Much more needs to be done to ensure the minimisation of serious food poisoning outbreaks, which regrettably still occur because of cross contamination resulting from poorly designed, cleaned and maintained food factory environments and from the production equipment within them. These were the key messages to emerge from the sixth European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) World Congress held in London from 21-22 November during the Food Matters Live event at the ExCeL exhibition centre.
The World Congress, which attracted 350 delegates from 51 countries around the world, heard about the very latest thinking on hygienic engineering and design from expert speakers from academia and industry, including food manufacturers Mondelēz and Cargill, and leading food retailer Marks & Spencer, whose senior food hygiene technologist Katie Satterthwaite spoke about the criticality of hygienic design to good cleaning practices in food and drink premises.
Twenty presentations over the two days were grouped into four sessions covering building and equipment design; cleaning; innovation; and upgrading and renovation. Speakers discussed everything from the use of mathematical modelling to optimise spray jet removal of waste deposits from the surfaces of process vessels, through to very practical advice on equipment design and maintenance to minimise the entrapment and retention of potentially dangerous pathogens.
They also described good layout of production facilities – including air handling and water management – together with the design of all-important drainage systems, to reduce the opportunities for cross contamination. The need to carry out risk assessments when changes are made to the fabric of food factory buildings, such as when new lines are added, was discussed by Richard Leathers of Campden BRI. The practical importance of this was then outlined by Cargill’s Haydn Mann, who described his experiences with a recent upgrade to one of Cargill’s poultry processing factories in the UK.
Several presentations described the activities of EHEDG Working Groups, which have produced some 49 practical guidelines that are now being specified and used as prerequisites by companies, food safety organisations and governments around the world to ensure the quality and safety of foodstuffs on sale to consumers. However, EHEDG doesn’t stand still. It operates a process of continuous improvement in which guidelines are periodically reviewed, updated and added to by specialist working groups as more knowledge and expertise is gained. Some of these developments were also described over the two days of the Congress.
For example, work on updating EHEDG guidance on the validation of cleaning regimes was described by Dirk Nikoleiski of Commercial Food Sanitation, while forthcoming EHEDG guideline number 50 on cleaning-in-place (CIP) systems was described by Diversey’s Hein Timmerman.
On the first evening of the Congress, a gala dinner for delegates was held at which the Hygienic Study Awards were presented. First prize went to Sawsen Zouaghi, from the School of Industrial Biology at the University of Cergy-Pontoise in France, for her PhD thesis on biomimetic surfaces for dairy fouling management.
Awards were also presented for the best technical posters displayed during the Congress, with the first prize awarded for the development of a flexible mobile cleaning device for open processing and packaging lines from the Fraunhofer IVV in Dresden, Germany.
The EHEDG Merit awards, which recognise outstanding contribution to the organisation and the food and drink sector generally, were presented to Ulf Thiessen of GEA Tuchenhagen in Germany and Hein Timmerman from Diversey in Belgium.
As delegates relaxed during the gala dinner, they were serenaded by the glorious classical singing of female vocalist duo Belle Voci, 2018 finalists in the hit British TV music talent show The Voice UK.