My last article focused on sanitation training and the five basic steps for cleaning a food plant. In this article I address the pitfalls, as well as the results, you can expect when you implement a high-quality food safety/sanitation system.
First, remember that changes are challenging. Despite this fact, we must be prepared to make changes in order to compete successfully in a global market. Change always occurs with growth, and growth is necessary if we are to thrive. I have seen many programs enthusiastically embrace necessary changes, and then, months later, fall back to doing things the same old way, making the same old mistakes.
There is no one-time fix-all for your sanitation program, and changes should not be made just for the sake of change. Evaluate your program and identify areas that need to be changed, be sure you are committed to those changes, and be vigilant that the needed changes are made. Management, quality control, sanitation staff, purchasing, and even human resources must all embrace the changes if they are to have a lasting effect.
Types of Sanitation Equipment
Sanitation equipment is the best labor-and material-saving system that we can implement in our plant. Because labor is 70% of the cost in sanitation, laborsaving devices actually save money when correctly implemented.
Handheld foamers and sprayers: This equipment is attached to the end of the water hose and has a feature that automatically dilutes the chemical product. This type of foamer is effective in tight places and is ideal for small plants, delis, and similar locations. The Hydro Systems foamer comes with a quick disconnect so that rinsing is more efficient. Use caution to ensure that the proper dilution tip is installed correctly, however; otherwise, chemical product could be delivered in too strong a concentration, pouring money down the drain. With sanitizers, proper dilution is of paramount importance to effectiveness.
Foam tanks: These are 15- to 30-gallon tanks that can be filled at a diluter and are charged with about 60 pounds of air pressure. Foam tanks are pressure vessels approved by the American Society for Testing and Materials and used to apply a single chemical, either for cleaning or for sanitizing. The tanks are particularly useful for applying quaternary products because their surfactants cause high foam quantity, allowing the quaternary to maintain a longer residence on radii and overhead surfaces.
Evaluate your program and identify areas that need to be changed, be sure you are committed to those changes, and be vigilant that the needed changes are made.
Foam carts: Foam carts are stainless steel carts that hold two five-gallon pails, one containing sanitizer and one with cleaning chemistry. I am most familiar with the foam cart made by Lafferty Equipment Manufacturing in Little Rock, Ark. It is a high quality foam/rinse/sanitizer unit with automatic chemical dilution. Because the unit covers an 80-foot circumference, it does not have to be moved as often.
Clean-in-place (CIP) systems: CIP systems are usually found in dairies, beverage plants, and other processing facilities where it is necessary to allow for cleaning and sanitizing without disassembling the equipment. One type of CIP system is designed and engineered by the Sani-Matic Corp. All CIP systems can inject chemical product at the prescribed dilution rate without any hand mixing. However, the chemistry must be carefully titrated on a bi-weekly basis to verify that the dilution rates are correct. The system must also be regularly inspected to ensure cleaning efficiency; performing micro-counts will ensure that it is operating at full efficiency. Only non-foaming cleaners and sanitizers are used in a CIP system. A foaming product would cause cavitation of the pump impellers, which would reduce the cleaning efficiency of the system.
Clean-out-of-place (COP) systems: Equipment is disassembled and placed in a tank to allow it to soak. A pump is sometimes installed—or air can be introduced—to agitate the solution. Time is critically important with a COP system because the dwell time and amount of agitation are both important, as is the chemical dilution. As in CIP systems, a non-foaming chemical product is used.
Sanitation equipment is the best laborsaving and material-saving system that we can implement in our plant. Because labor is 70% of the cost in sanitation, laborsaving devices actually save money when correctly implemented.
Central foam/sanitize systems: These systems offer one of the best methods for cleaning and sanitizing in a food processing facility. All of the chemistry is placed in a locked room, along with pumps that automatically dispense the chemistry. Usually Dosatron or Dosmatic water-driven pumps are used. From the locked chemistry room, the chemistry is pumped to foam/sanitize drop stations throughout the plant using Schedule 80 piping. The installation costs are low, chemical safety and economy are achieved, and labor costs are reduced. Maintenance, if needed at all, is minimal, because there are no moving parts. A central foam system can be readily installed in either a new plant or an existing facility.
High-pressure systems: These systems are best used for cleaning outside areas, forklifts, pallets, loading and receiving docks, and, in some cases, plastic and stainless steel interlock belts. Used in a food processing area, a high-pressure system can create a false sense of cleaning efficiency, and safety can become an issue. This type of system can spread organics from one area to another, transporting bacteria on the spray to previously cleaned areas. Accurate dilution of chemistry is only achieved to a distance of six inches from the nozzle; beyond that distance, the pressure is substantially reduced.
Selecting Sanitation Equipment
The purpose of a cleaning and sanitizing system is elimination of the food source for pathogens and removal of 99% of the resident population of bacteria. To make the appropriate selection of equipment, carefully evaluate your answers to these questions:
- How much labor will this equipment save?
- Will sanitation staff complete their work more safely? More easily?
- What is the cost of the equipment payoff in terms of turnaround time for production?
It is important to remember that when a chemical supplier offers “free” equipment if you use their chemicals, it probably isn’t really free. Someone has to buy the equipment and maintain it in good working order. You must buy the equipment, lease it, or prorate the cost of the equipment into the cost of the chemical in price per gallon versus dilution rate.
If you are planning a change in your sanitation system and you have the support of everyone involved, you are on your way to a food safety and sanitation program that is truly the best it can be.
Now for a few questions, the answers to which will appear in my next column:
- What is a foam tank?
- How would you design a central foam/sanitize system?
- Where would a hand foamer be a good choice for cleaning?
- Describe a COP system and how it might best be used. ■
to the Last Column’s Quiz
Q: What department in the plant does sanitation answer to?
A: Quality assurance.
Q: Name four food contact surfaces.
A: Stainless steel, rubber, plastics, and fiberglass.
Q: What is the definition of soil?
A: Soil is food product or residue that does not belong on the contact surface.
Q: What are two reasons biofilms are considered dangerous?
A: Because they are difficult to detect, and are a harborage and food source for bacteria and molds.