Dr John Holah, technical director at Holchem Laboratories, referred to a US outbreak of Salmonella Agona food poisoning caused by contamination in a factory wall. “Ten years later when the wall was disturbed, that contamination got into the food again,” he said.
Holah was speaking at the HygieneFirst roundtable debate organised by ACO Building Drainage and held at 'The Gherkin' in London on March 20.
Debate participants heard that core issues included food manufacturers inheriting hazards from previous plant owners, particularly where sites had not originally been designed for food processing purposes.
Mark Reeve, md of building contractor Chalcroft Construction, said: “Not all food factories are built on greenfield sites.” Reeve claimed manufacturers routinely applied laboratory-level standards to processing, but not to extensions and alterations.
“The reality is most builds have seen several different kinds of manufacturing process and are ‘cut and builds’,” he said.
Pressure on small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to cut costs could lead them to non-specialist contractors with poor knowledge of hygienic design principles, attendees claimed. Mistakes proved costly if missed at the start of the process, they said.
John Barnes, head of the Food Standards Agency’s local delivery division, said: “It’s easy to cut corners and it’s the industry and consumer that pick this up at a later stage.”
SMEs were often confused about who to approach to get advice about hygienic design and there was no central organisation they could approach, delegates said. For example, the Royal Institute of British Architects had no obvious specialist food division, they stressed. “And we are talking about the UK’s largest manufacturing sector here,” said Barnes.
The Food Manufacture Group’s annual Food safety conference, ‘Safer food and drink from the harvest to the home’ will take place at The Lowry in Manchester on September 29. Among a range of subjects, will be a presentation on hygienic design. For more information visit and to book, click here or call 01293 610354.