As the year comes to a close and the New Year approaches, it’s standard practice at meat and poultry processing facilities around the country to review and update operational procedure guidelines. This is also an ideal time to review any potential regulatory changes and make adjustments to in-plant standard operating procedures. Sanitation operations should also be reviewed and adjusted if necessary.

Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) contain both requirements and guidelines for manufacturing food products in a sanitary environment. The Food and Drug Administration and the US Dept. of Agriculture have developed GMPs for all foods. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has developed a sanitation regulation (Code of Federal Regulations Title 9 Part 416) to address sanitary requirements for processing meat and poultry products. Within these sanitation regulations are requirements to produce wholesome foods under sanitary conditions and using specific Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs). These SSOPs are the specific, written procedures necessary to ensure sanitary conditions in processing plants. It’s important for meat and poultry processors to understand the current GMPs because they can serve as a valuable guide when formulating or adjusting the plant’s sanitation program.

GMP categories include:

  • General maintenance of physical facilities
  • Cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and utensils
  • Storage and handling of clean equipment and utensils
  • Pest control
  • Proper use and storage of cleaning compounds, sanitizers and pesticides
  • Employee training
  • Plant design
  • Quality assurance assessment

SSOPs are specific to a particular plant, but they can be similar to other plants in the same industry. All SSOP procedures must be appropriately documented and validated.

A fact sheet provided by the Purdue Univ. Extension called “Safe food guidelines for small meat and poultry processors: SSOP and GMP Practices and Programs” explains the differences between pre-operational and operational sanitation needs that are included in SSOPs to prevent direct product contamination.

Pre-operational SSOPs are processes that describe the daily sanitary procedures that occur before processing begins. These would include the cleaning of product contact surfaces of facilities, equipment and utensils to prevent direct product contamination.

Operational SSOPs are those that occur during processing. These processes must result in a sanitary environment for preparing, storing or handling any meat or poultry product. According to the Purdue fact sheet, the SSOPs during operations might include equipment and utensil cleaning, sanitizing or disinfecting during production; procedures for employee hygiene, such as cleanliness of outer garments and gloves, hair covers, hand washing, etc.; and product handling in raw and cooked product areas.

Understanding GMPs and necessary SSOPs is essential for any meat and poultry operation when formulating or adjusting the plant’s sanitation program.