FDA’s 21 CFR 117.10 Cleanliness Guidelines Ensure Safety, Build Trust​

Ensuring the safety and integrity of our food supply is a responsibility that extends far beyond the farm or manufacturing operations. At the heart of this endeavor are the personnel practices of those who handle, process, and prepare our food. ...

Ensuring the safety and integrity of our food supply is a responsibility that extends far beyond the farm or manufacturing operations. At the heart of this endeavor are the personnel practices of those who handle, process, and prepare our food. These practices, meticulously outlined in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Code of Federal Regulations, particularly 21 CFR 117.10, are crucial in preventing contamination and ensuring that the food reaching consumers is safe and of the highest quality.

The food industry, with its vast and complex supply chains, is particularly susceptible to risks that can arise from inadequate personnel practices. From farm to fork, the human element remains a constant and pivotal factor. Contamination, which can occur at any point in the supply chain, often has its roots in how individuals manage their personal hygiene and conduct themselves in food processing environments. Consequently, understanding and implementing the guidelines for personnel practices becomes not just a regulatory requirement, but a fundamental aspect of food safety management.

Adhering to these guidelines is a testament to an organization’s commitment to public health. When personnel practices are prioritized and executed with diligence, the entire food supply chain is strengthened. This commitment not only ensures compliance with regulatory standards but also builds trust with consumers, who are increasingly concerned about the safety and quality of their food.

The Dual Focus of Personnel Practices: Disease Control and Cleanliness

The guidelines in 21 CFR 117.10 emphasize two key areas: disease control and cleanliness

Both are critical in maintaining the hygiene standards necessary to prevent food contamination.

Disease Control

This aspect is straightforward yet vital. It requires that any individual with signs of illness, open wounds, or other potential sources of microbial contamination be excluded from operations where there’s a risk of contaminating food. 

This is not only a measure to protect the food but also to safeguard the health of the personnel and the consumers. Prompt reporting and vigilant monitoring of health conditions are crucial in this regard.

Cleanliness

Cleanliness encompasses various practices, each essential to maintaining a hygienic food handling environment. These practices include:

  1. Suitable Attire: Wearing appropriate outer garments to prevent allergen cross-contact and contamination.
  2. Personal Hygiene: Upholding high standards of personal cleanliness.
  3. Hand Hygiene: Regular, thorough hand washing and sanitizing to prevent contamination.
  4. Management of Jewelry and Objects: Removing or covering jewelry and other objects to prevent them falling into food.
  5. Glove Maintenance: Ensuring gloves used in food handling are kept in a clean and sanitary condition.
  6. Hair Restraints: Using effective hair restraints to prevent hair from contaminating food.
  7. Proper Storage of Personal Belongings: Storing personal items away from food processing areas.
  8. Restrictions on Eating, Drinking, and Tobacco Use: Confining these activities to designated areas away from where food is handled.
  9. Other Necessary Precautions: Taking additional steps to prevent contamination from various sources, including perspiration, cosmetics, and medicines.

The Broad Impact of Personnel Practices on Food Safety

The significance of these personnel practices extends far beyond individual compliance. They are integral to maintaining the safety and quality of the entire food supply chain. When properly implemented, these practices minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses and enhance the overall safety of food products.

In conclusion, personnel practices, as outlined in 21 CFR 117.10, are fundamental to ensuring food safety. By diligently adhering to these guidelines, food handlers not only meet regulatory requirements but also play a critical role in protecting public health.

The conscientious application of these practices is a cornerstone of a robust food safety culture, essential for the trust and confidence of consumers and the long-term success of the food industry.

FAQs

Food facilities can enhance employee compliance with disease control guidelines by implementing comprehensive training programs focused on health and hygiene, establishing clear policies for illness reporting, and providing accessible health screening and support services. Encouraging a culture of transparency and responsibility regarding health status is also crucial.
Small food businesses can meet the attire and hygiene requirements by adopting standard operating procedures that detail appropriate work attire, including the use of hair restraints and minimal jewelry. Providing regular training sessions on personal hygiene, along with easy access to handwashing stations and sanitary supplies, can also ensure compliance.
Effective strategies include designating specific storage areas for personal belongings away from food processing and handling areas, providing lockers or secure storage options for employees, and establishing clear guidelines on what is permitted within the production area to minimize the risk of contamination.
Businesses can create a culture of adherence by leading by example, where management actively follows and promotes hygiene practices. Recognizing and rewarding compliance, creating open channels for feedback and suggestions, and making cleanliness and hygiene a key part of performance evaluations can also foster a supportive environment committed to food safety.

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