Good design means easier, and more effective, sanitation. Poor sanitation design can result in cracks and crevices for product to accumulate in, requiring more labor to achieve effective sanitation. Save extra man hours that can be spent elsewhere by implementing these sanitary design standards.
Consider a production floor that no longer slopes, preventing water flowing to a drain during wash-downs. This increases the time employees take to wash all the material toward the drain, leaving the floor wet for a longer period of time and resulting in material that may never make it to the drain. Buildup of food particles and additional moisture creates the perfect breeding conditions for small flies. Welcoming just a few of these flies into your facility with conducive conditions can quickly grow into a much larger problem, as flies need as little as seven days to go from egg to adult stage.
Facility design can help streamline the effectiveness and efficiency of regular sanitation procedures. When it comes to keeping your product safe from pests and pathogens, the importance of food processing companies adhering to sanitary design standards is critical. What’s less discernible is what exactly this means for your facility. No two food plants are exactly alike, which means each building and areas within them will vary in their sanitation plans.
Sanitary Design in New Facilities
When building a new food plant facility, consider how to best accommodate sanitation. Here are just a few considerations:
- When pouring concrete floors, be sure to curve the edges on the floor-wall junctions so waste doesn’t get stuck in the corners.
- In wet areas, make sure the floor slopes to the drains.
- Strategically plan the layout of the facility and its equipment.
- Ensure there is enough room around food plant equipment for proper sanitation.
- Be sure there are no gaps between the food plant equipment legs and the floor where water or product can accumulate.
- Seal any openings so there are minimal voids in wall pass-throughs and other areas.
Sanitary Design in Existing Facilities
An older building poses sanitary challenges of its own. The most common issues with older buildings are problems due to wear and tear settling over time and changes made in attempt to adapt the building to function with new equipment. For example, if the building settles and causes the floor to no longer slope properly toward drains, standing water can become an issue. However, large-scale design overhauls are less practical with existing facilities. Replacing concrete floors in a fully-functioning facility is not only disruptive but also expensive, putting operations temporarily on pause.
Instead, food plant facilities may alter the building in less disruptive ways to mitigate sanitation issues. Some of these quick fixes and changes, however, can leave your facility vulnerable to additional sanitation issues. For example, cutting walls to run new product lines through can cause openings to form into and along walls. Openings like these are nearly impossible to clean. Similarly, some sanitation issues in existing facilities are due to new equipment being retrofitted where old equipment was placed. A change in equipment can leave voids where product can accumulate. These cracks and voids are a sanitation risk, especially since pests like to hide in them as a harborage area, making treatment more difficult. If necessary, make sure your facility is minimizing and addressing any voids or openings that may be a result of building alterations. One temporary solution is filling voids with an elastomeric sealant until finding a more permanent solution with the help of your operations manager and pest control provider.
Whether your facility is new or old, each area within it requires special attention to sanitary design standards. Sanitary design standards change depending on the area of the facility in question. Facilities encompass a wide variety of rooms and zones, and each location experiences unique factors that call for distinctive approaches. For instance, a dry zone is typically dusty, and that dust can settle up high where it’s difficult to safely access, so these high zones may have a decreased frequency of cleaning compared with the rest of the room. Also, the sanitary design standards for a dry zone are different from a wet zone. In a wet zone, materials used must be able to withstand extreme humidity and additional fans may be needed after cleaning.
How frequently a space requires monitoring of sanitary design standards also varies. There may be areas, such as allergen-free zones, that require sanitation daily. Meanwhile, others, such as finished product storage and warehouses, may be physically cleaned daily and only need sanitation on a weekly basis. Raw ingredient storage may also have less sanitation issues because the ingredients enter the facility already packaged.
Just because an area doesn’t require frequent attention, does not mean it should go unchecked. Storage areas are still susceptible to sanitation issues, especially when it comes to pest activity, since they harbor dark, unmonitored areas. Pay close attention to the storage rack legs where product may fall down and accumulate.
New Sanitation Tech
The importance and complexity of sanitation in the food processing industry has led to the development of new technologies. These technologies are designed to help facilities meet regulatory requirements and allow facilities to monitor their sanitation programs. Plus, they reduce control costs and workers’ safety risk, all while improving food safety.
The current trends in food plant sanitation technology are vast. Options range from incorporating new lubricants in existing equipment to adding additional sanitation steps for employees. From simple additions to your facility, to increased monitoring, to the inclusion of new systems, these technologies can change how your facility handles sanitary design standards.
Some up-and-coming technical solutions to food sanitation concerns are quite simple, offering increased automation and increased effectiveness:
- Centralized Chemical Handling Systems: There are new options for dispensing sanitation chemical solutions. By monitoring product concentration rates, centralized chemical handling systems can offer a more accurate way to dispense these chemicals. To effectively clean those hard-to-reach-places, consider improvements in clean-in-place (CIP) options that help sanitize interior surfaces and make them a worthwhile investment. Plus, many of these systems can be programmed to adhere to your specific cleaning regimens for truly “hands free” and customized operation. Another example are tools that automate the dispense of chemicals, which can be used to measure chemical traceability, further increasing their benefit to operations.
- Monitoring Solutions: One of the most valuable aspects of new technologies is the ability to closely monitor your facility’s status. For instance, humane rodent traps are now digitally fitted to alert you and your provider when they need to be emptied. Digital record-keeping tools can help facilities know their status in real time.
- Micro-testing: In addition to chemical monitoring, advances in rapid micro-testing can also help facilities monitor potential risks. Rapid microbial testing kits are useful in helping screen for bacteria that can indicate whether a facility is failing to meet sanitary design standards. While more thorough follow-up lab tests would be needed to verify results, these tests offer a useful tool to start the process.
New Disinfectant Systems
Adding new practices like boot sanitation can also improve food plant sanitation. While boot scrubber technologies received push back when they first debuted, their improvements now outweigh their previous cons. Innovations in footwear scrubbers can help decrease the impact of these otherwise major sources of contamination, as boots can result in cross-contamination.
Chemical misting regimens are another option for facilities looking to maximize their efforts in sustaining sanitary design standards. Misting using specialized chemicals can be useful in controlling microbial growth in hard-to-clean areas. A high-quality, well-designed misting service paired with a no-rinse disinfectant product can help minimize the risks of bacteria, viruses, germs, and other pathogenic activity throughout your facility.
Understanding the unique needs of your facility can help you know which technologies are worth the investment. And while technology can help evade some of these sanitation issues, none of these options are completely maintenance-free. Regardless of the type and quantity of sanitation equipment you use, your facility will still need regular monitoring to comply with sanitary design standards. But by knowing the needs of your facility, you can keep an eye on the areas that may need more attention when it comes to sanitation and help ensure your facility remains pristine.
Want to learn more about how to keep your facility clean and pest-free? Here are 10 ways to help keep pests out of your food plant.