Adequate source of potable water is essential for food processing

Food processors need to have a reliable source of clean water to protect food products.

Potable water is essential to producing safe food products. Food processors use water for a variety of purposes, depending upon the type of food they are processing. Water is essential for cleaning the facility and direct use in the production processes, along with many other uses in food processing.

Water must come from a clean source. Typically, these sources are either a private well or a municipal water system. Water from a municipal source is considered safe because of the testing required of municipal water systems. While municipal considered safe, the food processor must be aware of potential problems and must monitor for alerts from the municipal source concerning problems with the system.

The food processor should develop a section of their sanitation standard operating procedures (SOP) to guide the processor’s action when problems develop with a municipal water system. When the municipal water system sends out an alert, the food processor must determine the risk and modify their operation, according to the sanitation SOP, until the municipal water source gives the all-clear. Typically, the processor will suspend operation, evaluate inventory already made during the suspect period, and either re-work or discard product made during a period of suspect water.

If a processor is using a private well as a source, then a protocol for testing should be developed into the sanitation SOP. Typically, a water test for coliform should be conducted at least once a year, and more often may be advisable, depending on the type of food being processed, and the quantity processed. Additionally, the well should be protected, particularly when other agriculture or industrial uses take place nearby. The processor should monitor water for odor, clarity and other water quality factors. If a problem is noted, the provisions in the sanitation SOP (similar to the municipal water system example) should be followed until the water is deemed safe.

Surface water, water collected into a cistern, and water from unknown sources should not be considered safe for food manufacturing. Good water is a basic ingredient of safe food; any questionable water should not be used in food processing.

Food processors who are setting up facilities to make products are important to the economy of Michigan. Educators at Michigan State University Extension and Innovation Counselors at the Michigan State University Product Center assist businesses in the establishment of good practices to improve business effectiveness. For further information and assistance with employee communications please contact your local MSU Extension office.

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