10 Lighting Considerations for Your Facility

Features - Food Safety

Is the lighting in your facility impacting productivity or enhancing food safety?


Lighting contributes to many aspects of a food safety program in a food processing facility. It can affect productivity and enhance food safety within a plant. Keep these considerations in mind when making decisions about lighting usage in your food facility.

1. How important is lighting?

George Gansner, IFS director, marketing and business development, describes the importance of lighting from a food safety perspective. “You have to consider the amount of light and color necessary for an individual to do their job. For instance, your quality inspection area should be the most well-lit area of the building with both the amount of light and color of light considered in your analysis of lighting needs. Other areas must meet regulatory requirements at a minimum, but keep in mind that the output of your product is affected by the quality of light in which your team is working,” said Gansner.

2. Does the lighting in your plant meet regulations?

The FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices require adequate lighting in all areas of the facility. The 2013 Food Code defines what light intensity to use in various food plant areas, including in walk-in refrigeration units, food-storage areas, and consumer self-service areas above the floor and inside equipment.

3. How is lighting measured?

Light brightness is measured in units called candles, lumens, foot candles, and lux. The recommended level of illumination in a food plant depends on the process or activity occurring in the area. For example, the recommended level of illumination in an ingredient warehouse or finished product warehouse is 20 to 30 foot candles, but in bulk ingredient storage the level is 30 to 40 foot candles, and in locker areas and restrooms, it is 30 to 50 foot candles. Areas where product is inspected require higher levels of illumination at 110 to 130 foot candles.

Light meters are relatively cost-effective tools used to measure illumination levels. Measuring light must be taken into account to determine the best kind of light to use. The results will vary depending on the type of work being done and the environment in which it is carried out.

4. What type of bulb should you use?

A variety of light bulbs are used in the food industry, including fluorescent, high-pressure sodium, low-pressure sodium, metal halide, mercury vapor, and incandescent lights. “While yellow sodium light will appear on your light meter as a better, stronger light, white light is actually much more effective for the human eye. Your ability to see clearly is enhanced with white light, as is morale—people are happier and work better in white light,” Gansner explained. “Although the cost for yellow light is generally less expensive, white light has a much better result in almost every case, including security.”

5. Where do you store new and used bulbs?

Storage of new and used lamps is important. Take into account storage of new or used lamps along with the potential hazards associated with breakage of those products. Careful storage of lamps not in use is a preventive measure that should be considered.

6. How do you protect against glass breakage?

Bulb breakage is the main risk with lighting in food processing plants. Light bulbs over exposed product areas should be shielded, coated, or otherwise shatter-resistant. There are many different ways to protect product from glass bulb breakage, including coated lamps, protective lenses, and protective shrouds in metal-halide lighting.

Many new light styles are made with plastic rather than glass, which includes additional benefits like significantly longer life, more accurate color, energy savings, and no glass breakage.

Coated bulbs have a rubberized coating or another type of coating to protect the lamp from shattering into small pieces if broken. Coated lamps are the most commonly used type of lighting in food production plants, but if you have metal halide in your ceilings, coatings and protective lenses will not contain a lamp that explodes.

Protected lighting includes a protective glass shroud that encircles the arc tube and protects it from breaking the outer glass shell if it explodes. Metal halide lamps can explode if they are not regularly cycled according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

You also need to establish a written procedure for changing glass bulbs. This should include whether or not changes can occur during production, any measures that need to be taken to protect product-contact surfaces in the area, ensuring that any protective materials are replaced, and proper disposal of the old bulb.

7. What do you do if a lamp breaks?

When a lamp breaks, a timely and effective response is critical to ensure that no potentially contaminated product reaches consumers. There should be a written procedure outlining how to respond to breakage, including details about how to clean the area. The first step is to quarantine the area to prevent shards of glass or other pieces from spreading.

Next, account for all pieces of the lamp. The procedure should specify that if there is any product potentially contaminated from the breakage, this material must be discarded. All equipment and areas where breakage has occurred must be cleaned to remove any debris.

“If a lamp breaks, you need to consider the type of lamp that broke, whether that lamp has a potential for hazardous discharge, and then assess your own risk in how to manage the breakage. Safety Data Sheets provide information about the lamp product, and your hazardous materials expert on site should understand how to manage the breakage and its cleanup,” Gansner said.

8. Is lighting only a physical hazard concern?

In the event that a metal halide light or fluorescent light breaks, the associated chemicals present significant product contamination issues.

9. Should I wait until I select a certification scheme before I make lighting selections?

There are a variety of certification schemes on which a food plant audit can be based. Understanding of the requirements of lighting to the various schemes should not influence light selection.

Most schemes require that lighting meets government regulations, which means that there needs to be sufficient lighting for the task. Using a light meter to analyze your tasks, output, and intended use—along with potential risks through hazard analysis—can help you mitigate potential issues.

10. Did you know good exterior lighting deters criminals?

One of the best ways to prevent food security incidents at a food or beverage processing facility is to use light effectively. Lights deter people from doing bad things because they feel they are being watched. To provide effective lighting around your facility, follow these simple rules:

  • Use metal-halide lamps in areas away from the building. Metal halide provides the best color rendition for the use of security cameras.
  • Allow two to five foot candles for most exterior locations.
  • Allow five to 10 foot candles for most gates, employee and visitor entrances, walkways, loading docks, and other areas that are monitored by security cameras.
  • Use vandal-resistant lenses for lights less than 10 feet high.
  • Lights should be controlled (on/off) by a photoelectric cell and not by a switch or timer.
  • Lights should be surveyed on a frequent basis to ensure they are working and that enough light is provided.


The authors are Associate, Innovation and Communications Professional-Writer, AIB International.