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Surgery face masks in food plants!?


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#1 Erasmo

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 06:26 PM

A few years ago, a ridiculous GMP standard in Mexico (NOM-SSA!-120) declares as a requirement the use of face mask for food plants. This is part of the text:



“5.1 Personnel – Every person that comes in contact with raw materials, ingredients, packaging materials, in process and final product, equipment and utensils has to comply with, according to their activities and according to the sanitary risk…

5.1.1 …

5.1.2 …

5.1.3 …

5.1.4 The use of Face mask.”



Face masks! - A utensil for surgery is part of a requirement in the Mexican laws, for me this is totally ridiculous!!! I’m a food safety auditor and I have visited some food plants in this continent, but México it’s the only place where I have seen those masks.



And, in my experience, the consequences of the use of masks are undesirable. Imagine a person wearing that thing for 8 hours in an environment that is wet, cold (or hot), dusty, etc. after a few hours the mask is now full of condensed water, ingredients, saliva, mucus, and a lot of “etceteras”.



Although, the standard clearly states: “…according to the sanitary risk” it is common situation to observe the use of masks in bottling companies, confectionary plants, vinegar plants, canning facilities, fresh produce packing facilities, cheese and milk plants, etc. etc. it seems that no one assess the “sanitary risk”, and I think I know the reason:



The check list for the federal and state inspectors has a row with this question: “Are the use of face mask implemented?” Yes or Not. And when an inspector marks this question as a “NO”, the next day the plant manager of the inspected plant modify the internal GMP rules…



Again, for me this is ridiculous, what is your opinion? Have you see food plants using face masks before?
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#2 Simon

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Posted 18 May 2008 - 08:39 PM

I'm not vastly experienced in the food industry Erasmo, but it seems like overkill to me. If it's not a requirement in US or EU law and is not a requirement of the popular food safety standards then why do Mexico go it alone. Is it a long standing requirement that maybe now that more is know should be reappraised? How would you influence that? One more question do they wear face masks in food service / supermarkets in Mexico?

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#3 Sirius

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 01:25 AM

I have seen face masks used in various food manufacturing plants. This is mainly a protective need (fine particulates in the air of flour refineries, for example). Also, masks are sometimes used in food preparation in certain healthcare facilities when treating immuno compromised patients. Also, and someone from the UK can verify please, I believe it is part of the Food Safety Act 1990 -- Practice Guidance for meat processors to wear face masks. Apart from these broad cases, I have yet to see or understand any other need for them. In the end, I suppose it would depend on what you are manufacturing.

I have read though that face masks are commonly used in Asian countries where they are hyper-sensitive to flu attacks and the suchlike. I'm sure you've seen news programs where whole crowds in China and Japan are walking the streets with some sort of mask over their nose and mouths. It would be expected that such an enviroment would also extend into their food production. However, this seems to be a policy of the organisation rather than a legislated piece.


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#4 Erasmo

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Posted 19 May 2008 - 01:31 AM

One more question do they wear face masks in food service / supermarkets in Mexico?

Regards,
Simon


Yes! not always but sometimes you could see those face masks in bakeries, supermarkets, restaurant's kitchens, etc. I think it is not necessary.
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#5 GMO

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 02:35 PM

I've seen photos of them used in China. I agree though, it's overkill. I insist on snoods for beard wearers but that's it.


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#6 okido

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Posted 22 May 2008 - 04:29 PM

I insist on snoods for beard wearers but that's it.


Hi GMO,

In the food preparation snoods for beard wearers sounds ok, but what do you recommend for hairy arms that are exposed.

Have a nice day, Okido
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#7 Simon

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Posted 23 May 2008 - 03:32 PM

Hi GMO,

In the food preparation snoods for beard wearers sounds ok, but what do you recommend for hairy arms that are exposed.

Have a nice day, Okido

What about eyebrows and eyelashes? Just because it's difficult to control doesen't make it any less risky.

What are members thoughts on body hair?
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#8 GMO

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Posted 27 May 2008 - 12:18 PM

I think in a high risk or high care factory, all head hair, beards and moustaches should be covered and coats should cover all arms and down to the knees. I also think long hair at least should have a hair net and a mob cap and short hair should have at least a mob cap.

I personally don't think hoods on coats work as it hides if your mob cap has ridden up and it's easy for the mob cap to come off when you take off the coat (which then deposits hair on the coat which could be taken back into production.)

I understand the arguments about eyebrows but there's not a practical solution to cover them up really and I doubt they contribute significantly to complaints. Beards and moustaches vary tremendously, some are incredibly long and to not have one rule for all makes it very hard to manage.

A factory I visited when I was a student had a clean shaven rule! Only visitors could wear beard snoods. They're probably not allowed to have that now on religious discrimination grounds.

I think if you have low hair complaints and they are reducing and you can then prove that beard snoods do not influence complaints, then you can get rid of them but have your evidence available for when you will inevitably get asked by your customers and auditors why you don't have snoods.


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#9 okido

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Posted 28 May 2008 - 08:44 PM

Hi GMO,

I understand the arguments about eyebrows but there's not a practical solution to cover them up really and I doubt they contribute significantly to complaints.


If food safety is involved than practicality and complaints are not very strong arguments.
By the way is a hair in a product a hazard or is it more perception and brand name that play a role here.

Have a nice day, Okido
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#10 ultimaverde

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 04:08 PM

In my opinion if it does not represent a hazard for the consumer or affect significantly the shelf life of what you are manufacturing then why do we need masks. However, as someone said previously it is a company policy.

Here in the US I have not seen people wearing masks in supermarkets or restaurants, not even in fast food restaurants (I think at least people who prepares sandwiches should wear a mask, as most of the time they are talking to each other while doing it).

As part of our GMP, employees who work at the asparagus microwavable bags line must wear a mask.


rgds,
bertha.


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#11 GMO

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 06:45 AM

If food safety is involved than practicality and complaints are not very strong arguments.


That's a bit harsh! The fact is; hair is not going to kill you but it will increase microbiological loading by a small amount and in the UK we are not only governed by food safety, this is from the Food Safety Act:

"Any person who sells to the purchaser’s prejudice any food which is not of the nature or substance or quality demanded by the purchaser shall be guilty of an offence."

Having said that, there is a pragmatic approach to be taken. As with Health and Safety law in the UK, EHOs and auditors tend to take a "reasonably practicable" approach; i.e. what can you do for a reasonable cost to control all the risks you can?

I think it would be hard to justify face masks, eyebrow coverings etc when McDonald staff wear baseball caps and no mob cap and many have appallingly bad skin (S. aureus risk...)
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#12 Penard

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 11:16 AM

To me it seems a quite surprising decision. Does the mexican government justify its decision with scientific argument?

It reminds me an example : I went to Montreal 2 years ago; if you don't know this great city there are a lot of restaurants like MacDo in the subway. They must obviously respect 'hygienic rules' (the application of the law is another question). So even though every sandwich is ok, but the question is : when you go from one place to another one in the metropolitan, do you always think to wash your hands before eating these marvellous sandwiches? How many times do you push some dirty doors, you touch handles, newspapers....?

Therefore I think it's the same thing with all carefully decisions, it's right if all cautious decisions are taken and applied during one precise step, but what about future steps, like hygienic and cold storage, cold transport...? Does the mexican governement decide to apply this restrictive legislation all along the food chain - perhaps it could allow to improve the food safety by increasing requirements?

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#13 okido

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 04:10 PM

That's a bit harsh! The fact is; hair is not going to kill you but it will increase microbiological loading by a small amount.


Hi GMO,

Let me pse clarify.
I was thinking along the line of the rather often used arguments:

we do not have complaints so we do not have a problem

we cannot work that way because it is not practical


Have a nice day, Okido
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#14 Simon

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 08:37 PM

I think it would be hard to justify face masks, eyebrow coverings etc when McDonald staff wear baseball caps and no mob cap and many have appallingly bad skin (S. aureus risk...)

That's a bit harsh! Some of them just have very poor skin. :thumbup:

Going off topic as usual one of my pet hates is people in food service who handle money and food with the same hands. In food service it is necessary to handle both and not easy to manage. It can only be done with gloves that are easy to put on and take off.

Simon
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#15 Angus

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 12:54 AM

Simon,

(1st post, hope it goes where its meant to)

Re gloves

What I see quite commonly in the Australian foodservice industry is the wearing of one glove. Only the gloved hand comes in direct contact with food or food contact surfaces. The other hand is used for handling implements (eg tongs), outside of packaging & handling money. Thanks for the forum

Toni


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#16 Simon

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 07:17 AM

Simon,

(1st post, hope it goes where its meant to)

Hi Toni, yes your post makes sense here. And don't worry we can always move posts. As a moderator I prefer to move posts than not see any. :thumbup: Anyway it keeps me on my toes.

:welcome:

Re gloves

What I see quite commonly in the Australian foodservice industry is the wearing of one glove. Only the gloved hand comes in direct contact with food or food contact surfaces. The other hand is used for handling implements (eg tongs), outside of packaging & handling money. Thanks for the forum

Toni

Yes that's an answer and I have seen that employed in sandwich shops. Obviously it makes the job more difficult working with one hand, but with practice it is possible. It's much more hygienic and provides me with more confidence.

Simon
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#17 Penard

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Posted 06 June 2008 - 10:35 AM

Some official control services dislike to see this kind of behaviour - wearing only one glove. It' still have to be proved that employees only use their gloved hand.
It always depends on your ability to explain your position to official services on the one hand, to your employees on the other hand, but I quite agree with their decision (and I'm not part of them!).

Regards,

Emmanuel.


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#18 Jean

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Posted 14 September 2008 - 07:36 AM

A lot of interesting comments in this thread and couldn’t resist adding to it. As a lot of points are being discussed here with regards to mob caps, beard snoods, masks and gloves, I would refer to the practices in a food service sector.



Mob caps are necessary along with the standard that hair has to be trimmed or neatly tied back.

Beard snoods are required if there is no clean shave policy and I believe most of the service sectors have this in place.

Regarding the masks, I have seen the use in manufacturing industry like the seafood industry especially in the high risk areas, or in a pasteurization unit, in hospitals where food is prepared for the immuno-compromised patients and in beverage industry.

With regards to the hairy hands, some people tend to shave their hands and others cover all the exposed areas. I have seen samples of a plastic protective covering just to cover the hands few years back.

Gloves are not my interest as these tend to help in the penetration of bacteria and the food handler does not wash his hands frequently as he does not feel that his hand has become dirty or soiled. Gloves can be a source of cross-contamination unless it is changed frequently after a single task, which in my observations does not happen especially during the busy or long hours of work. Moreover the usage of gloves makes the skin moist and warm and incase the gloves are punctured or torn, and then the bacteria gain access to the food being handled. The use of clean tongs and proper storage of the tongs is the best option for handling food especially if the person handles money and food rather than gloves or a single hand glove practice. Moreover hands are to be washed & dried before and after usage of gloves.

With regards to severe acne /pimples or skin infection the person is not allowed to work in a food service / preparation area unless the condition has been recovered. Usually this person will be allocated to a different role. But the important thing is to train the staff on the importance of the good personal hygiene practices
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#19 Simon

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 03:33 PM

Jean agree with most of what you mention but shaving hair from hands is really a new control measure to me. Anyone else heard of this?


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#20 Jean

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Posted 22 September 2008 - 08:50 AM

Dear Simon,



I had personally seen this during my audits. This is not a common practice and may not happen in all places, depends on the person who leads the team.
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#21 Jean

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Posted 22 September 2008 - 08:57 AM

This was once asked by one of the food inspectors when he saw staff with very hairy hands handling RTE foods. That’s how we started searching for protective covering for the hands.
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#22 Simon

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Posted 24 September 2008 - 08:40 PM

This was once asked by one of the food inspectors when he saw staff with very hairy hands handling RTE foods. That’s how we started searching for protective covering for the hands.

I agree there is some risk there but I've never heard it so I was a little surprised. Thanks Jean. :smile:
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