MSD Manual

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Professional Version

Sanitation and Food Safety


Kathryn R. Polking

, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Reviewed/Revised Jun 2022 | Modified Oct 2022

Sanitation Standards in Meat-Processing Facilities

Facilities, equipment, personnel, and operating procedures should ensure the continued wholesomeness and freedom from adulteration of carcasses and meat. Grounds and buildings should be well maintained and solidly constructed, and should prevent entry of pests such as rodents or insects. Floors, walls, and ceilings should be constructed of durable materials and in a manner that enables sanitary operation and thorough cleaning. An ample supply of hot and cold water and cleaning materials should be conveniently available for slaughtering, cleaning, and personal hygiene. All water used in products and in cleaning must meet primary drinking-water standards. Wastewater drainage, with proper trapping and sewage disposal, should be adequate to maintain sanitary conditions, and disposal of wastewater must meet the requirements of the local government authority. Ventilation should be sufficient to avoid condensation and ensure that areas where edible products are handled are free of noxious odors. Lighting must be adequate for thorough cleaning and inspection. Equipment should be of such material and constructed in such a way that it can be readily and thoroughly cleaned, and it should be properly maintained. Dirty or contaminated equipment, knives, and utensils must be cleaned and sanitized before being used again. Separate, clean containers for edible and inedible materials should be provided at convenient locations. Personnel must wear clean garments and follow all hygiene and sanitation procedures.

Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) in Meat-Processing Facilities

In the US, establishments must develop written sanitation procedures detailing the operations they will conduct daily, before and during operations, to maintain sanitation standards and prevent product contamination. At a minimum, these Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures, or SSOPs, must address the cleaning of food-contact surfaces of the facilities, equipment, and utensils. The establishment must specify how often the procedures will be conducted, and routinely evaluate the effectiveness of those procedures in preventing contamination. If the procedures fail and product becomes contaminated or adulterated, the establishment must take corrective actions, including proper disposition of the affected product, restoration of sanitary conditions, and revision of the sanitation procedures to prevent recurrence.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) System in Meat-Processing Facilities

US slaughter and meat-processing establishments must also develop a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system. Used throughout the food industry, the comprehensive HACCP food safety system involves identifying potential hazards in food products and instituting control measures to prevent, eliminate, or decrease those hazards to an acceptable level. Meat-processing establishments develop HACCP plans for each general type of product. Development of a HACCP plan follows the seven HACCP principles:

  • Conduct a hazard analysis to determine the biological, physical, and chemical hazards that are reasonably likely to occur during processing of the given product.

  • Identify preventive measures to control hazards, as well as the critical points in the process where these measures can be applied. These will be the critical control points (CCPs).

  • Establish critical limits (CLs) for the CCPs. The CLs are measurable maximum and/or minimum values that must be maintained to produce a safe product.

  • Develop procedures to monitor each CCP to ensure that the CLs are maintained.

  • Identify corrective actions to follow in case the CLs are not met. These include actions to prevent a recurrence.

  • Create measures to verify the effectiveness of the HACCP system, such as review of records and calibration of monitoring instruments.

  • Maintain complete records documenting the HACCP plan and its implementation.

Recalls of Meat Products

Meat-processing establishments must create written procedures for the recall of products that may be adulterated or misbranded, specifying how the establishment will determine whether a recall is necessary and how the recall will be carried out. Recalls typically involve notifying the public of the problem and removing the affected product from commerce. The need for product recall may be identified either by inspection personnel or by the establishment, through observation, consumer complaint, or other means.

Key Points

  • Antemortem inspection of production animals and poultry before slaughter identifies animals with disease conditions that may not be apparent postmortem. Animals with severe disease conditions are condemned as unfit for human food; those with less severe conditions are tagged as suspect.

  • In postmortem inspection, the carcass and organs of each animal are examined for lesions or clinical signs of disease. Normal animals are passed for food; suspect animals undergo an in-depth evaluation by the veterinarian. Carcasses with minor, localized conditions can be trimmed and passed; those with severe and generalized disease are condemned.

  • Slaughter and processing establishments must maintain comprehensive programs to ensure good sanitation and control of food safety hazards. Inspectors observe and verify compliance with these requirements throughout the production process.

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