Food Engineering

Clean Hands, Clean Buns

July 4, 2007
Automatic handwashing meets HACCP compliance and FDA regulations.

Washing hands is automatic at the Bun Companies and meets HACCP requirements as well. Source: Meritech.

As a leading provider of buns to large restaurant chains like McDonald’s, the Bun Companies take pride in baking fresh, delicious sandwich buns, English muffins and rolls.  With particular attention to quality, handwashing is essential to bun production at the Bun Companies’ two 55,000 square-foot factories.  The main plant, the Tennessee Bun Company, produces 60,000 sandwich buns per hour, (1.2 million per day) for a total of more than 420 million buns a year.  The other plant is home to Nashville Bun Company, which produces more than 5 million dozen muffins annually.

In addition to strict adherence to FDA regulations, clients of the Bun Companies often require the company’s workers to use touchless handwashing systems with water dispensed at a specific temperature.  Touchless faucets were generally easy for employees to use, but costly to maintain. Water temperature control also proved difficult.

Another problem occurred during summer because of hot temperatures in the bakery. Employees often turned off the hot water during handwashing by accessing water valves under the sink. Due to these issues and the necessity of meeting regulatory compliance, the company decided to replace the touchless faucets and sensors, which failed every six months. 

Bun Companies managers learned about a California bakery’s success with complete touchless handwashing systems and decided to install Meritech’s CleanTech automated handwashing system.  The Bun Companies placed a handwashing system at the point of entrance from the employee break and locker rooms. 

The new system provides a no-touch, automated method of washing and sanitizing bare and gloved hands. With reliable sensors that are simple to replace, the system is installed by connecting the handwashing unit’s water line to the hot water heater and plugging it into a power source. The stainless steel, corrosion-resistant unit monitors handwashing solution flow and does not allow access to water temperature controls set at 105 degrees. It also has a cycle counter so handwashing frequency may be easily verified for Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) and other compliance programs.

“Everyone enjoys using the machines and no longer sees handwashing as a chore,” says Foster Hawkins, director of quality assurance and customer service for the Bun Companies. “And, being a self-contained unit, we have seen fewer maintenance issues.”

Since implementing the automated handwashing system, the Bun Companies found it easier to get employees to wash their hands before and after working and breaks.  Employees also have a better awareness of handwashing compliance due to the counter on each system.  The compliance monitor lets the quality control management staff know how many people have washed their hands, compared to the number expected.

“Easy to use, self-contained and self-cleaning, the Meritech product has saved us time and money, while providing an extra level of assurance that our 100-plus employees are complying with FDA and customer regulations,” says Hawkins. In addition, management is further reassured when its large restaurant chain customers come through to conduct audits.  They are often pleased with the machines’ design because it is thorough and convenient.

For more information: Michele Colbert, Meritech, 800-932-7707, mcolbert@meritech.com