Manage Food Safety Risks with Color– Coding

Increased food safety regulations are generating a need for well documented food safety management systems in food processing plants. One tool processors have access to help them in the management of food safety risks is color-coding. Although color-coding is not yet a requirement by law, it is a great way to practice and show commitment to food safety in your process.




Color Code Facility

It is important for those working in the food processing industry to know and understand the risks associated with food safety. Food borne pathogens have been proven to cause a number of health complications, ranging from minor illness, to the most severe cases resulting in death.


When the safety of food products has been compromised, the effects of a recall can be devastating. The greatest concern is that of public health. It is the responsibility of producers to ensure end-users safe and high-quality products. Additional considerations for compromised products are:


  •  Shut down of production, loss of distribution and revenue
  •  The costs associated with product recalls can be significant
  •  Your brand and reputation can be compromised and tarnished



As with any business there are ways to help manage the risks. For the food processing industry one practice that is gaining popularity is color-coding. This practice defines the different steps or areas of food production to help minimize the risk of food safety issues.


A good place to start managing your risks and assist in maintaining your product integrity is with reviewing the federal regulations for the food processing industry.


  •  The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was enacted in January, 2011. The FSMA was put into place to better protect public health by strengthening the food safety system. Preventative control standards improve food safety only to the extent that they are complied with. This act gives the FDA (long-time watchdog for food safety in the US) the ability to not only ensure compliance but also respond when problems arise.
  •  The Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act), part of the FSMA, requires manufacturers to register with the FDA to improve the agency’s ability to respond quickly to food-related emergencies.



Color code equipment

What this means for producers is that with the establishment of the FSMA, facilities must be inspected within 5 years of enactment and no less than every three years after. This regulation gives the FDA access to food producers:


  •  Records
  •  Safety plans
  •  Documentation
  •  Mandates for certain food testing

Not only do producers need to register with the FDA, but they must operate under the Federal Code of Regulations to ensure that the product is suitable for human consumption.




The FSMA includes two primary proposed rules for preventative controls for food that focuses on preventing problems that can cause food borne illness.


  1. New provisions requiring Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and;
  2. Proposed revisions of Current Good Manufacturing Practice requirements.

What is HACCP?


The HACCP food safety management system mandates food producers to have a written safety plan. Start this process by conducting a Hazard Analysis that identifies the “Critical Control Points (CCP).” These points are steps or parts in the food manufacturing process where control can be used to result in a food safety hazard being prevented, eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level.  Once these points are identified, producers can establish critical limits for each CCP, monitor, take corrective actions, validate and document that safe procedures are being followed. 


GMPs for Protection against Cross-Contact


Proposed revisions of the Current Good Manufacturing Practice (CGMP) requirements would also require protection against cross-contact of food by allergens. It would also potentially mandate training and cleaning of non-food contact surfaces of equipment.




Processors that work with dairy, juice, seafood or retail/food service may already be using color-coding as a part of their HACCP quality control documentation requirements, but nearly any food processor can benefit from color-coding within its facility. Get proactive about the new FDA proposals and take steps to establish color-coding in your plant.


Why use color-coding as part of your processing operation?


Color Code Plant

  1. Avoid cross-contamination by allergens or food borne illness by assigning different colors to each step in the production line.
  2. Create greater traceability by providing “zone control” within. When colors are assigned to zones, confirming that a tool is misplaced is simple and tracking back to its original location is quick. More traceability can translate to the prevention of costly recalls.
  3. Divide work spaces to decrease the amount of missing equipment incidents.
  4. Overcome language barriers. Employees can easily learn a color-based maintenance system as it is universal.
  5. Instill pride among employees in contributing to a quality end-product. Employees know which step of the manufacturing process is theirs.
  6. Reduce costs. With proper storage of tools, they last longer and are less likely to get lost.

A simple, properly-implemented color-coding system offers benefits that far outweigh the cost of implementation.


The increased food safety regulations are driving the need for documented food safety management systems. Those concerned with food safety should know their risks, review federal regulations, and take steps to manage their risks for both public safety and brand security. A trending option for managing risks is color-coding in processing facilities. Understanding your risks and options is an important component of compliance. Learn how to set up your own successful color-coding system by following the simple guidelines outlined in this article.


**Special thank you to our manufacturing partner Remco Products for providing us with the info for this article that has been adapted from their original. Download Remco Products whitepapers here:  Remco and Vikan® brands offer the most tools in the most colors for flexibility in designing comprehensive color-coding systems. Call or Contact Rodem for more info on Remco Products.**