The dos & don'ts of food-grade warehousing
In tough times, standards may slip, but it's still a small excuse for the sensitive task of storing food and drink. Recently, a British warehouse suffered a mammoth fine – £156,000, or just over $190,000 – for "filthy conditions." According to Planet Concerns, just two random hygiene visits led to an emergency notice. A lack of lighting, storage and disinfectant stations had spoiled many goods, while their origins were barely discernible on their packaging. There was hardly any allergen information either. Despite these concerns, the company kept selling stock, much of which was out of date. It's an extreme case of cowboy standards in the logistics industry.
While the Ealing warehouse shows a severe lack of care and forethought, it's worth reminding ourselves that food-grade protection is a very serious business. So much can go wrong. Thousands of people may depend on your food deliveries, and the cost of bad, unsafe produce can be enormous. Double check your own processes; we have some suggestions for what to do. They might become essential for new hires or anyone managing a large team.
Do… Organize your workflow around allergens
Cross-contamination is a major risk for logistics. Statista tells us that food allergens are the no. 1 cause for recalls in the U.S, and you must be precise around who's allowed to work where. Try to map traffic patterns in your warehouse, separating people based on whether they're handling nuts, soy, dairy, fish, pepper and so on. Generous ventilation will reduce the spread of allergens even more. Meanwhile, make sure everyone labels pallets with the right allergen content straight away.
Don't… Allow leaks or holes to form
In food-grade warehousing, structural integrity cannot be undervalued. Your facility must be free of cracks, gaps or holes – anywhere for water or pests to enter. Regular structural surveys will help you stay on top of repair work. You can then spot areas prone to heavy weather damage or high humidity. Consider waterproofing, such as elastomeric coats of paint, for walls and joints.
Do… Keep pesticides and chemicals far away
Employees have to be rigid in their separation techniques – especially when it comes to potentially toxic chemicals. Leave a clear, assigned space for them, marked and secured. It might be worth using a Warehouse Management System (WMS) to monitor supplies, preventing unnecessary buildup. The fewer chemicals you have, the easier it is to stick to hygiene practices.
Don't… Forget to document process controls
What temperature do you require for milk and cheese? How will warm conditions affect meat, fruit or vegetables? What are the critical limits – the maximum and minimum parameters in which food stays safe to consume? Guidelines may be taken for granted. Try to write a fixed corporate document and make it part of your onboarding. Throughout the warehouse, you may want to post reminders at key points: vivid signage for environmental and operational checkups.