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Industries in the Food Manufacturing subsector transform livestock and agricultural products into products for intermediate or final consumption. The industry groups are distinguished by processing raw fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy products into finished goods ready for the grocer or wholesaler to sell to households, restaurants, or institutional food services. Unlike many other industries, food manufacturing is not highly sensitive to economic conditions.
The food products manufactured in these establishments are typically sold to wholesalers or retailers for distribution to consumers, but establishments primarily engaged in retailing bakery and candy products made on the premises not for immediate consumption are included.
In 2006, the food manufacturing industry provided 1.5 million jobs. Almost all employees were wage and salary workers; only a few were self-employed and unpaid family workers. The food manufacturing industry employs many different types of workers. More than half, or 54 percent, are production workers, including skilled precision workers and less skilled machine operators and laborers. Production jobs require manual dexterity, good hand-eye coordination, and, in some sectors of the industry, strength.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, food manufacturing has one of the highest incidences of injury and illness among all industries. Animal slaughtering plants have the highest incidence among all food manufacturing industries. About 34 percent of all food manufacturing workers are employed in plants that slaughter and process animals, 19 percent work in establishments that make bakery goods, and seafood product preparation and packaging accounts for only three percent of all jobs.
Many production jobs in food manufacturing involve repetitive, physically demanding work. Food manufacturing workers are highly susceptible to repetitive-strain injuries to their hands, wrists, and elbows. This type of injury is especially common in meat- and poultry-processing plants. Production workers often stand for long periods and may be required to lift heavy objects or use cutting, slicing, grinding, and other dangerous tools and machines.
To deal with difficult working conditions, ergonomic programs have been introduced to cut down on work-related accidents and injuries. In an effort to reduce occupational hazards, many plants have redesigned equipment, increased the use of job rotation, allowed longer or more frequent breaks, and implemented extensive training programs in safe work practices.
Because of the considerable mechanization in the industry, most food manufacturing plants are noisy, with limited opportunities for interaction among workers. In some highly automated plants, "hands-on" manual work has been replaced by computers and factory automation, resulting in less waste and higher productivity. While much of the basic production-such as trimming, chopping, and sorting-will remain labor intensive for many years to come, automation is increasingly being applied to various functions, including inventory management, product movement, and quality control issues such as packing and inspection.
Working conditions also depend on the type of food being processed. For example, some bakery employees work at night or on weekends and spend much of their shifts near ovens that can be uncomfortably hot. In contrast, workers in dairies and meat-processing plants typically work daylight hours and may experience cold and damp conditions. Some plants, such as those producing processed fruits and vegetables, operate on a seasonal basis, so workers are not guaranteed steady, year-round employment and occasionally travel from region to region seeking work. These plants are increasingly rare, however, as the industry continues to diversify and manufacturing plants produce alternative foods during otherwise inactive periods.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service branch oversees all aspects of food manufacturing. Quality control and quality assurance are vital to this industry. In addition, other food safety programs have been adopted recently as issues of chemical and bacterial contamination, and new food-borne pathogens remain a public health concern.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), signed in 2011, set in motion widespread improvements to the security and safety of the U.S. food supply. The act addresses food safety in the supply chain from Farmers and Grain Handlers to Processors and Importers. The overarching theme of FSMA is prevention rather than detection and reaction. FSMA updates the 1986 Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP).
Before the FSMA, food processors were required to develop programs to ensure their products met regulatory and legal requirements. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) was the commonly accepted process. HACCP focused on managing critical controls to prevent, eliminate, or reduce hazards to an acceptable level.
In an analysis of food safety incidents, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found that most of the recalls were not due to the failure of Critical Control Points (CCPs). The data shows an increase in incidents resulting from inadequate sanitation, allergen cross-contamination, mislabeling, and supply chain failures. This data made the FDA take a slightly different approach, resulting in the FSMA.
The controls now require registered food facilities to develop and follow a food safety plan, identify potential hazards, establish preventive measures, and document their safety plan’s effectiveness.
The FSMA ensures U.S. food suppliers follow a proactive approach to the food supply chain. By focusing on prevention measures versus detection and reaction, the hope is to eliminate food safety issues and concerns before they occur. Having process preventative controls, preventative allergen controls, preventative sanitation controls, and supply chain preventative controls in place, the FDA has a broader reach and more checkpoints to maintain food integrity.
The food processing sector is affected by a number of major environmental statutes and regulations.
The discharge of wastewater from a food processing facility generally will be covered by the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). Generally, federal regulations target three types of industrial discharges. Industrial wastewater discharges from food processing facilities probably fall into one of these categories:
Direct discharges which include any wastewater from an industrial facility (e.g., untreated, unpolluted wastewater or treated process wastewater) that is discharged straight to surface waters (e.g., ponds, lakes, oceans, streams, and wetlands). Storm water discharges also are considered a type of direct discharge.
Indirect discharges which include any wastewater from an industrial facility that is discharged to a publicly owned treatment works (POTW), which subsequently discharges to a surface water.
Land application of industrial wastewater discharges. Land application discharges include any wastewater from an industrial facility that is discharged to land to either condition the soil or to fertilize crops or other vegetation grown in the soil.
Facilities that store petroleum and nonpetroleum oils (e.g., vegetable oils and animal fats) must follow Oil Pollution Prevention Regulations, also known as the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasures (SPCC) Regulation.
Water used in food processing operations must meet EPA's safe drinking water requirements.
Although total air emissions by the food processing industry typically are less than other manufacturing industries, some sources may emit sufficient air pollution to be regulated under CAA.
NAAQS for Criteria Pollutants May Affect Food Processing Industries in the following ways:
SO2, NOx, and PM result from the combustion of fossil fuels (e.g., industrial boilers,). Some significant sources of particulate emissions result mainly from solids handling, solid size reduction, cleaning, roasting, drying, and cooking (e.g., PM10 results from flour, sugar, and other dry ingredients). Some of the particulates are dusts, but others are produced by the condensation of vapors ranging in the low-micrometer or submicrometer particle-size.
VOC emissions may result from fryers (e.g., doughnuts, french fries), direct use of ethanol, by-products of yeast fermentation (ethanol), and from lubricating oils for machinery.
Your food processing facility may be emitting air pollutants (i.e., criteria, HAPs) from both process and ancillary operations, such as refrigeration and steam generation.
Food processors may be subject to risk management planning requirements if they have one or more of the identified substances onsite above the threshold quantity. If you have more than a threshold quantity of any of the regulated substances in a single process, you are required to comply with the regulation (40 CFR 68). In terms of this regulation, process means "manufacturing, storing, distributing, handling, or using" a regulated substance in any other way. Ammonia, chlorine, and propane are some of the regulated substances commonly used by food processing facilities.
Your food processing facility may be subject to requirements of the stratospheric ozone protection program if you have motor vehicle air conditioners, certain appliances (air conditioners, refrigerators, and freezers), and industrial process refrigeration units that use CFCs and other class I and class II substances.
Drugs, cosmetics, foods, food additives, pesticides, and nuclear materials are exempt from TSCA and are subject to control under other federal statutes (e.g., foods and food additives are under the purview of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA) administered by the FDA. In order for a food or food additive to be exempt, however, it must meet the definition contained in the FFDCA (21 USC 321 et seq.), or related statutes such as the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act. If the food or food additive does not meet the definition, the substance may then be regulated under TSCA and is subject to all the requirements of TSCA including testing, premanufacture notice, reporting and recordkeeping, export notification, and import certification.
Additional TSCA requirements may apply to facilities that manage substances such as asbestos, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) primarily regulates the manufacture and registration of pesticides (40 CFR 152 and 156), but important requirements also exist for pesticide users. Food processors must comply with all FIFRA requirements relating to these activities.
Under this program, the term "pesticides" includes herbicides, insecticides, and rodenticides.
If your food processing facility, no matter how small, has any of the extremely hazardous substances ( EHSs) in amounts equal to or in excess of certain minimum amounts (called threshold planning quantities [ TPQs]), you must participate in emergency planning activities. EHSs typically found at food processing facilities include ammonia (for refrigeration), chlorine (for disinfection), and nitric and sulfuric acids (for cleaning).
Hazardous chemical inventory and reporting provisions require you to inventory the hazardous chemicals present onsite at your facility in amounts equal to or in excess of TPQs.
Form R reporting requirements often apply to food facilities. Some multi-establishment food processing facilities overlook the fact that they may have to submit Form R or Form A reports for chemicals used in agricultural operations.
As a food processor, you produce wastes that could be hazardous. For example, Food processors will most likely generate spent solvent wastes, which are F-listed wastes. Other wastes commonly generated at food facilities include the following:
If your facility has an underground storage tank (UST) system, you are subject to requirements for USTs containing petroleum products or hazardous substances.