The first Hygienic Design Festival leaves important reflections

To promote safe food production through the implementation of hygienic engineering and design in all aspects of the chain, the First Hygienic Design Festival (MexHDfest), an event organized by EHEDG and SOMEICCA, was held in Mexico City.

Facilities, machines and equipment in the food industry must be designed and built in accordance with the principles of hygienic design in order to ensure food safety. The challenge is to reduce or eliminate the risk that there is a source of physical, chemical or microbiological contamination of food, directly or indirectly.

Likewise, hygienic design has two other purposes: to facilitate cleaning and disinfection and to contribute to the preservation and maintenance of the equipment or installation itself. In this sense and with the purpose of providing practical and theoretical guidelines on aspects of hygienic design that are crucial for safe food production, the European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group (EHEDG), together with the Mexican Society for Food Safety and Quality Consumers (SOMEICCA), held the First Festival of Hygienic Design (MexHDfest), whose seat was in Mexico City. On behalf of SOMEICCA, QA Daniela Gutiérrez Zavalza and QA Ilsa Ibañez Contreras were a fundamental part of the whole organization and logistics.

The event demonstrated the latest trends in engineering and hygiene innovations and, in particular, the environmental implications associated with new technologies, as well as the main components of an effective quality and safety system. This space brought together hygiene design experts such as Knuth Lorenzen, former president of EHEDG and chairman of the subgroup for training and education in Germany; Guillermo Arroyo, COFEPRIS program monitoring manager; Marco Antonio León, President of EHEDG in Mexico and General Manager of Lefix: Mario Guzmán, Quality and Food Safety Manager of Sigma Alimentos México; Claudia Altamirano and Yesenia Guerrero, health and hygiene advisors at Dantec México; Pedro Marquina, Sales Director of Q-Pumps Mexico; Guillermo Cruz, General Manager of ACO, Jesús Isidoro Sánchez of Diken International México; and Marcos Torres López from UANL.

Experts emphasized that the concept of hygienic design combines mechanical, technological and food hygiene factors. In addition, many factors need to be taken into account, such as construction materials (steel), contact surfaces, accessibility, drainage, sanitary drains and channels, cleaning equipment, pumping technology, etc. They also emphasized that there is a direct relationship between sanitary designs and common causes of food and beverage recalls that appear on the market.

To demonstrate this, two real-life cases of hygiene design failures are presented: that of the Peanuts Corporation of America in the United States (in 2009, health officials found Salmonella typhimurium in a jar of peanut butter), and that of Maple Leaf in Canada (a listeriosis outbreak 2008). Causes: allergens, poor cleaning, inadequate plant design and equipment installations.

This signifies the importance of early verification and management throughout the production chain. Likewise, innovation must be part of all products and processes and must occur at all times and in all places. The challenge is to achieve a comprehensive approach to finding solutions and to see how we can work together to create guides, manage standards and increase the level of understanding across lines of action.

In this sense, EHEDG is a multidisciplinary non-profit organization that seeks to connect equipment manufacturers, food manufacturers, food industry suppliers, researchers from institutes and universities, public health authorities and government organizations to ensure hygiene during food processing and packaging. EHEDG guidelines can prevent risky situations and help comply with regulatory requirements to avoid food contamination.

It is concluded that it must be taken into account that legislation is increasingly turning hygienic design requirements into requirements. In this way, companies that adapt to these criteria have an additional competitive advantage. The adaptation of equipment and facilities of the food industry to the principles of hygienic design represents a great value: greater product safety and quality, increased operational efficiency and a significant improvement in sustainability. Thus, the trend towards hygienic design will be unstoppable.

To this end, the commitment of EHEDG and SOMEICCA is to continue organizing this type of forum to keep updating the topic and continue working together to develop solutions and technologies for better hygienic design in food and beverage production facilities.

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