Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Black Humour

I have been a consultant to the food industry for the last 33 years and in that time, I've seen some things that would be funny if they were not so disturbing.

A few years ago, I was helping a food factory to gain control over the level of contamination in their products.  The company manufactured a very large number of product lines, some of which were essentially assemblies of cooked foods with fresh salad vegetables.  The levels of microbial contamination in finished goods were obviously not under control and sometimes spiked well above the Microbiological Reference Criteria for Foods

The company was doing regular wash down of the entire production facility, though their finished goods still showed irregular spikes of contamination.  I began doing regular checks of hygiene in the factory.  I asked them to change the way that the cleaning was conducted, so that there was no food exposed during the cleaning and that the equipment was cleaned top-down.  The product contamination continued.

On several occasions, I pointed out that they were cleaning the food contact surfaces well, but that the fabric of the factory was not being cleaned so well, particularly the floors.  Some of the mutterings went along the lines of "We don't process food on the floor".  Yes, of course, but wet floors allow growth of bacteria in food residues and generation of aerosols, which can settle onto food contact surfaces and in-process food.

The last straw came when I pulled up a floor drain and showed the manager the thick gray biofilm on the fitting.  This can't form overnight or during a shift - it had not been cleaned for at least a week.  The manager responded with "That's not our biofilm".  Being an erudite conversationalist, I said "Huh?".  "No", he replied, "the drains back up and that's how the biofilm gets there, but it's not ours".

Hands up all those who are surprised that this manager successfully managed the company into receivership.  Nobody?  Thought so.

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