Uniform Handling Critical to Food Safety

In this exclusive interview, Al Baroudi, Ph.D., president of president of Food Safety Institute International, discusses what drives his relentless pursuit of food safety and what makes handling of uniforms a critical control point.

By Heidi Parsons, Digital Managing Editor

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“One incident [of foodborne illness] is one too many,” he remarks. “Think of what’s at stake: legal fees, compensatory damages, regulatory action, fines, lost business, damage to your company’s reputation . . . Aramark is providing a value-added service, because they don’t just launder the garments, they provide total HACCP support.”

Besides, Baroudi notes, cleaning and sanitizing uniforms to HACCP standards is no cakewalk. Depending upon which fabric the garments are made from, specific wash temperatures and chemical formulas must be used. In addition to detergent, 50-150 ppm of chlorine bleach should be used in the wash cycle, followed by the addition of a mild acid to balance pH.

Aramark Uniform Services recognized it would be hard-pressed to guarantee that its own staff would be using the right chemicals in the right amounts consistently. Thus, to facilitate meeting its own HACCP standards, the company partnered with Ecolab (St. Paul, Minn.; www.ecolab.com) to develop proprietary laundry formulations.

Play to your strengths

Aramark’s collaboration with Ecolab allowed it to focus on further honing its own skills. Similarly, Baroudi suggests using a reputable supplier for uniform services may allow food processors to zero in on the most critical item and the weakest link in any HACCP program: the human element.

“Of all the critical control points in a food plant, the two greatest concerns are cross-contamination and people who may be ill without showing symptoms,” he states. “Like the lady who unintentionally killed her own mother through her failure to wash her hands after using the bathroom, many people simply don’t know what is the right thing to do and why it is so important.

“Your employees must know their role as food handlers,” he adds. “Once they understand that, then each of them acts as an inspector. That doesn’t mean you tell them once and expect them to keep it in mind; you have to reinforce it with ongoing training and communication.”

Training and communication needs to include details such as “employees must change out of their uniforms when they leave the floor for lunch” and “employees must change coats if they go from a ready-to-eat area to a raw food area.” Demonstration of proper handwashing procedures is paramount. To help workers comprehend and visualize what constitutes appropriate personal hygiene, Baroudi recommends, “just ask them to think about doctors going in and out of a hospital operating room. They may not think they have the same level of responsibility, but in both situations, human lives may be at stake.”

About Al Baroudi

Al Baroudi, Ph.D., is the president of Food Safety Institute (FSI), International, a Henderson, Nev.-based consulting company with offices in Newport Beach, Calif. FSI specializes in food-safety best practices and quality assurance throughout the food supply chain. A veteran of the food industry, Baroudi has worked throughout the world, spearheading food research and developing quality-assurance programs for clients, ranging from governments to multi-billion-dollar corporations. FSI works with companies such as Yum! Brands, Safeway, Hidden Villa Ranch, Woodward Labs, Quaker, Arrowsight/ADT and many others.

Baroudi’s specialization also has given him the opportunity to regularly train food-safety auditors and inspectors in the U.S. Department of Agriculture; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration; and federal, state and local health agencies. He earned a Ph.D. in Food Processing and Technology from Ohio State University and a Master’s in Food Science and Technology from University of California, Davis.

Baroudi’s background includes working as the head of quality assurance (QA) and food safety at Borden, where he oversaw QA operations at 89 plants in Borden’s dairy division. Baroudi has served as vice president for corporate QA, food safety and environmental affairs at Vons (a $5.5 billion division of Safeway), as vice president of QA and technical services for Harry & David Corp. and as the chief scientific, health and regulatory affairs officer of Yum! Brands (a $35 billion corporation; foodservice operations under the Yum umbrella include KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, A & W and Long John Silver’s).

He has appeared on several TV and radio talk shows as a food-safety expert and has served on the Blue Ribbon Task Force Committee on E. coli O157:H7. He served on the board of directors of the International HACCP Alliance and is a member of the board of advisors for the Center for Food Safety at the University of Georgia.

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