Making sure floors meet HACCP Standard

Floor

Putting in place an effective Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) food safety management plan has become a central priority for any facility involved in the production, processing or storage of food and beverage produce.

This preventive risk assessment system ensures that all food safety hazards are assessed and that appropriate controls are put in place to eliminate or reduce contamination.

National and state level food and beverage legislation stresses the importance of implementing due diligence procedures, many of which rely on HACCP’s advisory framework for facility design and construction. The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) – Risk Analysis in Food Regulation handbook emphasises the need for Australia’s food industry to embrace HACCP, as it states that it “identifies and addresses chemical, microbiological and physical hazards in a preventative manner, leading to the development of food safety plans for manufacturing industries and food businesses in general.”

As a globally accepted benchmark of food safety, HACCP is also important for businesses eager to gain access to export markets. Proving that a business can meet the necessary level of due diligence is essential for clients abroad to know that the food in question has been manufactured to a hygiene standard that they recognise.

Getting the floor area right is a critical part of implementing a HACCP plan, as otherwise this part of the facility can present a variety of challenging health and safety concerns – especially for large-scale industrial facilities where slip risks, contamination threats and dangerous working practices all need to be carefully taken into consideration.

The floor is a particular concern because gravity will cause the majority of contaminants to end up there and unwanted substances can easily be walked in from elsewhere. Therefore, if the floor is difficult to clean and starts to harbour dangerous pathogens, then the site could be putting its workers and clients at risk.

The HACCP International certification program highlights the importance of seamless and impervious flooring, as seams, joints, grout lines and gaps can become breeding sites for bacteria, fungi, mould and mildew. Making sure that the floor provides a seamless surface will help the cleaning regime quickly wash unwanted substances out of the area.

It is important to ensure that the floor is able to maintain these properties for an extended period of time, as otherwise its seamlessness or imperviousness could be compromised and degraded by the site’s workload.

General conditions within the food and beverage industry can easily affect an insufficiently robust finish. The floor could be subjected to impact, thermal shock, point loading, heavy foot traffic and exposure to corrosive by-products such as fats, hot oils, blood, sugar solutions and natural food acids. Additionally, these substances can infiltrate the concrete material resulting in microbial growth and the spread of bacteria, which will in turn degrade not only the production environment but may contaminate the products themselves.

Plant owners eager to comply with HACCP can take advantage of the HACCP International certification scheme, which confirms a product’s suitability for use within food processing, production and packaging facilities. Businesses can therefore specify building materials with this certification, safe in the knowledge that it will provide the properties and functionalities necessary for an effective HACCP plan.

This was the case recently when the Oostra Spice Company undertook a flooring refurbishment at its HACCP standard facility. The Victorian spice merchant required an easy to clean, durable surface for the site’s blending, packing and warehouse areas and so specified a HACCP International-certified flooring solution to ensure that it would meet its high standards for hygiene, functionality and durability.

Flowcrete Australia installed over 1,200 m² of a heavy-duty, antibacterial enhanced polyurethane system, which was installed in a range of bespoke colours to provide a UV stable, highly chemical and abrasion-resistant surface. A striking Homebush Gold colour was required specifically for areas that handled the vibrantly yellow coloured turmeric spice, as it is known to stain the surrounding environment.

This exemplifies the importance of discussing the site’s specific operational activity with the flooring manufacturer to determine how the chosen material can optimise the floor area, as well as to ascertain the HACCP credentials of the system under consideration.