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From: Food Quality & Safety magazine, February/March 2005

Can Sanitation be Considered Technical? (Part 2)

A second installment on how to make your sanitation program your own.

by Henry Carsberg

In the last issue, we covered some of the items that address the technical aspects of food plant sanitation. In this issue, we will cover some remaining items that a professional sanitation manager needs to know. Each processor is different, and the uniqueness of that operation is inherent within that individual process. It's like a human being. No one is the same. The same holds true for a food plant. That said, you can understand why there are so many things that need to be documented and tracked to be sure the program is working. Your program needs to be just that: Your program. Do not attempt to copy someone else's program simply because they are processing the same type of product you are. The following are some items to help craft your specific program: 1) Sanitizers: Common chemical sanitizers are quats, chlorine, iodine, acids and chlorine dioxide. Since sanitizers are considered a pesticide, they are controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency. All sanitizers must be used in accordance with the label directions. I have seen a half gallon of 12.5 percent chlorine pumped into a 5-gallon bucket of water to be used as a sanitizer. To reach a level of 200 ppm, which is the upper threshold limit, you only need 1 ounce of 12.5 percent chlorine to five gallons of water. What a waste, and imagine what this chemical does to the equipment. You must analyze the equipment, metal, rubber, plastics, etc. and determine what sanitizer is best for your operation. There are many pros and cons of the various sanitizers, and the bottom line is that they all kill microorganisms, but you have to determine what is best for your operation. This is why training of sanitation managers and their staff is important and can be cost effective. 2) Chemical Safety: It is my goal to reduce injuries and to keep the sanitation staff from injuries. Chemical burns are painful and can be permanent. You must use the proper protective equipment in accordance with the MSDS sheet. A sanitation program can become a profit center through efficiency, reducing turnover, injuries and associated costs and liability insurance. Every employee should be trained in the MSDS sheets, where they are located. Have a right-to-know meeting concerning the use of the cleaning and sanitizing chemicals. This training should be documented as to date, who attended, etc. A safe crew will work more efficiently than someone who does not know what they are working with. 3) Personal hygiene: Not enough can be said about personal hygiene. About 65 percent of all foodborne pathogens are transmitted by hands. The United States is a melting pot, and therefore, there are many different ideas of what constitutes good personal hygiene. Employees need to be trained to understand what the requirements are for good personal hygiene. Proper hand washing and cleaning can be taught, and once taught, must be implemented and reviewed. 4) Sanitation Equipment: Labor is the most expensive ingredient in any operation. Yet, I still see buckets, brushes and other antiquated methods of applying cleaning and sanitizing chemistry. It is short-sighted not to provide the food safety/sanitation crew with the proper equipment. If you want and need new and more efficient sanitation equipment, develop a budget with a payback in labor and chemical savings, and you will get your equipment. Now, there are other items that need to be included, but showing a recoup of investment is one important item. So many times I have had sanitation managers complain to me that management spent $200 million on a bagging machine, but they cannot buy a $1,400 foaming system. Economics is a very critical item that must be taught to the sanitation manager so he can justify buying equipment to give the processor a pay back in labor and efficiency savings. About $.80 cents of every dollar is spent on sanitation labor. But the first issue that is always addressed is chemical costs and not labor costs. Cheap chemicals can increase your labor and chemical costs. But equipment can reduce your labor costs. Lafferty, Dema and Foam It are examples of companies that can provide quality, labor-saving equipment. Be careful of "free" equipment from your chemical supplier. There is no such thing as a "free lunch." Someone has to pay for that $1,400 foam cart, and if it is too good to be true, it probably is. 5) Plan your work and work your plan: Spend time reviewing your program and provide remedies for areas that need to be addressed, namely what training and budget issues need to be resolved, and seek solutions that will increase your food safety program so it will become "ABOVE THE BEST". -FQ

Henry Carsberg is a sanitation consultant with than 30 years of experience in food plant sanitation. Reach him at 360-293-8719 or at abovethebest@comcast.net.

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