How food-safe are your uniforms?
By Chad LaframboiseBusiness Operations Food Safety
Three things you should look for in a uniform rental company to ensure food safety is top of mind
As someone in the food processing industry, you’re likely reminded of the importance of food safety on a regular basis. If news headlines aren’t enough, your business is prompted by government agencies, standards compliance and, of course, the best interests of your customers.
As such, your operation has not only examined every possible entry point for contamination, but it also actively manages the prevention of physical, biological and chemical hazards.
In essence, your company is doing everything it can to prevent health risks and costly food recalls that could last for decades when it comes to damage to your brand reputation. But what about your suppliers? In particular, how does your uniform rental company measure up when it comes to food safety?
If you do your research, you might be surprised to learn that there continues to be a lag in the uniform rental industry, as far as best practices go in food safety. By and large, uniform rental services – even the big brands – have been slow to realize the full extent of the issue: that any contaminant is enough to compromise food products, and that such hazards can come from anywhere in the uniform rental service chain, if the proper care isn’t taken.
Most uniform companies do include food safety processes in their offerings. They recognize that safety is important enough to use the right laundering chemicals or to separate food-processing garments from other uniforms in their plant. But these measures are just minimum requirements, according to international safety standards. There is a bigger picture.
Food safety checklist for your uniform supplier
If you’re unsure as to where your uniform rental supplier stands on the food safety continuum, here are three features you should look for:
1. ISO registration
In addition to having ISO 9001 certification, which deals with quality management systems, you should look for ISO 22000:2005. As you probably know, ISO 22000 certifies food safety management systems.
For uniform rental companies, this standard ensures everyone on the premises, not just the delivery personnel, is trained, and that everyone is communicating regularly to ensure processes are followed consistently.
Another important feature of ISO 22000:2005 certification is that it ensures management’s commitment to food safety as a whole, and not just clean clothes. This element matters because, as you know, it’s not enough to simply manage the mechanical part of the process, there’s a human element that also needs to be addressed. Everyone needs to be aware and trained about food safety.
2. Traceable and verified processes
In addition to compliance with international standards, you should look for a uniform rental supplier who actively documents every step of their process, from pick up to delivery.
This is an important feature because it allows your team to ensure the uniform rental company is doing what its says it is doing. It also assures both parties that there is a paper trail should any improvements need to be made or any issues arise in the future.
3. Validated claims
Finally, you should ensure that your uniform rental company is being third-party audited against a recognized standard. This means that certification can be revoked if the supplier is not complying – an important measure for ensuring the same constant vigilance that you demonstrate in your business.
As an added benefit, a third-party audit will reduce your company’s headache of having to audit the supplier yourself.
If you have gone through this checklist and realize that your uniform rental company doesn’t measure up, call and talk to them about your expectations. As a customer – especially one in the food industry – you should feel empowered to demand these features from your uniform supplier. After all, food safety is that important.
Chad Laframboise is Operations manager at Northern Uniform, the first uniform rental company in North America to be ISO 22000:2005 certified. Contact him at Chad@NorthernUniform.com
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