Material Handling

Hygiene Issues in Food Processing

In our previous article “RAGHAV in Pharmaceuticals”, we saw how RAGHAV helps in sustaining a hygienic work environment for pharma companies. We have also discussed about the importance of hygiene and sanitation for pharmaceutical companies. Now, which other industry comes to your mind where hygiene is a major concern? That’s right the Food Industry. It is one of the fastest growing industry in the world. A little research helped us find that the compound annual growth rate of food industry in India is about 20%, which is gigantic. It stretches from companies processing vegetables, grains, dairy, meat to the ones making canned foods, snacks, sweets, chocolates, even cold drinks. Amul, Chitale Group, Haldirams, Parle are just a few of the many food industry giants in India with huge production lines.

In today’s world, all of us are very particular about hygiene, especially when it comes to food. We know the daily struggles of maintaining basic hygiene in our kitchens and can only imagine how challenging it is for the food processing industries. In today’s topic, Hygiene Issues in Food Processing, let us concentrate on the various hygiene related problems faced by the food manufacturers.

We have characterized the hygiene issues into four major aspects.

Manual handling: The material handling in food processing factories is bulky and therefore, very demanding. Did you know that around 60 to 80 Kg sugarcane is needed to produce 1 Kg sugar? Now think of the humongous quantity required by sugar factories that produce tons of sugar daily. Handling such heavy loads manually becomes very time consuming. Longer the food products spend in transit greater the chances of it getting spoilt. Food manufacturers always try to achieve the highest level of cleanliness standards by making sanitation routines for workers and the checklist is ever so lengthy – wear a hairnet, wear clean aprons and gloves, keep short fingernails, don’t sneeze or cough near the food and on and on. To cross off every item on this list and to make sure every single worker follows it, is next to impossible. Apart from this, they have to arrange health check-up camps, training sessions and vaccinations to ensure the workers’ fitness. This costs time and money to the company and it yet does not completely eliminate the chances of food contamination.

Storage: We know that foodstuffs are bound to attract flies, insects, ants, rats if not stored properly. It is not just a sorry sight but also an invitation to many dreadful diseases. So, when the factories have to store large quantity of food, they require scrupulous efforts and time. Even though utmost care is taken while preparing the foodstuffs in factories, improper handling can spoil them easily. For example, if food that should be stored dry under zero humidity is handled with wet hands, it gets moldy and unfit for consumption.

Machinery maintenance: The machinery used for transporting the food like conveyors or lifts can get rusty and leaky, if not well maintained and become a storehouse for many harmful bacteria. When food comes in contact with such machinery, it gets contaminated. Labor working with the machines also become susceptible to illnesses creating an unsanitary work environment.

Small industries with minimal affordability: Automation has changed the dynamics in food industry to a great extent. But we still have many small- scale companies which do not have the budget for automation and hence depend wholly on manual labor, making it even more difficult to maintain hygiene.

Food prepared and stored using unhygienic methods can easily become unsafe for consumption. When distributed over larger areas, it can affect a lot of people with food poisoning or sever illnesses. In UK, annually around 1 million people are affected by foodborne diseases, whereas in India this number is even bigger. Health department is very strict when it comes to defining and maintaining food safety and hygiene norms to avoid such occurrences. Licenses are very difficult to get and even more difficult to retain. There are regular inspections and factories have to abide by the rules and regulations to keep operating.

We found that people are willing to adopt newer technologies with less human interaction to improve the hygiene and sanitary conditions. But they hesitate because of larger investments or shop floor modifications involved. RAGHAV is a one stop solution to all these issues. How? You will find out in our next article.

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