The advancement in process technologies and engineering has made the process of scaling up a food production unit easy and cost-effective. The major concern which prevails in the current scenario is the hygienic and sanitary design for a food factory and its essential premises. Change Room and Ante Room play a critical role in reassuring the focus on quality and hygienic design and ensures to lessen/nullify the contamination from man-material movement.
Changing rooms fulfill the key function of a single entrance to the food production area for all staff, workers, visitors, contractors, etc. to minimize product cross-contamination. It serves as an area where:
- Employees can store external clothing and personal effects
- For maintaining personal hygiene and structured entry sequence by practicing the use of PPE (personal protective effects)
- Facility for cleaning and laundering industry clothing and footwear’s
- Segregated toilets from food production areas etc.
As far as possible, all employees, including senior management, production operatives, technical/ office staff, and the cleaning and maintenance operatives should enter the food manufacturing areas of a factory through the same single entrance and follow the same changing and hygiene procedures.
Requirements on Hygiene & Sanitary Practices
Changeroom and Ante Room are essential requirements in reinforcing the Hygiene and Sanitary practices in any food industry. All processing operations should be carried out in such a way that the risk of contamination of the product or packaging materials by any hazard is avoided. Such hazards may include:
- Physical/foreign matters (e.g., metal, glass, plastic, insects, dust/dirt, etc.)
- Chemicals (e.g., allergens, cleaning agents, disinfectants, lubricants)
- Spoilage/ pathogenic micro-organisms.
Two levels of internal barriers are required for food, dairy, and beverages manufacturing processes:
Non-food production areas: The first level separates processing from non-processing areas. Food production areas should be segregated from non-food production areas such as locker rooms, canteens, utilities, boiler rooms, workshops, machinery rooms, laboratories, offices, meeting rooms, Separation should be by physical means such as walls, sufficient to prevent contamination of food production areas by pests, particulates, gases, and fumes.
Food production areas: The second level separates ‘high-risk’ from ‘low-risk within processing areas. Products range from low-risk – ambient stable, packaged foods. High risk includes chilled and other ready-to-eat foods.
Change Room and Ante Room
Entrance from non-production to production areas is practiced via Change rooms. Entrance into ‘high-risk’ areas is through a further Ante-room specifically designed for high-risk operations (Hygiene station etc.). A single one-way flow of production operations from raw materials at the beginning to finished products at the end minimizes the possibility of contamination.
The level of air cleanliness as design specification of the air handling system reduces the risk of cross-contamination of high-risk product and hence, these areas may suitably have Heating and Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC for+ pressure) and airlock provided in between low & high-risk areas for the upkeep of hygiene. Air shower/curtains may be provisioned before entry to the high-risk processing sections such as the Cheese section, Infant food section, etc.
It would be better to provide a swipe card system or rack, indicating the total number of persons entering or present inside the respective section/plant. The facility should be designed such that the movement of employees, visitors, maintenance personnel, and contract workers throughout the facility is controlled in a manner that does not contribute to potential cross-contamination.
Functional requirement of Changing room
A changing area is necessary to provide basic privacy i.e., separate areas for males and females with separate washroom facilities with proper ventilation. The basic requirements of a changing room are:
- Air Curtain to be provided as a barrier between external side and Changeroom 1.03 Self-closing doors, proper lighting, and ventilation.
- First aid kit to be made available.
- The informative boards/poster about required personal hygiene practices and fire/emergency exits to be displayed.
- Cross-over barrier/bench provided before entry into production area from the change room.
- Work clothing should be changed at the entrance of the unit and given to the laundry at the end of the day. Employees should not come to work (from home) in their work clothing nor launder their work clothing themselves.
- Open lockers to store outside footwear.
- Provision of individual storage facilities, e.g., lockers, is required to ensure that staff’s outdoor clothing and personal effects can be securely stored for the duration of their work period. As staff’s personal effects may be contaminated, they also need to be stored separately from their Work clothing.
- Before putting on factory clothing, the staff is required to undertake hand hygiene procedures to reduce the risk of cross-contamination to the food manufacturing area. This requires the provision of hand-wash sinks with detergent and hand drying facilities.
- Hand washbasins to service a single hand wash. Hand washbasins must have automatic or elbow/foot-operated water supplied at a suitable temperature.
- Suitable hand-drying equipment, e.g., paper towel dispensers or hot-air dryers. Closed-circuit television (CCT)/cameras/sensors as a potential monitor of hand wash compliance may be installed.
- Changing rooms may have a definite barrier, which divides the external side of the changing room from the food manufacturing area. This barrier can be a simple line on the floor or a bench that operators can sit on when applying footwear cover before swinging their legs over into the food manufacturing area.
- Open lockers at the barrier to store low-risk footwear/industry footwear/foot cover.
- Ensure availability of Sanitizer dispensers adjacent to the high-risk production area.
- After processing activities, facilities are required to hold used industry clothing either for laundering/cleaning and discard PPE (disposable– mask, gloves, hair net, etc.).
- An area designed with suitable drainage for boot washing operations.
Ante Rom/Ante Area
Engineering proper HVAC systems for critical environments often involve distinct areas of room pressure control and directional airflow. An anteroom between a primary room and corridor ensures a safe airflow buffer zone between the controlled pressurized space and an unclean area. The two spaces are separated by a completely walled area with a door. However, in some applications, an ante area without walls or a door can achieve the same effect.
An ante area is a buffer zone of laminar or displacement airflow near a clean work area, such as a pharmaceutical compounding space. There is no physical separation between a gowning or wash area and the compounding area. Instead, proper placement of supply and exhaust airflow devices provides sufficient air velocity to sweep particles away from the compounding area and maintain unidirectional airflow during operations.
Hygiene Stations for High-risk food processing areas
The most important factor for planning the Hygiene station is the number of employees who must pass through the Hygiene station. The basic equipment of a Hygiene station includes:
- Hand washing and hand disinfection devices.
- Sole cleaning and sole disinfection equipment.
- Shaft cleaning and shaft sole disinfection devices.
- Hand drying system.
- Non-contact sensor-controlled soap dispenser: doses an adjustable amount of liquid hand cleaner for hand cleaning.
- Non-contact sensor-controlled hand wash basin with hot water supply is activated by a sensor for an adjustable time, integrated with paper towel dispenser followed by a hand dryer.
- Non-contact sensor-controlled hand sanitizer dispenser for 2- hand wetting, doses an adjustable amount of disinfectant into the hands for better hygiene.
Personnel hygiene regimes are critical in reducing the potential for food contamination incidents. Whilst much can be done to design suitably hygienic and cleanable changing rooms and equipment that facilitate these regimes and allow them to minimize cross-contamination to operatives and the environment, the success of such regimes is still dependent on the actions of the operative. Future changing room designs, therefore, must concentrate on aiding the compliance and consistency of implementing these personnel hygiene regimes, perhaps by incorporating the results of psychological assessments as to why operatives do, or do not, undertake tasks.