Smart Plant Design Prevents Foodborne Illness

 In Blog, Commercial Construction, Conveyor Installation

Chipotle Mexican Grill is a case study in how foodborne illness can change a brand’s reputation from trusted to tainted. Two E. coli outbreaks linked to the chain sickened 58 patrons in 12 states. The outbreaks began in October 2015, and The Food and Drug Administration considered the outbreak over in early 2016. But the damage had been done.

People are sickened from food prepared at home, restaurants, and food plants. There are more than 250 known foodborne diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They may be caused by viruses, bacteria, or parasites. Fortunately, many of these illnesses can be prevented through the proper handling of food.

The first line of defense is to make sure food handlers wash hands in warm running water with soap after going to the bathroom, between handling raw meat or poultry and cooked foods to prevent cross-contamination, and before or after taking breaks or removing gloves.

However, there are instances when no matter of handwashing will prevent foodborne illnesses. This includes unclean work surfaces, perishable foods stored at room temperature for too long, or foods not cooked long enough to remove harmful bacteria before shipping.


Designing food plants to support sanitary practices is key to safety and disease prevention. Safe food handling in processing plants begins with facility design and equipment installation. Before the conveyor belts roll and workers slip on their hairnets, basic tenets of good design need to be addressed.

  • Separation of raw foods: Plants need separate areas for raw, cooked and ready-to-eat foods. Facilities should include segregated areas for employees who handle each type of food.
  • Temperature and humidity control: Reliable systems to control the plant’s temperature, humidity, and air quality are vital to preventing the growth of bacteria. Keep certain foods cold to keep them safe. This goes for raw chicken as well as fruits and vegetables that have been cut or sliced.
  • Durable materials: Equipment should be built to stand up to frequent cleaning by harsh chemicals. Construction materials must be immune to temperature variations used in food preparation.
  • Plant renovations: Food plants need to be flexible to meet consumer demands. When a plant is redesigned, safe food handling should be a priority. Before changing a layout, safety managers should audit the facility. A risk analysis can compare existing and proposed designs.


The right equipment can prevent safety breaches. Install equipment to meet your facility’s requirements. Machinery can be designed with both sanitation and efficiency as goals. Here are a few examples of how equipment construction affects safety.

  • Don’t give bacteria a leg to stand on: Table and equipment legs in food plants require a special design. The number and types of legs can be chosen to reduce the possibility of harboring disease.
  • No place to hide: Eliminate cracks, nooks or other areas that moisture and bacteria can accumulate. Crevices are difficult to clean and easy to overlook.
  • Smooth moves: Smooth attachments and welding methods should be chosen. They will further reduce areas where bacteria can thrive.
  • Make the grade: Flat washing stations where water pools can host bacteria. Surfaces should be graded to prevent standing water where contaminants may linger.


Approximately 1 in 6 Americans suffer from illness each year caused by contaminated food according to the CDC. Of those sickened 3,000 will die. Even when handling food safely, using food thermometers to ensure food is cooked properly, or keeping foods separate as required, these illnesses can still happen.

Maintaining a safe, sanitary facility is a continuing challenge for food processors. With the right factory layout and equipment, employees will better be able to adhere to your company’s best practices for food safety.

The industrial construction experts at Storee can help you build a factory that’s sanitary from the ground up. From metal fabrication for vent hoods, food handling tables, and other stainless steel accessories used in your plant. Designing and installing conveyor belts to more efficiently move raw foods between storage, processing, packaging, and loading docks.

In addition to keeping your food safe, we also pride ourselves on improving the safety of your employees. This could be anything from reinforcing catwalks or fabricating safety ladders and fall protection equipment. Storee Construction also establishes safety protocols when working in freezers, operating forklifts, or walking by high-powered processors.

Storee Construction also offers plant relocations, electrical services, venting solutions, and other larger-scale design-build capabilities. We have been providing commercial, industrial, and manufacturing throughout the midwest since 1966. Have a large construction project or facility upgrade on the horizon? Contact Storee Construction today.