The food retail industry is one of the largest industries within the United States—with retail and food service sales topping 5.3 trillion dollars in 2015 alone. These staggering sales come from a variety of settings, including grocery stores, drug and convenience stores, mass merchandisers, restaurants, butcheries, bakeries, canneries, fisheries, food packaging plants, industrial rendering facilities, dairy plants, meat packaging plants, breweries, online food delivery companies, and many more.
Incidentally, the food retail and service industry also happens to be one of the more closely regulated—and for good reason. Food contamination is a serious issue that has both public health and economic consequences.
The Importance of Personal Protective Equipment in the Food Industry
The use of proper personal protective equipment (PPE) within the food industry confers benefits to multiple players: the customers, the employees, and the food products themselves.
The typical American consumer expects several conditions to be met when it comes to their food purchases, including quality, cleanliness, and cost. In order to enhance customer safety and satisfaction and protect brand reputation, companies within the food industry must ensure that any employees involved in the handling, preparing, processing, and transporting of food products are utilizing appropriate work-wear, safety, and hygiene techniques.
Appropriate type and use of PPE is one of the most essential factors in this regard. PPE can prevent embarrassing "inconveniences" such as finding hairs in food. But PPE also plays an important role in preventing more detrimental issues—specifically, the contamination of food with bacteria, germs, and other pathogens.
A simple search of the literature on the prevalence of food-borne illnesses, or a follow-up on the latest news about official food recalls, paints a clear picture about the potential serious impact these problems can have on the community at large.
As noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a number of injuries can befall workers in the food manufacturing and handling industry, ranging from minor to severe. Common injuries—such as cuts, burns, bruises, fractures—can often be avoided and prevented through appropriate PPE use.
The emotional and financial impact of these injuries should not be overlooked. Workers often pay dearly in terms of lost wages, job dissatisfaction, emotional stress, and physical pain.
Appropriate handling of food prevents contamination and spoilage, improves food shelf life, and ultimately cuts down on waste and inefficiency. By ensuring employees are provided with comfortable and effective PPE, food will be less likely to be contaminated with parasites, bacteria, dust, mold spores, and other debris normally found on the human body and clothing.
Some specific examples of possible contaminants include:
- Salmonella (frequently seen in meat handling settings or with dairy products)
- E. coli
- Hepatitis A (often seen in industries handling mussels, oysters, or shellfish produced using organic fertilizers)
It's worth noting that product protection also enhances taste, texture, and overall quality of the food—characteristics which directly circle back to customer satisfaction and (importantly) brand reputation and trust.
Things to Consider When Selecting the Right Food Industry PPE
Knowing that proper PPE use can and does impact the customer, employee, and product itself, food industry companies must feel confident in their purchasing decisions regarding PPE since it's going to make such a significant effect. To this end, a variety of factors should be considered:
The use of disposable PPE is often far lower compared to the use of reusable garments. Most notably, this is because reusable attire incurs additional costs for transport, laundering, delivery, and in some cases rental costs.
High quality and tear-resistant disposable PPE offers the same level of protection as many reusable apparel. Indeed, disposable PPE is often more effective, given the nature of its one time use. Just consider one potential risk of laundering—fabric can wear down over time, which increases the risk of tears, holes, and breakage and ultimately negates the effectiveness of the product.
International Enviroguard's disposable apparel for food handling and preparation meets industry regulations and provides effective protection against heat, tears, and cross-contamination of liquid and particulate matter. We offer options including:
- Smocks and gowns (with and without hoods)
- Sleeve covers
- Shoe and boot covers
No matter how clearly a company's workflow standards are stated, employee compliance with these standards can and will impact them. If apparel isn't comfortable, feels restrictive, or is perceived to interrupt their ability to perform their job roles, employees will be more likely to forgo or modify their garments—either way rendering them less effective.
Compared to reusable protective attire, disposable garments generally afford excellent wearer comfort. International Enviroguard uses the latest advances in textiles to create products that are at once lightweight and breathable while still providing adequate barriers between chemicals, organic matter, heat, and liquid.
Lastly, company leaders also need to make sure they're promoting a workplace culture that truly buys in to the focus on maintaining safety standards. Properly communicating with employees about the intended benefits of PPE, as well has how and why the PPE works, will maximize employee compliance.
International Enviroguard—Cooking Up Cost-Effective Protective Apparel Solutions for Food Industry Companies and Their Employees
Is your company making its mark in the food industry? Learn how our disposable protective apparel can help streamline workflow, manage costs, and improve employee safety and comfort.
Contact International Enviroguard today. We're here to answer your questions and help you find the right PPE for your setting and your financial bottom line.