Implementing a Color-Coding System

What is cross-contamination?

According to the US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIA), cross-contamination occurs when foods that transfer bacteria or allergens come in contact. Cross-contamination is a major concern to food safety, as its effects can lead to anything from light symptoms to serious illnesses.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 1 in 6 Americans get sick by eating contaminated food every year. This results in not only large costs for the food production facilities but also many illnesses and deaths. Something as simple as color coding supplies and equipment can minimize this threat when executed correctly.


Preventing cross-contamination in the food industry

The overall goal of a color-coded system is to safely keep tools and food sections in their designated areas, minimizing cross-contamination risks. For example, the “wheat section” at a food processing facility can be color-coded yellow.

The threat of a recall is unfortunately common in today’s world. As of this writing, according to the FSIS, there have been eight recalls of meat products throughout the US from October 1st to October 29th, 2022. With color-coding, HACCP plans in a food processing facility can help continue food safety protocols. While the primary purpose of color-coding helps reduce the risk of cross-contamination, it also aids in organization and sanitation.

What colors should I use?

There is no rule as to what colors you can and cannot use. However, the colors used in the HACCP color-coded system are regarded as a universal language in terms of colors.

Avoid mixing colors in zones; the goal is to quickly look at and determine which section is which. For example, with the HACCP color-coded system, you might use red for raw meat.

Color-coding supply storage

Storing tools in a simple color-coding system with designated locations develops organization and avoids cross-contamination. For example, tools that have a green handle and a red brush can confuse employees on which zone it belongs in.

Within the food industry, there are commonly used food safety colors. There are no rules saying you must follow these colors exactly, but certain colors have become industry standards. Some examples are red for raw meat, blue for seafood, green for produce and yellow for raw poultry.


Communication & color-coding

When implementing a new program, effective communication is necessary. A single mistake resulting in thousands of people getting sick. HACCP compliance requires that all aspects of food storage and handling are conducted in a safe manner.

3 steps to implementing a color-coding system

1. Choose which colors you wish to designate each food type.

2. Equip your managers to explain the details as thoroughly as possible with employees so everyone is on the same page. This opens the floor to asking questions and addressing concerns.

3. Create a cheat sheet for further guidance. This way, when employees need a refresher or a visual guide, they can look at a sign.

As you carry out this color-coding process, remember that continuous training is a wonderful way to keep staff on their toes and remind everyone of proper procedures. When training, emphasize and encourage the importance of proper food storage.


Hygienic tools

Hygienic tools are designed to minimize areas where water and food soils may surface, making these tools easy to clean and easy to stay clean. Some tools that can be found at facilities can be anything from buckets and paddles to brushes and scoops. These products are helpful in organizing any facility, not just food production.

Made from sturdy PP or HDPE, every tool serves a purpose in the food production and cleaning processes. By adding these products to your facility, you will have a safer working environment and avoid harming your food products.


How can we help?

The Cary Company offers a large variety of products to help you maintain an organized and safe facility. Available in many different colors, our color-coded preventive control products can make the switch much easier for your food processing facility. Ranging from handles, squeegees, scrub brushes and more, we have the tools you need to implement your safety plan.

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