14 November 2017

How to comply with food safety standards for workwear

In order to keep consumers safe and to avoid contamination risks, companies in the food industry follow different standards to fulfil legal requirements and regulations for food safety. The standards need to be followed within the whole supply chain, which means that food companies must ensure that their suppliers also follow the standards and are audited regularly.

What the employees wear whilst handling food is of extreme importance, in order to ensure a clean and secure production environment. However, the many standards and guidelines can often make it confusing and difficult to know how to best comply with the standards when it comes to workwear.

Also, common standards like IFS and HACCP do not go into detail with workwear requirements. They often stick to very general phrasing on this matter like, “workwear prepared in an appropriate way to be used in the food industry,” (HACCP) and “Food handlers (….) shall wear suitable clothing” (IFS). 

For international companies selling food products to many different retailers, there may be different retail-specific requirements and standards for suppliers – an example being Tesco’s TFMS (Food Manufacturing Standard).

How to comply with food safety standards for workwear_pic1

In order to streamline your food safety efforts when it comes to workwear, whilst ensuring that you comply with a number of different standards and requirements, we have gathered some general advice based on the German DIN10524 standard, which we comply with at Berendsen.

Risk level
Firstly, you need to assess the risk level of the production setup. This is crucial, as the higher the risk level, the more stringent the requirements for workwear are. Identifying the correct hygiene risk level is a matter of judging factors such as: the perishability of your products and ingredients, production setup and process as well as the type of end consumer.

Maximum risk

  • Handling of unpackaged, ready-to-eat, highly perishable foodstuffs.
  • Highest level of hygienic protection must be ensured as the foodstuffs are not stabilized technologically and micro-organism, including pathogens, may be able to proliferate.
  • Typical products include: Ready to eat salads, spreads and other unpackaged food.

High risk

  • Handling of unpackaged, perishable foodstuffs or ingredients, sometimes processed in a technical manner.
  • The protective function must be high, especially when the food products are not subject to further processing and micro-organisms can proliferate in or on the food products.
  • Raw meat is an example of a high-risk product.

Low risk

  • Handling of not easily perishable foodstuffs or ingredients.
  • The protective function of the garment is simple, if there is adequate protection provided by the packaging, or if the products are to be processed by the manufacturer or customer at a later stage.
  • In this risk-category you can find products like crisps and coffee.

General design requirements
Once the risk level has been determined, there are different design requirements to be considered in order to comply with the different standards and regulations. Some apply to all three risk levels, whereas others are level-specific :

Fabric should be white or light-coloured
White or other very light-coloured workwear makes it easier to see, if the uniform is clean or if something has been spilled, and is a requirement in order for the workwear to live up to food safety standards.

Outside pockets should be avoided
Outside pockets should be avoided for risk level 2 (high) and risk level 3 (maximum) It is recommended to completely avoid pockets for risk level 3, whilst workwear worn in risk level 2 can have inside closable pockets below the waist. For level 1 (low) pockets can be used, but they must be closable with a flap.

Long sleeves are recommended
Workwear in all risk levels should include long-sleeved uniforms, which are to be worn to protect the food from the employee. And the sleeve width should be adjustable.

Tunics and jackets should cover below the side pockets on trousers
Coats and jackets must be worn closed and be long enough to cover the side pockets on trousers. 

Metal fasteners are recommended as closure and should be concealed
All fasteners should be concealed and made of metal so they are detectable. 

Logos and emblems should be permanently attached
Some companies need their workwear to include the company’s logo and in that case, it is important that the logos are permanently attached. They should, therefore, be sewn on or embroidered directly on the garment. This means that transferred logos are not allowed, as these can peel off over time. The standards also require that the logos need to be of a high enough quality, so that they can last through the whole life cycle of the workwear, which they are attached to.

By following the above guidelines, the workwear lives up to the DIN10524-standard ensuring that the garments will meet all necessary garments requirements of food standards such as IFS, Tesco, HACCP, BRC and ISO22000.

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