Food Safety

12/10/2021 | Sesotec

Hygienic design and its role in certified food safety management

By ensuring their buildings and machinery comply with hygienic design guidelines, food manufacturers not only reduce risk within their processes, but also incur a number of additional benefits. Here, the food safety experts at Sesotec discuss the importance of hygienic design for food processing equipment as it relates to regulatory approval and food safety standards.

What is hygienic design for food processing equipment?

Hygienic design refers to designing all components of food processing machinery in order to facilitate cleaning and reduce the risk of contaminating food products with biological, chemical or physical hazards.

A few examples of hygienic design for food processing machinery include:

  • Sealing off dead spaces, such as crevices and gaps
  • Ensuring all food contact areas are accessible for cleaning
  • Eliminating the build-up of condensation
  • Using materials that can be repeatedly and intensively cleaned without abrasion
  • Eliminating components that may loosen, break off and fall into food products
  • Installing drying or draining mechanisms for equipment sanitised with wet-cleaning methods

Why is hygienic design important for food safety?

The hygienic design of food processing equipment has a significant impact on food safety.

Food manufacturing and processing businesses are required to ensure their products are free from biological, chemical and physical contaminants. Inadequate hygienic design can heighten food safety risks by increasing the likelihood that food processing equipment itself becomes a vector for cross-contamination.

By building sanitary equipment that is easy to clean, resistant to wear and free of areas where moisture can accumulate, hygienic design greatly helps to reduce the contamination risks inherent in food processing.

The role of hygienic design guidelines in food safety standards

Another compelling reason to comply with hygienic design best practises is that applying them is necessary to receive regulatory approval and food safety certifications.

Around the world, regulatory authorities and certification programme owners incorporate hygienic design best practises into their standards for the fabrication, installation, maintenance and cleanability of food processing facilities and equipment. In order to comply with food safety law or become certified with a third-party food safety standard, food manufacturers must invariably adhere to the best practises of hygienic design.

In the European Union and the United States, there are two prominent organisations whose guidelines for hygienic design inform both food safety law and international food safety standards: the European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group (EHEDG) and 3-A Sanitary Standards, Inc. (3-A SSI).

Here is an overview of how these organisations promote their guidelines for hygienic design in partnership with certification programmes and regulatory authorities:

EHEDG in the European Union

The EHEDG is a non-governmental organisation based in Europe that is dedicated to the promotion of hygienic design in food engineering. Their team of food safety experts and engineers has published upwards of 50 guidelines for the hygienic design of food processing facilities, production environments and a wide range of food processing equipment.

In the third edition of their hygienic design principles, EHEDG describes a series of provisions intended to prevent contamination by foreign particulate (Doc. 8, chp. 4.5). These guidelines include considerations about the selection of construction materials, the use of hygienic shields over all open products and containers and the implementation of an effective preventative maintenance programme, amongst other things.

EHEDG offers certification programmes for food manufacturers as well as suppliers of sanitary food manufacturing equipment. While official certification is voluntary for food processors, applying EHEDG guidelines is a necessary part of compliance with legal requirements for hygiene and food safety as prescribed by European laws. These laws include EU Nr. 10/2011 and EC 1935/2004, which regulate the kinds of materials and articles that may come into contact with foods.


3 A SSI in the United States

3‑A SSI was created in the 1920s as a collaboration between American professional sanitarians, equipment fabricators and processors to improve the hygienic design of milk pipe fittings. Today, 3‑A SSI maintains 70 different sanitary standards for a wide range of food processing equipment with particular emphasis on dairy products. The 3‑A symbol is a registered mark that can be featured on food processing equipment that meets their sanitary standards.

3-A guidelines for equipment manufacturers also include criteria that can help to prevent physical contamination. These criteria cover topics such as material selection, requirements for the surface finish of equipment and the elimination of flaws such as pits, folds and crevices.

Like EHEDG, 3‑A certification is voluntary. However, 3-A standards serve as important references for regulatory authorities in the United States, such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Department of Agriculture (USDA). For example, the USDA Dairy Division has an approval process for all equipment used in dairy facilities – and all equipment that that conforms with relevant 3-A standards meets these requirements by default.

International food safety certification and hygienic design  

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) is a leading international organisation dedicated to the continuous improvement of food safety management systems worldwide. They develop benchmarking requirements for owners of food safety certification programmes, such as IFS Food, SQF, BRCGS and more.

In 2020, GFSI published a new and more robust set of benchmarking requirements for hygienic design: GFSI JI (for building constructors and equipment manufacturers) and GFSI JII (for building and equipment users).

The criteria laid out in GFSI JI and JII were not only informed by standards from the EHEDG and 3‑A SSI, but were actively indorsed by these organisations. As such, all international food safety certification programmes recognised by GFSI involve implementing hygienic design best practises developed by EHEDG and 3-A SSI.


What additional benefits can hygienic design in food processing equipment offer food manufacturers?

Beyond reducing contamination risks and helping achieve compliance with food safety standards, food processors and manufacturers stand to boost productivity by ensuring their facilities and processing equipment are built according to hygienic design principles.

Cleaning is amongst the most time- and resource-intensive aspects of running a food manufacturing or processing facility. According to one study, half of food industry business reportedly spend at least 10% of their annual turnover on cleaning.

Food processing equipment that adheres to hygienic design principles helps to expedite thorough cleaning processes and reduce the time and money that businesses spend sanitising machinery, thus boosting their profitability.



From their mixing machines, to their packaging lines, to their metal detectors and x-ray inspection devices, food industry businesses have a lot to gain by ensuring their equipment is built according to recognised standards for hygienic design. In addition to helping improve the safety and quality of their products, hygienic design can boost a business’s profitability by reducing the time and resources spent cleaning. Furthermore, because both legal regulations and third-party certification programmes evaluate hygienic design, food industry businesses can facilitate approvals and certifications by complying with hygienic design guidelines throughout their processes.

E-Book: Food Safety - What food processors need to know

The food industry is among the most regulated industries in the world. Manufacturers and processors must comply with a multitude of laws, rules, regulations, ordinances, and guidelines in order to produce and market foods in different regions.

This e-book is meant to offer a comprehensive overview of the varying and influential factors shaping the future of food manufacturing and processing. We hope you find many valuable and interesting pieces of information inside.

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