Fresh Cut Magazine | June 2014 | by Rudi Groppe, President, Heinzen Manufacturing Intl, LLC


Risk analysis and sanitary design for the fresh-cut processor


This is truly the time in which food safety has risen to the top of the decision tree when discussing facility improvements or process line improvements. Each processor in the fresh-cut industry is faced with challenges on how to deliver a safe product. A common thread for every processor is how to implement sanitary design internally and how to communicate the criteria to external contractors and machine builders. If each processor has the common goal “to eliminate microbial cross contamination,” then understanding the sanitation process and where microbes hide is critical to making good decisions.


Our lean manufacturing training has taught us to continually seek out knowledge and interact with the customers where they are. This past October, HMI Engineering Manager Erick Davidson and I enrolled in a sanitation worker training program. Our goal was to be able to answer the question, “how do I clean that?” from the viewpoint of a sanitarian. We attended a three-day “Sanitation Essentials Seminar’ operated by Joe Stout and his team of very passionate sanitation professionals. We were immersed into the world of sanitation, not only with a hands-on training experience, but with direct interaction with sanitation workers in attendance.


The seminar combined a classroom experience to learn the fundamentals of the pathogen control program, with a real life hands-on lab experience of SSOP (sanitation standard operating procedure) development, cleaning, swabbing, testing and evaluation. We learned that sanitary design is just one component of the pathogen control equation. As we worked though the PEM (plant environmental monitoring) program, the how to, when to, and where to swab created a lot of debate and interaction. As I listened to several case studies and several of the attendees’ stories of pathogen detection, vector swabbing, hot spots, and corrective actions taken, I grew to really appreciate the concept of predefined zones in the process environment.


Here at HMI we like to break down our world into current and future state. Sometimes the current state is not where we want to be, but with a good plan, we can work towards the light (continual improvement). This is the case for almost every food processor in the world. The current state for the processor is to provide the most sanitary environment. As companies retool they have a chance to move in to the future state of machines designed from the ground up for sanitation.


One of our hands-on training experiences was presented by Darin Zehr, who covered the 10 principles of sanitary design and how to apply each principle in a real world environment. We learned that sanitary design and process design is often a series of compromises to solve the given task. As we worked through each principle it became obvious, the 10 principles are not a design specification, but rather a guiding document to lead your team in evaluating an existing design or insuring new designs are food safe.


By using zone analysis and following the 10 principles of sanitary design your team can determine whether an existing machine or new machine will be acceptable for its intended use.


Zone definitions:

  • Zone 1: Surfaces that are in direct contact with the food.
  • Zone 2: Surfaces adjacent to or above the product (i.e.: the inside of a conveyor frame or adjacent equipment).
  • Zone 3: Surfaces that are typically below the product line (i.e.: equipment supports, floors, drains).
  • Zone 4: Non-food contact surfaces that are remote but could provide a pathway for cross contamination (i.e.: doorways, walls, access decks).


10 Principles of Sanitary Design

  1. Cleanable to a microbiological level
  2. Made of compatible materials
  3. Accessible for inspection, maintenance, sanitation
  4. No liquid collection
  5. Hollow areas hermetically sealed
  6. No niches
  7. Sanitary operation performance
  8. Hygienic design of maintenance enclosures
  9. Hygienic compatibility with other systems
  10. Validated cleaning and sanitizing protocols


The point of this article is to stress that the 10 principles can be used as a starting point in any organization to launch a culture of food safety. The format provides a vehicle to determine the food safety risk of each machine. This will drive change. It may provide the justification for a new piece of equipment. It may drive some simple changes to a better conveyor belt material, removal of laminations or rework of unsanitary welds. It may drive changes to the design to reduce cleaning time and water consumption. It will move your company forward in terms of food safety awareness and provide an excellent training tool. Will this integrate into your master sanitation program? Absolutely!


Here at HMI we debate the application and implementation of the 10 principles at all levels. We now live these principles every day at HMI. We have learned that every design will have some compromise, but by implementation of these principles we have a way to improve the process. I feel we have received great value by attending the “Commercial Sanitation Essentials” seminar. We now have a good understanding of what sanitation workers are up against, and in the end this will help us design better equipment for the fresh-cut industry.


Rudi Groppe is the president and co-owner of Heinzen Manufacturing, a provider of sanitary process equipment and technology to the fresh-cut industry. For further information, contact rudi@heinzen.com.