SQF deals with environmental sanitation control in a comparable manner. Module 2 under Food Safety Fundamentals (a Mandatory module in both Levels 2 and 3) makes its clear the property, buildings, and equipment shall be constructed, designed, and maintained to facilitate the hygienic production…of safe food. Both for Preprocessing of Plant products (i.e. produce packing houses) in Module 10 and for food processing plants in Module 11, there is focus on the construction and control of product handling and storage areas. Module 11.2 discusses materials of construction and design for all environmental surfaces and has a specific section (126.96.36.199) on Cleaning and Sanitation which includes “The methods and responsibility for the cleaning of the food handling & processing equipment and environment, storage area, staff amenities, and toilet facilities shall be documented and implemented.” In addition, Air Quality (11.5.7) pertaining to compressed air hygiene is also emphasized by SQF.
Both BRC (Fundamental Clause 5.2) and SQF (2.8.2) clearly emphasize the high importance of allergen management, which includes proper environmental sanitation procedures and programs to prevent cross-contact onto a processing line. This becomes problematic for dry sanitation processes where wet sanitation methods are limited based on processing line and facility engineering design. SQF, BRC, and other GFSI programs separate high-risk processes (perishable RTEs) versus low-risk processes (raw or baked shelf stable).
The Environmental Zones
In high-risk operations, both the frequency and level of sanitation procedures, and standards are, of course, far more stringent than in low-risk product processing. However, we can categorize high or low-risk regardless of product type for this discussion. So let’s first focus on Zone 3 items near the food contact zone.
While there is no prescribed frequency for Zone 3 areas, based upon the proximity to the process lines, below are suggested frequencies for your Preventative Maintenance Environmental Sanitation schedule.
Zone 3 Daily Sanitation Frequencies:
- Flooring, drains, walls, and covings adjacent to equipment that is floor or table mounted.
- Processing line catch trays or bins that are used to capture soil or scraps viewed as food waste not being reprocessed into product.
- Sanitizer mats/troughs, walk-through boot scrubbers, food transport carts, plastic RTE product pallets.
- Mezzanine or elevated platforms that cross exposed processing equipment/lines.
- Hand sink areas (sink, soap, and towel dispensers) in the production facility.
Zone 3 Weekly Sanitation Frequencies:
- Cooler, floorings adjacent to the process modes.
- Overheads, ceilings, covings, walls, and hoses that are in the general area adjacent to production lines that could create an actual physical, chemical (includes allergens), or microbial cross-contamination of a product on a line.
- Air conveying equipment—includes HVAC units and their condensate pans, air hoses used for processing equipment, or drying of equipment or for packaging equipment. These are verified and validated using both surface swabs for soil and indicators and air sampling for airborne microbes.
- Cleaning equipment, which includes floor scrubbers (tank reservoirs, squeegees, and brushes especially) and condensate pads. Also refuse bins and containers.
- Control panels in close proximity to processing lines or mezzanines.
- Non-food carts.
Zone 4 areas can and do include ceilings, overheads, walls, and flooring that do not directly impact processing equipment or lines. However, the lack of a proper environmental sanitation procedure at the appropriate frequency will definitely cascade microbial and allergen (chemical) contaminants to Zone 3 and the products Zones 1 and 2. Some examples are included below, most of which are either weekly or monthly frequency based on traffic flows/usage.
Daily Zone 4 Areas: bathrooms, cafeteria and break rooms, and offices.
Weekly Zone 4 Areas: receiving docks, dry storage areas, hallways, and maintenance shops.
Monthly/Seasonal Zone 4 Areas: dry packaging storage, intake vents, overheads in nonproduction areas, and loading docks, which can be weekly if shared with receiving or if they are high volume.