The Final Step: Sanitizing In Food Manufacturing

In the food manufacturing industry, food safety and quality is everything. Not only is it part of good manufacturing practices (GMP), but it’s the law. Food and beverage plants work with countless ingredients that can cause public health hazards, from microorganisms hiding in ingredient materials to allergens that cross-contaminate products during packaging processes. Microorganisms and other bacteria can even degrade the shelf life of some foods, creating an inferior product that can hurt your company as a whole.

So how do you prevent cross-contamination and unsafe pathogens or undeclared allergens from entering your food? The final step – sanitation. Food must be produced under sanitary conditions in order to be safe, and manufacturers must ensure sanitation is carried out consistently & effectively.

Risks in Food Manufacturing

The USDA requires all food manufacturing plants to meet a certain standard of cleanliness, which includes proper hygiene and regular sanitizing. Of course, there is a good reason for these regulations: these plants are preparing food for millions of Americans, and one mistake can make many people sick.

Some of the most common risks in the food manufacturing industry (many of which can be prevented with proper sanitation) include the following

Foodborne Illness

Earlier in 2020, the CDC reported 101 cases of salmonella across 17 states. They determined that the cause was contaminated peaches, which had been sold to grocers across the nation.

Regrettably, this story is rather common across the industry and it demonstrates the far reach that a single plant’s sanitation habits can have. Because one packing plant in California failed to properly sanitize their facility, their product became contaminated, and people got sick.

Cross-Contamination

According to Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), an estimated 32 million Americans have some sort of food allergy. These allergies range in type and severity, from a mild rash or itchiness to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Because of this, individuals with allergies must be very careful when choosing foods to buy from the local grocery store — and they need to know with certainty that the things they’re eating don’t contain the ingredient they’re allergic to.

Today’s food manufacturing facilities process thousands of products every day. Some plants process a variety of different foods, which means that it’s always possible for some cross-contamination between ingredients. However, it’s easy to avoid this risk with thorough and diligent sanitization practices and GMP’s.

Shelf Instability

Perishable foods like meats, produce, and dairy products already have a limited shelf life — but if they are contaminated by hidden microorganisms or other bacteria, they can become inedible even faster. This is a big problem for food manufacturers, as it can impact product quality and eventually degrade your brand value.

Food that goes bad on the shelf is more likely to contribute to foodborne illness — bringing us right back to our first and most common risk. Clearly, it is essential to maintain high cleaning and sanitation standards throughout any food manufacturing plant, and companies must hold sanitization as a top priority.

Cleaning vs. Sanitizing

The USDA considers proper cleaning and sanitization a prerequisite to the industry’s hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP). Without thorough and consistent cleaning and sanitation, a facility cannot provide safe products to the consumer. Both of these practices are essential — and contrary to what some believe, they are not interchangeable.

What is the difference between cleaning and sanitizing? “Cleaning” refers to the process of removing soil from a surface. This is necessary to have a clean work environment, which can help slow the spread of bacteria or even viruses (which is even more important in the post-COVID work environment.

However, while cleaning removes soils, it doesn’t remove what cannot be seen with the human eye — microorganisms – nor does it kill them. This is why facilities must also practice proper sanitizing. “Sanitizing” is the final step of any cleaning process, and it helps kill off any microorganisms that are still lingering on any surface.

If a food manufacturing plant wants to prevent contamination (and they all do), it is absolutely essential to practice effective sanitizing. This means sanitizing surfaces more often and having the right tools at your disposal for an efficient and complete sanitation process.

The Solution

Sanitation should always be the final step in your plant sanitizing procedure, but that doesn’t mean you can do it halfway. In fact, food manufacturing companies need to be more fastidious about sanitizing than ever before! They need to have the right tools to eliminate microorganisms — and that means embracing alcohol-based sanitizers.

Alcohol-based sanitizing solutions have antiseptic properties that kill germs quickly and more effectively than plain water or alcohol-free solutions. Using an alcohol sanitizer in your cleaning protocol is one of the best ways to ensure a bacteria-free surface.

Find Your Perfect Solution:

But, of course, you can’t simply pick up a bottle of alcohol sanitizer from the drug store. Cleaning Food and Beverage plants requires a more careful approach and specific products. Look for products that are EPA registered food contact sanitations sprays; these require no wiping to effectively sanitize surfaces. Not only will this guarantee that your sanitation is food safe, but it also will cut down your cleaning time, giving you a safe, dry, and sanitary surface faster than other brands. If you use a sanitization system that utilizes a food-safe, quick-drying solution, your sanitation routine can become a quick and painless process that you can easily do each day.

The food manufacturing industry has a great responsibility to provide safe food products to people all over this country. And if you work in one of these facilities, it is up to you to maintain a high standard of cleanliness and sanitation. Not only is the reputation of your brand at risk, but the health and safety of the people who eat your food — sometimes, their very lives — are in your hands.

But if you have the right tools and the right sanitizing solutions, you can ensure clean work stations and safe products every time.

 

 

5 Tips To Keeping Manufacturing Employees Safe From COVID-19

production floor

In March 2020, the United States began a series of state shutdowns to help curb the spread of COVID-19. Now, in this state of uncertainty, we may not know what the future will hold but we do know that things in the manufacturing workplace will demand change now.

Masks in public have become more commonplace – and in some establishments, even required. Social groups have gotten smaller as social distancing has also become more normalized. Many companies have embraced working from home to protect employees.

For those who can’t work from home – like manufacturing employees and other essential workers – there are countless new safety precautions.

As this global health crisis continues, safety on the manufacturing floor has changed from more than the usual safety glasses and glove PPE to more advanced training and protection. So, how can manufacturers keep their employees safe on the floor? Here are a few essential tips and tools to help you.

Mask Wearing

While epidemiologists and health experts are still learning new things about COVID-19, there is one thing they know for sure: it is highly contagious and spreads via airborne droplets.

When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or even speaks, virus-containing droplets travel into the air where it can infect others. This is why the CDC recommends that all individuals wear masks when near one another.

Masks work by preventing infected people from infecting others as they go about their daily work activities. It is estimated that 20% of infected individuals are asymptomatic (show no symptoms), and this is a straightforward precaution you and your employees can’t afford to skip.

Space Employees Six Feet Apart

In addition to mask-wearing, creating separation between people is an essential part of reducing viral transfer risk. Standing six feet apart has been the direction of health experts since the COVID-19 first entered the country.

This is one precaution that’s free, easy to do, and critical if you want to keep employees safe. However, it is important to understand this can have impacts on your production floor layout or flow and so some planning and training will be required.

Keeping employees safe on the manufacturing floor will require various safety solutions, often used in tandem. This will require ongoing training and observation to ensure “old” habits don’t creep back into workplaces.

Limit Social Exposure with Staggered Shifts

As mentioned, creating additional space in your production areas may sauce unique space challenges.  After all, you only have so much space in your facility, and your pre-COVID workforce wasn’t designed to have that much distance between them. The CDC has a recommendation: stagger your employee’s shifts.

Staggered shifts are a great way to mitigate the risk of transmission in a busy manufacturing facility. This system guarantees that fewer people will be in the building at any given time, making social distancing much easier.

Staggering shifts can also help relieve congestion in high-traffic areas such as entrances, exits, break rooms, and time clocks. Limiting the time workers spend huddled in groups, waiting to punch in or get some coffee, will also limit the chances of an outbreak at your facility.

While staggered shifts can cause business disruptions and increased costs in the short term, it can help reduce the risk of large scale labor shortages later.

Protect Each Other with Plexiglass Barriers

In the world of manufacturing, it’s common for workers to spend all day in one spot, focusing on one task or project. This is an excellent opportunity to introduce another form of transmission protection: plexiglass barriers.

The CDC states that plexiglass barriers (or barriers of any other impermeable material) between workers can be an effective way for manufacturing companies to keep their employees safe on the job. Of course, plexiglass barriers are not a perfect solution – if workers step out from behind the barriers, they can be exposed to the virus. Physical barriers can slow down the assembly process for some manufacturers.

If your company can safely install plexiglass barriers between workers (without affecting your work overall), it is a wise step for preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, like all the other precautions listed here, they work best in conjunction with other safety measures. Make sure workers social distance and wear masks – even behind the glass!

Adopt Proper Sanitation and Disinfection Techniques

Finally, an important and effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your facility: keep your space cleaned and sanitized!

Regular deep cleaning and disinfecting of industrial shared surfaces, and air ducts in any work building is the proven method to reduce the risk of viral transmission in your facility and between your employees.

Sanitation, disinfection, and proper ventilation have always been important on the manufacturing floor, but it is even more critical now. The EPA claims that indoor spaces are riskier than outdoor ones for the spread of COVID-19, as a lack of proper ventilation can keep the virus locked in with people. Therefore, it is vital to keep your HVAC system clean and in working order to keep your workers safe and healthy.

 

 

Your Facility is Covered in Germs: What Does This Mean for a Facility Manager

Facility managers have a vital job. They responsible for ensuring the safe and effective operation and maintenance of a facility and it’s infrastructure, including the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems in the wake of any virus outbreak. Key organizations in the world health field like the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization are continually trying to update the global understanding of how exactly the COVID-19 virus is transported from person to person. ASHRAE has released proactive guidance to address the COVID-19 outbreak from a facility management perspective, and it is important for facility managers across the country to be in tune with the messaging.

ASHRAE COVID-19 Preparedness

ASHRAE has recognized that healthy buildings are part of the solution to maintain safe and healthy internal environments for building occupants. ASHRAE published official COVID-19 Preparedness Resources which serve as guidance to building owners, operators, and engineers on best measures and plans for protecting occupants.

As an airborne infectious disease, COVID-19 poses a potential risk to HVAC facility equipment. While little is known for sure about the virus and its ability to travel via HVAC systems,  Facility managers need to vary the approaches they take for each different type of facility that they manage. Additionally, it may become a necessity to clean the entire system to mitigate any risk and to provide comfort to employees, guests, and visitors. Currently, health care facilities have criteria for ventilation design and operation in place to mitigate airborne transmission of infectious diseases. In health care facilities, ASHRAE measures and local airborne transmission prevention policies aim to reduce transmission by both direct and indirect contact between employees and facility infrastructure. However, outside of critical areas like operating rooms, or infectious disease areas, little is known.

Emergency Planning

For other types of facilities that may not be specifically designed for infectious airborne disease control, active measures can still be taken to strengthen HVAC equipment’s ability to maintain the safety of the internal environment and air quality. One of the best measures to prepare for the COVID-19 outbreak is to develop and enact emergency planning procedures that increase the resiliency of facilities.

Engineers and facility managers can significantly support the capacity and efforts of emergency planning by understanding the design, operations, and maintenance adequacy of buildings for which they are responsible. An understanding of the capabilities and shortfalls of the building systems is key in determining which areas to target in an emergency preparedness plan. A building management system may have the means to increase dilution ventilation, increase relative humidity, or quickly clean and sanitize and disinfect components (coils, plenums, condensate systems, ductwork, etc) in order to respond to a crisis or outbreak.[1]

In the case of an infection occurring in an enclosed space or area, it is critical for facility managers to act quickly and apply the emergency plans set in place to deal with the situation. In the case of an airborne respiratory infection such as COVID-19, there are four quick steps that ASHRAE has identified that facility managers can take to quickly address the situation.

Step 1: Supply clean air to other susceptible occupants in the facility. Susceptible occupants may be anyone in the immediate area or the same room as the infected person.

Step 2: Containing the contaminated air as best as possible and exhausting it to the outdoors. It is important that air from a space with a potential infection is not recycled throughout the rest of the facility.

Step 3: Diluting the air in a space with clean air from outdoors and by filtering any recirculated air.

Step 4: Cleaning and sanitizing the equipment, surfaces, and shared spaces within a room that was susceptible to a COVID-19 outbreak. During these times it is also important to clean and disinfect evaporator and air handler coils.

Proper ventilation ultimately is the best method that facility managers can take to protect the workers and personnel inside the buildings that they manage. Ventilation systems should be thoroughly checked to ensure that components are properly cleaned and that the right filtration units are in place to clean the airflow. During emergency maintenance consideration of using Merv Rate Filters 13 and above may be worth looking into.

Cleaning and Maintenance

The COVID-19 virus outbreak is an undeniable reason for facility managers to analyze, practice, and supplement the cleaning and maintenance plans of their facilities. Many industrial and commercial facilities are full of germs naturally, and standard maintenance plans should meet regular thresholds for cleanliness and regularity each time they are exercised.

Global pandemics like the COVID-19 virus outbreak present unique situations when facility managers need to double down on their maintenance and cleaning plans. Though the nature of transmission of the COVID-19 virus is still under study, there has already been a proven occurrence of community spreading of the virus. Community spreading means that people are often infected in the midst of their everyday lives and activities because they were in areas where another person was infected by the virus.

No matter what type of facility that you manage, Goodway has products, advice, and proven maintenance strategies that can ensure your building is in the best position to help prevent the spread of illness.

[1] https://www.ashrae.org/File%20Library/About/Position%20Documents/Airborne-Infectious-Diseases.pdf

Steam: Natures Disinfectant

We’ve discussed the power of steam frequently on our blog. Many segments of the market around the world have embraced steam cleaning and sanitation for it’s immediate, and powerful cleaning performance.

In this post, we’ll discuss some of the science behind steam, how high heat, when used properly it can reduce bacteria and viruses inactive in seconds.  Dry vapor steam cleaning is an economical, eco-friendly, and effective form of cleaning, and we’re finding that these cleaners are particularly useful to the healthcare, hospitality, and facility management markets.

Read full blog post »

Keeping Your University Safe From COVID-19

Preventing the Spread

University health and administration officials have a responsibility to their students, faculty, and staff to prepare and protect them against the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. One of the most important steps that a University can take amidst the COVID-19 outbreak or any future outbreaks, is to prepare both formal University policies and practices as well as prepare the University population. Preparation builds resiliency in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak and is the best prevention method for preventing the spread of the virus amongst students, staff, and faculty.

The COVID-19 virus, formerly identified as 2019-nCoV, was identified as a novel coronavirus not previously seen by public health officials. Despite the commonality of coronaviruses throughout the world and its tendency to cause mild to moderate illness, the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak of COVID-19 as a public health emergency and international concern.[1]

How does the virus spread?

The Covid-19 virus is spread primarily from person-to-person and travels through respiratory droplets that are produced from the mouth or nose when a person coughs or sneezes. The dwell time of these infected respiratory molecules is short, but when they reach the mouth, nose, or eyes of another person they commonly transmit the virus.

Not all viruses spread as quickly as easily as others, for example, the Measles is a virus that spreads extremely easily. The virus that causes COVID-19 is currently able to spread easily and consistently throughout the community, in a spreading method called community spread. Community spread means that people are often infected by the virus seemingly just because they are in an area where another person is infected by the virus.[2]

Community spread often results in people getting infected by the virus without being completely sure how or why they were infected. The ability of the COVID-19 virus to spread through community spread makes the virus a significant risk to people when they are carrying on about their everyday lives and moving between different crowded areas and groups. Universities are particularly at risk of community spread due to the classroom and lecture hall nature of the community of students and faculty.

Who to pay attention to?

The Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise International (IHE) is a global health care initiative lead by healthcare professionals and provides guidance on improving the information sharing of healthcare systems.

IHE, working together with local health departments, has an important role in slowing the spread of diseases like the COVID-19 virus. IHE’s efforts will help ensure students, staff, and faculty have safe and healthy environments in which to learn and work. These efforts and communications from IHE are important for University Health and Administration officials to reference and pay attention to when deciding how to react to a global health crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak.

Plan and Prepare: Take steps now to help stop or slow the spread of respiratory infectious diseases, including COVID-19

As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads across the United States, it is important for Universities to plan, prepare, and take preventative action now to reduce the potential for spread across the community.

The following are five steps that a University can take now to both prepare their community for the outbreak and even to slow or stop its spreading.

  • Step 1: Review, update and implement emergency operations plans (EOPs). Emergency operations plans are the standardized fallbacks and drills that Universities plan to enact in the occurrence of significant risk to the University or its personnel. These emergency operations plans can be either a strict policy or a flexible emergency template for a University to use to react. Ether way, EOPs are an essential, emergency fall back that should be verified and even enacted in the face of growing COVID-19 virus risk
  • Step 2: Monitor and plan for the absenteeism of staff and students. Infected personnel showing up at work or class is the quickest and most likely way for the COVID-19 virus to spread amongst a population. Universities need to both monitor and prepare plans of action for personnel who exhibit any flu-like symptoms at a minimum self-quarantine. Be prepared to evacuate the staff and students. Set up previsions for online learning.
  • Step 3: Establish procedures for students, staff, and faculty who are sick (with any illness) on campus. Procedures for students and staff will be different, and essential personnel should be identified, but in the case of any person experiencing flu-like symptoms, there needs to be a method to get them into self-isolation or quarantine.
  • Step 4: Perform routine environmental cleaning. Environmental cleaning measures should already be in place at the university and in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, it may be necessary to increase the frequency and intensity of the maintenance and cleaning plan.
  • Step 5: Create plans to communicate accurate and timely information to the IHE community. Information and the honest reporting of health statistics is the key to fighting the spreading of the virus and to keeping experts informed. University health officials should reach out to organizations like the IHE and establish a line of communication before the COVID-19 outbreak reach their communities.

 

[1] https://www.ecolab.com/pages/coronavirus

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html

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