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Meat Processing Plant: Poor Infrastructure, Process and Equipment Design

Provided by IFC Sustainable Business Advisory


Meat-processing Plant, Canada

Case

A meat processing plant employing 400 people has had 200,000 pounds of processed beef recalled after being linked to 18 consumers getting sick from E. coli bacteria. The plant’s operating license has been suspended pending detailed inspection of the sanitary conditions, equipment, procedures and facilities. Initial reports suggest employee and animal sacrificing hygiene practices are poorly informed and executed, and slaughter­ing practices are being observed by the state veterinarian to determine where there are breakdowns in internationally recognized good manufacturing practices (GMPs). In addition, swab tests are being collected from selected carcasses. E. coli can result if feces from an animal’s intestines or hide spread onto the tools for butchering and also onto employees’ hands, clothing and boots if cross-contamination steps in all aspects includ­ing employee hygiene, toilet use, hand washing and other practices are not addressed thoroughly. Each day, 4,500 cattle are slaughtered at the plant, a total that a previous audit of the facility suggested was a “strain on the system” with “high potential for problems.” According to interviews conducted by the auditor, workers complained of having just a few seconds to pick up a sterilized knife and complete the gutting. The auditor noted this has inevitably led to worker fatigue, which can lead to mistakes during butchering and consequent contamination by the animal feces.

Impact

  • Risk to consumers’ health due to consumption of contaminated and E. coli infected product
  • Product contamination and exposure of workers to pathogenic bacteria due to poor infra­structure, process design and personal hygiene
  • Occupational health and safety risk because of worker fatigue in butchering section (due to inefficient and poor process design)

Avoid

  • Design and implement HACCP plan to prevent product adulteration and eliminate prod­ucts exceeding the “critical limits”:
    • Establish and implement “operational prerequisite programs”, including GMP and SSOPs
    • Establish and implement systems for verifications at regular intervals
    • Establish and define “food chain,” conduct a “food safety hazard analysis” and de­termine the “acceptable levels”
    • Identify the “critical control points” and determine “critical limits” for all critical control points
  • Optimize the operation process at slaughtering by employing effective sanitary dressing procedures during slaughter
  • Inspect and improve employee sanitary facilities for proper operations and train em­ployees on personal hygiene
  • Ensure boot wash, hand wash, clothing appropriateness and associated cross-contami­nation stations and activities are functioning as designed and as required by GMP

Minimize

Train and re-train employees on GMP, personal hygiene and prevention of food adulteration

Offset

  • Engage with key stakeholders, such as regulators, food authorities, customers, consumer groups, NGOs and media, to address their concerns and communicate on the steps taken by the organization to ensure consumer health
  • Effectively communicate the organization’s food safety policy and the organization’s response to the E. coli outbreak to consumers and other stakeholders through print and electronic media campaign, social networking sites and other formal and informal events
  • Recall the affected lot; recall all the product if no traceability system in place
  • Appoint a key staff person from senior management and make him/her available to receive and respond to consumers grievances

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