Hair Contamination and Protective Clothing in Food Production
One of the biggest single causes of contamination in food production is hair.
On average, a person will shed in the region of 150 hairs a day. Apply a little mental arithmetic to this and you’ll soon find that in a modest operation of 25 workers working eight hours a day, five days a week, there will be the total loss of 6,250 hairs in your food production plant per week. Or 250,000 hairs per month. Or 300,000 hairs per year (not including holidays or shift work).
Consider the fact that any single hair contamination carries with it the risk of compromising produce quality, and the importance of effective and reliable protective disposable clothing soon becomes apparent.
After all, we’re not talking simply about the visible appearance or shock to a consumer who finds a hair in their soup or sandwich!
Take staphylococcus, for example. A gram-positive bacteria, present among the hairs of 25% of perfectly healthy people (more so among those carrying infections and illness), this bacteria spreads fast at room temperature to produce a toxin that can cause fever and abdominal cramps that may strike within 1 to 6 days and last for 48 hours.
The temptation then, while ensuring that all the correct rules and regulations are in place regarding the use of hair nets or bouffant caps, is to only really start strictly enforcing those rules for those with long hair. This is not enough.
While short hairs shed just as often as long hairs, they are far more difficult to detect, and for that reason in fact present a much higher risk of contamination.
With that being the case, it is of the utmost importance that any food production be carried out by personnel wearing protective coverings which have been carefully donned according to a strict procedure and in a specified changing area. But those garments aren’t just for the top of the head; beards shed hair on average 6 times more than head hair. Therefore, anyone with visible stubble should be expected to wear a protective beard snood also.
Despite the risk of contamination, with a carefully considered set of rules in place, a strict procedure for enforcing those rules, as well as appropriate protective garments and a specified area and process for changing, there is no reason why food production cannot be carried out confidently and safely.