A common catchphrase in pest management is, “If it’s not documented, it didn’t happen.” This is true of the steps a pest management technician takes while serving a facility, but it’s also true of the steps QA or plant managers must take to plan and implement good sanitation protocols.
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Poor or haphazardly followed sanitation protocols are a leading cause of pest infestations in food processing, storage, and distribution facilities. Failing to sweep it up, wipe it up, and wash it puts a facility at a much higher risk for a possible pest issue. Failures in sanitation practices can also lead to poor or failed audits and inspections, contaminated products, and costly recalls that damage both your bottom line and brand reputation.
In fact, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), which audits tens of thousands of facilities, identified documentation (or more specifically, the lack of proper documentation of cleaning procedures) as the most common reason for audit failure. Almost 20 percent of facilities audited by the BRC had non-conformities in documentation of cleaning procedures.
Good sanitation starts with having a written plan that is communicated to employees from top to bottom to ensure buy-in and accountability. Not only is good sanitation a series of actions, it is also a mindset.
Where to Start
Creating a good sanitation protocol starts with a thorough inspection of a facility to identify areas and operational practices that could be the root cause of a sanitation issue. It’s important to ask questions like, “What areas are most susceptible to sanitation issues?” or “Where do you start your inspection?”
A sample sanitation checklist can be found in the sidebar, but to get you headed in the right direction, you need to know the “hot spot” areas inside and outside a facility.
On the inside of facilities, the first-in and first-out inventory management system is a good practice to follow. If product has been sitting on a shelf two years past its use date, it can spoil and attract pests. Be sure to document using a barcode system when product arrives and when the “use by” date is approaching.
The following are potential indoor areas of concern.
Floor drains can be a big issue due to the buildup of food particles, water, and other organic matter that small flies and cockroaches love. Regular inspection and sanitation treatments are a must.
Processing machines can produce significant amounts of splatter and spillage. It may be necessary to regularly take apart certain machine components to clean and inspect for pests.
Ceilings are a source of cobwebs and spider webs, and overhead pipes and exposed beams in warehouses must be cleaned regularly to prevent dust buildup that attract warehouse beetles and other pests.
Loading docks are collection points for everything workers don’t know how to discard. Broken-down pallets, damaged shipping boxes, and spilled food commodities placed there can attract pests.
Breakrooms, cafeterias, locker rooms, and restrooms are prime pest hot spots because of the abundance of food and harborage locations. Employees bring in food and store it (and sometimes forget it) in lockers. Food waste may not be properly cleaned up in breakrooms and vending machines may have food and liquid spillage. All these are pest attractants where regular cleaning and staff education are needed to reduce the threat.
Roof leaks lead to big sanitation issues and the potential threat of harmful bacteria, including Salmonella, from bird droppings on the roof. If water collects in remote areas of a plant, it can support mold, fungi, and insect activity.
The inside of a facility isn’t the only place to check for sanitation hot spots. Make sure to regularly assess the following outside areas.