Writing the book on sanitation

by Bernard Shire
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Dr. Norman Marriott, a retired professor of animal science at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ., Blacksburg, Va., is an expert in meat processing and sanitation; works as a consultant; and has written many books about processing and sanitation. Two of his books on plant sanitation are helpful to plant employees and cleaning and sanitation crews coming in after production hours to clean and sanitize plants. One is titled Essentials of Food Sanitation and the other, which has a fifth edition only a few years old, is titled Principles of Food Sanitation.

In an interview with Meat&Poultry, Dr. Marriott says, too often the work of the sanitation shift is undervalued by some companies. “Unfortunately , as a job, it’s sort of considered at the bottom of the barrel – you know, cleaning up a meat or poultry plant after slaughter or processing work has gone on. But if you think about it, the opposite is true. In one sense, it’s really the most important work of all because how can you produce safe food in an establishment if everything isn’t clean?” he asks.

Dr. Marriott grew up on a farm in Versailles, Mo. and received his undergraduate degrees in animal husbandry from the Univ. of Missouri, Columbia, then his Ph.D. in animal science from Texas A&M Univ. In the fifth edition of Principles of Food Sanitation, Dr. Marriott talks about a number of issues important to sanitation and cleaning crews who come in to clean meat and poultry plants. They include biosecurity and food sanitation, fundamentals of food sanitation and contamination sources and hygiene, how HACCP plans affect cleaning and sanitation, how to clean and sanitize equipment, and waste handling disposal.

Dr. Marriott stresses three issues to the members of sanitation and cleaning crews: the importance of cleaning and sanitation in the successful operation of a poultry or meat plant; training of cleaning and sanitation workers; and ways to reward workers doing a good job.

Proper steps enhance sanitation efforts

Following are tips from sanitation expert Dr. Norman Marriott for employees serving on sanitation and cleaning crews to follow when involved in cleaning and sanitizing meat, poultry or other food plants:

Proper training of sanitation and cleaning workers is extremely important

• Workers must be well-trained in how to clean and sanitize meat and poultry plants successfully.

• Proper technologies are the first things crew members should be taught.

• An important lesson for workers to learn is how to avoid plant recontamination.

• Dirty hoses, unclean clothing and dirty tools must be kept of out plants during cleaning and sanitation process.

• Workers should be mindful of not hosing down plants and avoid moving dirt and grime along from one location to another and letting it reside in floor drains.

• Pickup of dirt, contamination and other materials should take place before plant wet-down is carried out.

• Cleaning meat and poultry plants manufacturing ready-to-eat products is extremely important. If proper cleaning and sanitation doesn’t take place in these establishments, products can become contaminated and adulterated at the very beginning of the next shift.

• Contamination can result in a meat or poultry plant if mistakes are made by the cleaning and sanitation crews.

• If the importance of plant sanitation and cleaning is stressed by management, crew members may become more receptive to additional training and responsibilities.

Plant cleaning and sanitation is important and must be taken very seriously by workers

• Cleaning and sanitation must be a serious responsibility for employees who make their living cleaning food plants.

• Unfortunately, in the past, sanitizing and cleaning meat, poultry and other food plants often has been considered a ‘bottom of the barrel’ job – it’s not.

• Sanitation and plant cleaning really is one of the most important tasks to be performed in a meat or poultry plant.

• If the plant is not clean, that leaves the plant environment open to the growth of pathogens or spoilage organisms, which can result in foodborne illness and recalls, possibly causing consumers to get sick or worse, and resulting in great expense and liability to the food processor or manufacturer.

• Successful product processing cannot occur in a poultry or meat plant until the facility is properly cleaned.

Companies’ cleaning and sanitation needs to be “glamorized” in the industry

• Employers should come up with ways to reward workers for outstanding performances while doing their jobs.

• Companies need to think of motivations besides adding onto their hourly wage rates”(Example: Workers going for two weeks without experiencing any “downtime” could be recognized in some way).

• Cleaning-crew members who ensure all plant facilities are cleaned and sanitized before production begins could receive recognition.

• Paper certificates or gift certificates to a local restaurant could be great motivators.

• Perks could be presented to the “sanitation worker of the month.”

• Successful employees also should be recognized for additional training and promotions.

• In many ways, cleaning and sanitation is the most important activity in a plant, and sanitation crews are responsible for the success of the business.

• Members of cleaning and sanitation crews need to be told the “whys” of what they do, not just the “hows” of what they are to do. Saying nothing at all about job responsibilities, or being told to “just do it” is even more destructive and self-defeating for the company.

This list is to be used only as a guideline. Address specific questions to your supervisor.


Bernard Shire is M&P’s Washington correspondent based in Lancaster, Pa. With a background in editing and writing for daily news publications, he also works as a food safety consultant and writer for Shire & Associates.

M&P’s Sanitation Tips are to be used only as guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing processing facilities. Specific issues and questions should be addressed by a sanitation crew supervisor.

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