Personal Hygiene and Good Maintenance Practices for the Servicing of Food Processing Equipment

F. Moerman

Catholic University of Leuven — KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium


Food processing equipment, like all industrial plant, is susceptible to failure through breakdown, deterioration in performance owing to wear and tear with time, and to obsolescence due to improvements in technologies. In the past, food manufacturers resorted to inefficient “breakdown” maintenance, which occurred shortly, or a considerable time, after detection of the failure. Breakdowns usually result in the contamination of foodstuffs with foreign bodies from broken parts, potential microorganisms growing in harborage sites such as cracks, crevices and pockets, and lubricating fluids from, e.g., broken bearings. As the failure may be detected too late in this type of maintenance, contamination may already have taken place, which may result in food safety problems, inferior product quality and, finally, costly product recalls. Therefore, food manufacturers now use predictive and preventive maintenance as tools to detect and prevent premature failure. As part of preventive maintenance, the equipment’s overall condition and integrity are assessed, frequently requiring the dismantling of equipment. Subsequent servicing often requires further break-in to the system, with the result that preventive maintenance may in itself become a food contamination hazard.

Poor hygiene and bad maintenance practices during maintenance, repair and reassembly of the equipment may bring about food quality and food safety problems. Hence, during “preventive” and “breakdown” maintenance, the maintenance operatives must pay attention to their personal hygiene practices and must respect Good Maintenance Practices according to the principles of proper hygienic design. Training of maintenance operatives in all aspects of

Food Protection and Security. DOI:

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their job requirements is thus essential to ensure that equipment after reassembly will not compromise the product integrity when returned to service and for a predicted future interval.

This chapter aims to provide guidance to food manufacturers and maintenance operators in the application of appropriate hygiene procedures during the maintenance of food processing equipment and utilities. In Section 8.2 we want to emphasize the importance of maintenance of food processing facilities, which is also required by national and international legislation, as well as by many food safety certification schedules and programs. Because reducing the risk of food contamination during maintenance operations starts during the design process, installation and start-up of the processing equipment, these subjects are discussed in Section 8.3. As the hygienic performance of equipment components may be compromised long before it fails, we handle this subject in Section 8.4. Subjects of Section 8.5 are: purchase and acceptance of parts, tools, lubricants, etc., brought onto the site; hygienic design principles to respect during repair; lubrication according to the principles of hygienic design and hygienic recalibration of measurement devices. Section 8.6 deals with personal hygiene practices as this is of paramount importance in maintaining hygienic conditions in the food factory during service operations. Section 8.7 deals with proper hygiene measures that could be taken before, during and after maintenance operations. Evaluation of the quality of the performed maintenance work and record keeping is part of every maintenance program in the process industry, including the food processing industry, and therefore is the subject of Section 8.8. Maintenance practices must be regularly reviewed and adapted when necessary, requiring a discussion in Section 8.9.

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