopping boards, knives and hands when preparing raw meat, and that can be transmitted to other food.   

3.    Raw food contaminates other products.

Raw meat containing harmful bacteria may cause contamination by blood dripping on products stored below.

How to prevent cross-contamination

A good food contamination prevention strategy is essential. The best way to prevent foodborne illness is by being aware of the risk of contamination every step of your food preparation process.

Food Storage

Raw meats and dairy products must be stored in securely sealed packaging to avoid contact with other foods. As the air is an environment allows microbes and germs to grow, vacuum packaging increases the life span of products and helps prevent food contamination. Whenever possible, raw meats and dairy items should be stored in separate refrigerators, away from fruits, vegetables and other ready-to-eat items. If not, these high-risk products should be placed at the lowest level in storage facilities.

Cleaning, disinfection and food hygiene

Respecting hygiene standards reduce the risk of cross-contamination. To ensure microorganisms are eliminated from in food preparation areas, everything needs thorough cleaning and disinfection, from machinery to every utensil. Clothing can be another contaminant carrier. Therefore, employees must always change their clothes when moving from one location to another, especially when working with high-risk foods or allergens.

Personal hygiene is also crucial. Workers need to wash their hands before handling food, during preparation, and after touching any food. Moreover, the health of the workers is essential; ill persons should be forbidden to work near products that could be contaminated.  

Staff training

Food safety rules should be implemented correctly; therefore, every worker who comes in touch with food directly or indirectly must receive the appropriate training. They should know how to wash their hands properly and to wear adequate protective gear which is cleaned and serviced properly. Most importantly, they must know what to do in case of an accident or emergency, to mitigate food contamination.

Waste management

Waste should never interfere with stored goods; therefore, it needs to be disposed of adequately. Companies in the food and beverage industry must provide appropriate containers, establishing proper procedures for the storage and removal of waste.

Dumpsters and canisters should be sealed and located away from goods, doors, and entry points. Personnel handling food and beverages should never go back to touching food and drinks without proper sanitation.

Occupational hazards in the food processing industry

While being responsible for the health of consumers, workers in the food and beverage industry face on-the-job risks themselves,.

What are the dangers they are exposed to, and what should employers do to keep workers safe while improving their workforce efficiency?

The machinery utilized for food and beverage processing, conveyors with moving or exposed parts, collapsing structures, falling objects, compressed equipment and loud noises are a daily routine for workers in the food and beverage industry. As a result, they are exposed to different risks such as amputations, burns, electrocution, hearing loss and many other injuries unless organizations focus on ensuring proper machine guarding and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Workers in the food and beverage industry are in constant risk of slips, trips and falls, mainly because of the frequent wash downs required in food processing units. Moreover, because of the repetitive motion specific to their job, workers in the food processing industry can develop musculoskeletal disorders.

Workers in the food and beverage industry routinely utilize chemical soaps, detergents, sanitizers, and disinfectants to help keep the food and drinks free of unwanted microorganisms and other contaminants. Refrigerants such as ammonia are highly used, and when present in the air, the substance can be highly dangerous even in small quantities.

Ammonia is a popular refrigerant in breweries, soft drink and food processing plants. It can cause damage to skin, eyes and lungs and can be lethal at concentrations of 15 to 28% by volume in the air[SA1] . In enclosed spaces where a source of ignition is present, ammonia can cause life-threatening explosions.

While thoroughly respecting food contamination prevention methods, companies must follow industry best practices and provide workers the most proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Because hazards are so diverse, from injuries caused by blunt impacts and electrical risks to heat, chemicals and more, food and beverage workers must wear different types of protective clothing, from goggles and lab coats to safety boots and hard hats, to prevent work-related diseases and even fatal accidents. Therefore, choosing the right PPE that guarantees safety, comfort, quality and compliance is crucial.

Explore our safety solutions for the food and beverage industry


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Andreea Budica
Copywriter – Honeywell Industrial Safety
Andreea is the creative copywriter for Honeywell Industrial Safety. She provides concepts and copy, following strategic conceptual and stylistic directions on projects to execute robust solutions for Honeywell Industrial Safety marketing communications needs. She works within Centers of Excellence (CoEs) – Creative, Digital, Trade Shows & Events, Project Management – to establish Honeywell’s continuity in branding and voice.