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General hygiene rules for facilities, equipment and personnel in the meat industries

It is essential that all meat-processing operations, whether slaughtering, cutting or further processing, be carried out in a clean area and, as much as possible, that the products be protected from contamination from all sources.

When meat-processing operations are carried out within a facility specifically built and maintained for meat processing, sources of contamination can be much more easily and adequately controlled. The following requirements are considered essential to good sanitary preparation of meat and meat products.


Floors. Brick, tile, smooth concrete or other impervious, waterproof materials are suitable for floors. In some areas wooden floors will suffice if they are tight, smooth, in good repair and properly maintained. Wooden floors are not suitable in areas where slaughtering or curing takes place and meat juices and moisture collect.

Drains. To carry away waste liquids, there should be sufficient drains of the proper size that are correctly located, trapped and vented. All floors should be sloped toward the drains. Generally for adequate waste disposal, one drain is needed for each 18 m2 of floor space in slaughtering areas, and one drain for each 46m2 in processing and other areas.

Walls. Glazed tile, smooth cement plaster, rustproof metal panels and smooth plastic panels that are properly caulked are all acceptable for walls in processing and refrigerated areas because they can all be effectively cleaned and sanitized. Other materials are also acceptable if they can be satisfactorily cleaned. In no instance should walls be made of materials that absorb moisture or other liquids. Ceilings must be tight, smooth and free from any scaling that may fall into the meat products, and should also be of moisture-resistant materials. All light bulbs should be covered with unbreakable material to prevent broken pieces from falling into the product.

Doors and doorways. All doorways through which the product must pass, whether suspended on rails or lying on hand trucks, should be wide enough to ensure that the meats never touch the doorways risking contamination. Wooden doors and doorways should be covered with metal with tightly soldered seams.

Water supply. Whether from individually owned and controlled sources such as wells or streams or from a municipal system, the water supply must be potable and abundant cold and hot water must be distributed to all parts of the operation.

Lighting. In all areas where products are critically examined during sanitary control or for cleanliness, 50-foot candles of light should be provided. For adequate visibility 20-foot candles of light should be provided wherever any processing occurs. In all other areas, such as dry storage, there should be sufficient light to keep the area orderly and sanitary.

Refrigeration. The main purpose of refrigeration is to cool the meat down after slaughter and to maintain it in a chilled state for shorter or longer storage periods and for cutting and further processing. If frozen storage is provided and utilized, it should be maintained at the lowest possible temperature for maximum shelf-life. Minus 18° to -12°C is satisfactory freezer storage; however, large quantities of product must either be quickfrozen prior to storage or thinly spread out to facilitate freezing. It is also recommended that all rooms where meat is processed, except in the slaughter and cooler storage areas, should be maintained at a temperature of about 12°C. In facilities where no refrigeration or cooling is furnished in processing areas, the handling of meat products is possible if all equipment contacting the products is throughly cleaned and sanitized from time to time (recommended every four hours). Frequent cleaning is necessary because in warmer temperatures bacteria multiply rapidly and the risk of product contamination increases.


The equipment needed for converting livestock into meat products need not be elaborate and expensive. The amount of equipment will depend on the slaughtering and processing procedures employed. If possible, all equipment should be made of stainless steel or plastic, be rust resistant and easily cleaned and sanitized.

All equipment should be constructed of stainless steel, galvanized steel, aluminium or approved plastic. Wooden tables are not acceptable because wood absorbs meat juices and fats and cannot be thoroughly cleaned. Hardwood cutting-boards maintained smooth and free from checks and cracks may be used. Cutting tables covered with other than hard plastic are not acceptable for contact with meat.

2. A knife sterilizer mounted on a stainless steel sink should contain water at 82°C
1. Sinks for workers' use should be stainless steel with soap dispensers and paper towels at hand. This is an example of a stainless-steel sink with kneeoperated taps. Foot-operated types are also acceptable, but not handoperated types

All other equipment should be of the type that can be taken apart and thoroughly cleaned. Any stationary equipment must be located far enough from walls to permit proper cleaning around and under it.

In all areas there should be conveniently located foot-pedal or kneeoperated wash-basins with hot and cold water, soap and disposable towels (Fig. 1). In slaughtering areas, lavatories should be convenient to the dressing operations. Hot-water containers, either electric or steam-heated to 82°C, should be available for sanitizing tools contaminated with diseased material or other filth during dressing (Fig. 2).

Rails must be located high enough to prevent meat from touching the floor. For beef carcasses, the minimum height for rails should be 3.4 metres, while 2.4 metres is sufficiently high for small livestock such as goats, hogs and sheep. Rails should also be far enough away from fixed objects and walls to avoid contact.


Probably as important as anything in the production of clean, wholesome, unspoiled products is the attitude of the workers toward cleanliness. Personnel with clean hands, clothing and good hygienic practices are absolutely essential to the production of high-quality foods.

All clothing should be clean, in good repair and made of washable material. Street clothing should be covered with coats or gowns while handling exposed product. White or light-coloured clothing is most desirable and garments that become soiled or contaminated should be changed when necessary.

All persons working with exposed meat products should have their hair under control, either completely covered with a clean cap or hat or confined by a hairnet to prevent hair from falling into products.

Safety devices such as aprons, wrist guards and mesh gloves must be made of impervious material, clean and in good repair. At no time should leather aprons, wrist guards or other devices be worn unless clean, washable coverings are used over them. Light-coloured rubber or plastic gloves may be worn by product handlers only if clean and in good repair (Fig. 3).

No person working with meats should wear any kind of jewellery, badges or buttons that may come loose and be accidently included in the product.

Shoes and boots should be worn at all times and should be appropriate for the operations being conducted. They should also be made of impervious materials (Fig. 4). Any aprons, knives and footwear that become contaminated during operations should be routinely cleaned in areas or facilities provided for that purpose.

No cloth twine, belts or other similar materials should be used to cover implement handles or used in other places where they may harbour filth and serve as a ready source of product contamination.

3. Workers must wear clean and protective clothing. Note the hairnet to prevent contamination from loose hairs and the chain-mail apron and glove to protect from knife cuts4. Footwear should be waterproof so that it can be washed frequently, and always when moving to another part of the factory

All unsanitary practices should be avoided by meat handlers. No one should smoke or use tobacco in areas where edible products and ingredients are handled, prepared or stored, or where equipment and utensils are cleaned. When handling edible products, scratching the head, placing fingers in or around the nose or mouth, sneezing or coughing on the product should never occur. Workers must also guard against contaminating products from localized infections or sores.

Workers can contaminate carcasses and meat through handling, coughing and sneezing. This may cause rapid spoilage of the meat or, more seriously, food poisoning. Coughs and sneezes are a particularly effective way of transmitting bacteria to meat. Transfer of faecal matter either of animal or human origin to the meat is particularly hazardous. Most contamination on the hands of workers in slaughter floors with faecal matter comes from the hides and fleeces.

5. Hands should be frequently washed under running hot water and always after visiting the toilet, smoking, coughing or sneezing, handling money, garbage, soiled or infected material6. Particular attention should be paid to cleaning under the fingernails with a brush

Hands should be washed frequently to remove all visible soiling. Stainless-steel sinks without plugs should be conveniently accessible to all workers. Water should be supplied at approximately 43°C to a simple tap which is foot- or knee-operated. Liquid disinfectant soap and paper towels should be available (Fig. 5). Particular attention should be paid to cleaning under the fingernails (Fig. 6). Hands should also be thoroughly washed after using the toilet, smoking, coughing or sneezing, handling money, garbage or soiled or infected material.

7. The cleaning operation begins with clearing all debris from the floor
8. All surfaces must be thoroughly washed down at the end of each day

All precautions should be taken to prevent product contamination by visitors or other persons who are simply passing through the work area.


The floors should be kept clear of all debris (Fig. 7), such as hooves and horns, in slaughterhalls or other inedible parts or fat and meat particles in cutting, processing and by-product handling areas, and must be frequently washed down. At the end of each day a thorough cleaning programme should be followed (Fig. 8). All matter should be removed from floors, platforms, gullies, etc., followed by a thorough hosing down of walls, floors and all surfaces to loosen dirt. Finally a strong cleaning solution should be applied and left for a while before being rinsed off. A thorough inspection should be made afterwards and any areas remaining soiled should be cleaned again.

In order to maintain the cleanest possible products a standard cleaning routine of the equipment should be established. Initially all large pieces of refuse material should be scraped or swept together and disposed of. Follow-up should include scrubbing of the equipment using brushes and a soap or detergent and a complete sanitizing with hot water at 82°C and an approved chlorine or iodine rinse. Finally, a coating of light mineral oil can be applied to metal equipment, particularly that not fabricated of stainless steel, to prevent rust.

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