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#1 Simon

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Posted 10 July 2004 - 02:16 PM

All the talk of stool testing got me thinking.

What are the microbiological risks presented by workers who handle direct contact food packaging? I mean…is there the potential for packaging to become contaminated and further to make the food unsafe to eat, or is this threat more perceived than real?

I'd like to know the foodies thoughts especially.

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#2 Charles Chew

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Posted 10 July 2004 - 06:46 PM

Simon,

The problem associated with microbiological cross-contmaination coming through from "affected workers" working in high risk sectors and contaminating the packaging is BIG TIME and SERIOUSLY REAL.

Why do you think they are always asked to wash their hands with sanitiser each time they come out of the toilet after their "private business".

Think about it. This guy could have easily transferred the microbes into the direct food contact materials and there are certainly some microbes that are high temperature resistant. Wanna to take chances.!

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Edited by charleschew, 10 July 2004 - 06:50 PM.

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#3 Simon

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Posted 10 July 2004 - 07:51 PM

Charles I'm playing 'Devils Advocate' as usual. And I'm not sure I believe what I'm saying, but let's explore the subject. Sure a chap at the greasy spoon making prawn sandwiches with no understanding or usage of good personal hygiene practices is a ticking bomb. But the same man touching cardboard in a food packaging factory - what's the risk? Can the microbes transfer to the cardboard? Can the microbes live and multiply on cardboard? If they can, can they transfer to the food?

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#4 Charles Chew

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Posted 11 July 2004 - 04:29 AM

Good question but this is a huge subject. Those familiar with microbiology will know that there are certain specific atmospheric and environmental conditions that must exist before bacteria can indeed survive or proliferate. Some of these are water (or moisture), food, oxygen, right temperature, pH etc etc (Therefore, it does take a lot for microbes to survive which is why GHP is essential in a food processing facility when all the conditions are probably ideal for microbial proliferations)

These parameters will help define the level of microbial risk responsibility in each industry along the food chain.

But then when you have a small minute piece of bread crumb from the sandwich that could have been mistakenly dropped into a PP bottle and this may allow Yeast and Mold to grow or worse HIBERNATE before flourishing under suitable conditions.

As for cartons, unless they are kept in a poorly ventilated store with high humidity, I see not reason for fear of microbial growth. Furthermore, it is only a secondary packaging hence rather cosmetic than anything else.

I generally have no issue with secondary packaging materials but as for primary packaging materials, the core concern is really about chemical migration rather than microbial like grease!

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#5 Simon

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Posted 14 July 2004 - 08:06 PM

I agree that regular hand washing especially after eating, drinking, smoking or visiting the toilet is essential for direct food contact packaging handlers, even though the risk of microbiological contamination is very small compared to that presented by food handlers. I believe it's just good practice and it helps to instil the correct hygienic mindset in operators and maintains a positive food safety culture within the organisation.

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Simon


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#6 Charles Chew

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Posted 16 July 2004 - 05:04 PM

Having constant reminders through posters on hand washing is a positive approach to building a good culture in any facility.

Having good sign boards that tell you how to apply the correct procedures of hand-washing is even more important. Is the right sanitizer provided for and are we providing "single-use tissues", hand-dryer, drying cloth on roller-type dispenser etc.

Well, it really defeats the whole purpose of personnel hygiene if hand-drying facility is not adequately provided for. Can you imagine after a hand-wash, this guy tries to get his hands dried by wiping them on his shirt or apron..... :oops:

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#7 SIMMONDS

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Posted 22 July 2004 - 08:51 PM

:bug: Interesting reading - I would like to join in here and extend the discussion a little further.

I know a producer of food contact plastic packaging where some handling of the surface of the plastic that will contact food is unavoidable. The plastic tends to shred disposable gloves, but does not cut hands, so latex gloves are not an option. Also the packers have to be quick and dextrous to keep up with production.
The processing conditions are dry, and there is no chance of the packaging product becoming damp.

Obviously protective workwear, hand washing and paper towel drying is the norm. However, a recent audit indicated that routine microbiological hand swabs from operators would be required, together with an appropriate recording system.

My instinct is that introducing such a system will be an expensive logistical nightmare. And if it were done, how should swab sample coverage be organised to make it meaningful, and how could the results be used to genuinely enhance the protection of consumers of the final food product?
As a non microbilogist it would make more sense to me to concentrate on getting the hand washing and drying right.

Perhaps someone could explain if my gut reaction makes technical sense or not?

Thanks

Peter

#8 Simon

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Posted 22 July 2004 - 09:22 PM

Hi Peter, welcome to the forums.

Gloves are not a good idea as they pick up lots of dirt and make the hands sweat which is great for bacteria. It's interesting you say on a recent audit the auditor said that routine microbiological hand swabs from operators would be required, together with an appropriate recording system. As this isn't a requirement of the BRC/IOP Packaging Standard I take it this was an independent customer audit. :dunno:

At one direct food contact packaging manufacturer I know, where there is handling of the product, they have historically carried out quarterly microbiological audits. It was initially implemented because of customer pressure (pre BRC/IOP) and continues because customers do like to see the results. They used to swab all sorts of things from bits of machinery to packing tables, but as the years have gone by they just random swab operators hands and plenty of finished product. In 6 years from time to time they have identified microbes on operator's hands (even with routine hand washing) - some people naturally carry these bugs. However, they have NEVER detected a problem with finished product.

With the lack of empirical studies on this subject, I suggest if you can stand firmly behind the BRC/IOP Packaging Standard and politely refuse.

I'd be interested to hear other peoples views on this.

Regards,
Simon


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#9 Charles Chew

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Posted 23 July 2004 - 06:31 AM

My instinct is that introducing such a system will be an expensive logistical nightmare.


Hi Peter,

Great to have you on board. With regards to swab tests for hands and everything else, lots of people forget that this would really depend on the sensitivity of the process and the industry you are in.

If we refer to secondary packaging materials, as the name goes, it is not a direct food contact materials hence, GMP applies. However, if we refer to primary packaging materials which are direct food contact, we may have to perform our hazard analysis in further depth.

Firstly, all foods are processed and packed in a suitable manner to protect the integrity of the "finished products" (unless unsuitable packaging materials (p/m) or designs are used ) which may render products to possible compromises.

Therefore, even with the presence of microbes in the food (if introduced from workers on p/m, it is often limited and under controlled modified environment condition and therefore, proliferation is never allowed.....hence product remains safe to eat.

The scenario is different if we refer to products that requires further cooking or processed prior ot consumption. It would also be different if the p/m is used for meat and fish based products etc.

For the general food industry, I feel hand washing is therefore more important than hand swabbing. However, if we are providing p/m for the infant milk industry, this is a totally different ball game.

By the way, cost of p/m are already escallating. Getting into unnecessary applications can only further escallate end product cost versus advantages gained that may not quite necessary or relevant to the industry.

I guess challenging the opinion of the auditor is probably justified in this case.....Does hand swabbing guarantee food safety?

Regards
Charles Chew
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#10 Thomas Dunn

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 12:48 PM

With only two specific data points, involving US "Dairy Industry" microbial swab tests, we found large rolls of flexible packaging materials--sampled at rolls' end (where environmental exposure and manual handling are greatest)-- to be free of microbial contamination.

All the talk of stool testing got me thinking.

What are the microbiological risks presented by workers who handle direct contact food packaging? I mean…is there the potential for packaging to become contaminated and further to make the food unsafe to eat, or is this threat more perceived than real?

I'd like to know the foodies thoughts especially.

Regards,
Simon



#11 Simon

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Posted 08 September 2011 - 09:03 PM

With only two specific data points, involving US "Dairy Industry" microbial swab tests, we found large rolls of flexible packaging materials--sampled at rolls' end (where environmental exposure and manual handling are greatest)-- to be free of microbial contamination.

Hi Thomas, When you say microbes are you including yeasts and molds? I think perhaps there would be more of a chance of those contaminating packaging and potentially transferring to food. Would not be good for dairy products.

Regards,
Simon

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