Sanitation is a crucial part of any successful food-plant operation. While successful sanitation programs can differ in many ways, one common thread among effective ones is their strong management support.

Progressive processors realize sanitation is a priority of customers and can help improve sales and product stability. When it comes to producing food, both corporate customers and consumers will find comfort knowing that a facility prioritizes sanitation.

Sanitation can have a direct impact on operations since the Food and Drug Administration can prohibit the preservation, production, packaging, storage or sale of any food processed under unsanitary conditions. Not taking sanitation seriously can affect the company’s bottom line. Management must understand this, and as a result support the program.

The commitment toward a corporate sanitation program cannot be in word alone. Management must understand that rigid sanitary practices must be implemented throughout plant operations. After these standards and practices have been developed, they must be communicated to all employees, not only to those who are responsible for the tasks.

Management must understand sanitation, the need for it and the basics behind the program that’s being implemented at their plant. Every member of management doesn’t need to know how to perform every sanitation task, but they need to understand what the company’s sanitation program consists of, see the value of the sanitation program and support the sanitation program.

Of course, a sanitation program must be tailored to each specific plant. Management can use a sanitation program from a different facility as a guide, but each program should be adjusted to meet the needs of each specific facility.

According to Norman Marriott, author of “Principles of Food Sanitation,” programs should involve:

? Preventive measures to reduce food spoilage and growth of potential microbial contaminants.

? Employee input, especially from production supervisors and line workers.

? Quality assurance personnel to identify areas that require attention or improvement and have knowledge of technical developments in sanitation and control of microbial growth.

? Plant engineering evaluation of equipment and layouts because required equipment needs to be maintained properly in order to ensure continued effective sanitation.

? Purchasing department input to help reduce expenditures for equipment and supplies.

? Delegation of responsibility to a trained sanitation manager who reports directly to the plant manager and has the authority and accountability to make the program work.

Effective management of a sanitation program means that everyone involved with sanitation works together as a team to share problems, solutions and knowledge. A successful program must also be regularly monitored either in-house or by a third-party auditor. Oftentimes using an outsider to audit the program will help pinpoint areas to improve since the third-party auditor isn’t a part of the company’s day-to-day operations. If this is not in the budget, then a regular in-house audit should be performed by the sanitation manager and perhaps by the general manager as well. After any issues are found, it’s important to take action to correct the problems and then follow up to ensure the problems don’t occur again in the future.