3 Ways to Avoid the Spread of Foodborne Illnesses in Your Facility

Preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses, like Salmonella, Listeria, and E. Coli, is important to maintaining the health and safety of your customers. Read this article to learn three practices your food processing facility can use to avoid spreading illness-causing pathogens.

by John Thomas, Director of Health & Wellness at Imperial Dade

Did you know that every year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from foodborne illnesses? Foodborne illnesses can be spread in several ways, including through food prepared at a food processing facility. No matter the size of your food processing operation, it’s important that you’re taking the cleanliness and safety of your facility seriously to avoid spreading foodborne illnesses.

To maintain a clean food processing facility, you and your staff should have a good understanding of what food sanitation is and how to use the appropriate products and procedures. Food sanitation refers to the practice of maintaining a high level of cleanliness throughout the food processing establishment using certain cleaning and sanitization processes and procedures.

Failing to achieve a high level of sanitation can lead to product contamination that affects your food product quality, taste, and most importantly, consumer health. Foodborne illnesses not only lead to sick guests but also product recalls, which may damage the reputation and brand image of your facility and even lead to lost future sales. In addition to lost sales, you might also face fines due to failure to comply with food sanitation rules.

Organizations like the USDA and the FDA have created regulations to help you stay compliant with food sanitation guidelines and avoid the spread of foodborne illnesses. Compliance is key to avoiding fines and maintaining a clean, sanitary food processing facility.

In this article, we’re going to review how to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses in your food processing facility to protect your customers and remain compliant with food sanitation guidelines.

What Is a Foodborne Illness?

A foodborne illness is a sickness caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites that are present in food. Toxins and chemicals that are harmful when ingested can also cause foodborne illnesses. If a consumer has a foodborne illness, they may experience discomfort and other, more serious symptoms like:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Diarrhea

Removing illness-causing bacteria from food contact surfaces is key to protecting the food being processed and reducing the chance of a food recall.

What is a Food Recall?

Public food recalls are initiated to remove contaminated foods from the marketplace to protect consumers from buying and eating foods that have been contaminated by illness-causing bacteria. In the year 2021, there were 47 recalls initiated by the Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS). The total volume of food being recalled annually is usually tens of millions of pounds.

What Are the Effects of Food Recalls?

All these recalls and the related health consequences can translate to a damaged brand image and have a negative impact on your bottom line. If your food processing facility is responsible for food that causes foodborne illness for customers, your business could experience a loss in sales and extra costs. Proper sanitation can save your business money on avoidable expenses.

The need to protect your customers, and your brand, requires that your operation implement effective and documented cleaning and sanitizing processes within your facility.

How To Avoid Foodborne Illness In Your Facility

Below, we’ll provide three practices that you can use in your cleaning program to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses to your customers.

3 Ways to Avoid the Spread of Foodborne Illnesses

Whether your food processing operation is a large meatpacking plant or a small producer of specialty items, it’s important to implement these processes and procedures to manage the operation’s food safety and sanitation programs. 

To avoid the spread of foodborne illness, your food processing establishment can implement practices like:

  • Developing and Implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Using the Right Chemicals
  • Cleaning Before Sanitizing

Developing and Implementing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Guidance from the USDA and the FDA stresses the importance of having a written food safety plan and established standard operating procedures (SOPs) for your sanitation program.

Standard operating procedures, or SOPs, are a set of written instructions that give your staff step-by-step instructions to perform routine cleaning. With SOPs, your cleaning staff will have the correct information to know the right way to clean and be able to achieve consistent results. SOPs outline the tools, products, and procedures that your staff should use to clean areas in your facility. By following thoroughly created SOPs, your janitorial team will know how and when to complete cleaning.

For example, a meat packaging establishment may create and implement SOPs that outline how their equipment should be cleaned and sanitized. The steps for completing that task may include:

  1. Disassemble the equipment
  2. Remove all product debris from equipment
  3. Rinse equipment with water to remove remaining debris
  4. Use a food-grade cleaner on the equipment
  5. Reassemble the equipment
  6. Sanitize the equipment with a food-grade sanitizer. Rinse with water, if necessary

Implementing written SOPs will also help support your efforts to stay compliant with the FDA’S Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).

Each of these food safety programs and laws provides guidelines on how to minimize contamination and keep your food processing facility safe through proper sanitation practices.

The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in order to ensure that food is safe by preventing contamination. This act requires facilities to create a plan and retain documentation on their food safety and sanitation practices.

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HAACP) is a management system that addresses food safety through the control of hazards in food processing facilities.

The Global Food Safety Initiative (GSFI) helps reduce cleaning inefficiencies through certification and provides auditing benchmarks.

Imperial Dade has had success with providing Spartan training programs to food processing customers. Spartan offers food processing sanitation training that will teach your cleaning team how to eliminate food pathogens.

Practices that will help your facility remain compliant with the FDA regulations include:

  • Establishing Written SOPs
  • Identifying Procedures
  • Specifying Cleaning and Sanitation Frequencies
  • Provide and Document Necessary Education and Training

Spartan is prepared to deliver the employee training and program documentation you need with products like their 9 step sanitation training program, their CleanCheck® Training Program, and CompuClean® Sanitation Management Software.

These programs will train your cleaning staff and equip them with the knowledge of how to remain compliant in the workplace. During training, they will learn exactly what to do, how often to do it, and the best products to use.

Using the Right Chemicals

Food-safe sanitizers should be used to reduce the presence of bacteria on the surfaces in your food processing facility. It’s important to note that sanitizers and disinfectants are not the same. Disinfectants are not typically used for food contact surfaces because they can leave behind harmful residues. Sanitizers that are food-grade effectively kill germs and are safe for contact with food without contaminating it.

Each sanitizer can remove up to 99.99% of the germs listed on the product label. The best sanitizing chemicals for your facility will be able to kill illness-causing germs and remove bacteria from surfaces.

Imperial Dade offers food production sanitation solutions including a line from Spartan Chemical.

Their Sani-T-Plus food equipment surface sanitizer is specially formulated to be effective against illness-causing bacteria like Salmonella, Listeria, and E.Coli. Imperial Dade also carries Spartan’s PAA Sanitizer, which is a peroxyacetic acid-based sanitizer that can be used on hard, non-porous food-contact surfaces in your food processing facility. This product is so safe, it can even be used as a fruit and vegetable water treatment.

For surfaces that don’t come into contact with food, Spartan’s Metaquat is an option for removing germs from the surfaces in your facility. This product can effectively kill bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses and can spread to food contact surfaces.

Cleaning Before Sanitizing

Any surfaces in your food processing facility that come into contact with food products should be cleaned and sanitized. Pathogens can easily spread on surfaces that aren’t being sanitized properly. Before using a food-safe sanitizer, you should always clean your surfaces. A dirty surface cannot be sanitized effectively. Surfaces like counters and prep tables should be clean and sanitized often to prevent the spread of foodborne illness-causing bacteria.

These surfaces should be cleaned:

  • Before each use
  • Between uses when preparing RTE (ready-to-eat) foods and raw food
  • Any time there’s a risk of contamination

Cleaning surfaces removes any soils and prepares the surfaces for sanitizing. Sanitizing surfaces reduces the number of harmful bacteria present to levels that are acceptable by the EPA.

PRO-TIP: You must sanitize after cleaning. Cleaning removes soils, but it does not kill germs. The best way to ensure you are removing all germs is to use a food-grade sanitizer. Food grade sanitizers remove 99.99% of all germs.

John Thomas

Whether you’re cleaning surfaces that are covered in grease or stubborn soils, Imperial Dade carries products that will help you achieve clean surfaces and equipment. The High-Performance Alkaline FP is a highly concentrated alkaline cleaning solution used to effectively remove sugars, proteins, and other soils found in food processing facilities. Spartan Chlorinated Degreaser will quickly cleans soils from equipment in your facility.

Final Thoughts

Avoiding foodborne illnesses in your food processing facility is an important way to keep your customers safe. Properly cleaning and sanitizing the surfaces in your building will kill illness-causing bacteria before they can infect food that touches the surface.

Imperial Dade has a wide range of food-grade sanitizing products and programs. Spartan Chemical is one of the premier chemical lines we provide which helps your janitorial team create a clean, safe environment in your facility. Spartan provides economical cleaning and sanitizing products that meet all regulatory requirements.

Whether you need sanitizing products or programs to help you create SOPs and thorough cleaning practices, Imperial Dade can help match you to the perfect products for your business.

Check out the food sanitation products that Imperial Dade carries from Spartan to help reduce the spread of foodborne illnesses in your facility:

  • Chlorinated Degreaser
  • High Performance Alkaline FP
  • Sani-T-Plus
  • Metaquat
  • PAA Sanitizer
  • Consume LIQ
  • And more…

Contact an Imperial Dade Specialist for help deciding which sanitation products are right for your facility. We will conduct a review of your sanitation program and suggest the best products, training, and processes for you and your cleaning staff. Visit our website for a location near you and call today.

Once “stay-at-home” is over, do you have a “back-to-work” plan?

By Vickie Holland

Hopefully in the next few weeks the stay-at-home orders will be over and we can all get back to work. After months of working from home (WFH) employees will return to the office. As we make this transition, all employers will be faced with the same challenge: keeping their employees safe.

Employee safety should be the #1 priority when creating your “back-to-work” plan.  According to the National Safety Council (NSC), employees who feel safe in the workplace, both physically and mentally, are less likely to call out or quit. While there are many basic safety principles that should be considered, here are several to add to your plan.

Next Level Social Distancing

When we need to run to the grocery store to pick up our dinner, we know to keep our distance of 6 feet. This distance can be challenging in the workplace.  Designating foot traffic flow as “one way” in tighter offices will help keep employees from passing too closely.  Many offices have placed cubicles close together to save on space. Others have created an open concept plan with long bench desks with multiple employees designed to promote collaboration. To limit these tight quarters, relocate employees to work at every other desk or space.  If employees must share workspaces, providing disposable wipes for disinfecting before and after using a shared area or equipment (computer/phone/copier) will be needed.

Flexibility

Staggering work hours or workdays helps with distancing. You may want to consider having employees return in waves. Some employees may not be ready; showing flexibility will help create a safe workplace. Staggering lunch and break times will help limit exposure as well as limiting the number of chairs in break rooms, cafeterias, and conference rooms. Speaking of conference rooms, move meetings to video conferencing or ask the question “is this meeting even necessary?”

Checking in with Employees- “Welcome Back”

As employees return to work it is important for their supervisors to check on employee’s mental health. Maybe they were sick or cared for a sick relative? Perhaps they lost a loved one to COVID-19? Did they experience any anxiety or depression during the crisis? If your company has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), remind every employee this service is available to support them during these difficult times.

Professional Disinfectant Cleaning

It has never been more important to be a professional cleaner. The safety and health of everyone depends on the custodians. While it is important to do the basic cleaning it is important to increase the cleaning frequency of the high touch points (break room furniture, copiers, fax machines, doors, light switches, etc.). If you do not have a no-touch disinfectant (NTD) program in place, now is the time to incorporate this into your SOP.  Imperial Dade’s Sales Consultants are the experts on NTD as well as which products meet the EPA’s criteria for use against SARS-CoV-2.  We can help you train returning custodians on new disinfecting procedures, products, and techniques.

 Touch-Free Workplace 

What areas in your workplace can be modified touch free? Lights, doors, wastebaskets, soap dispensers, towel dispensers, and automatic window shades are a few examples. What about voice activated systems instead of touch points (“Alexa, turn on the lights”)? Facial recognition instead of signing in? Sounds somewhat futuristic and costly but voice and facial recognition are quickly becoming the new normal.

 Reinforce Personal Protection and Safety

We are all in this together! Say goodbye to handshaking and hello to a simple yoga bow or wave. The CDC encourages prompting reminders of hand hygiene to employees with posters on best practices. Don’t forget when coughing to use tissues or cough into your sleeve. Other personal protection includes using cloth face covering, avoiding close contact, and not touching face/eyes.

Communicate these changes throughout your organization. Employees should be aware of the steps you have made to protect them from COVID-19.

Ask employees for feedback on these changes. Listen to suggestions. Employees often have creative solutions! They may have a fresh idea how you can go “touch free” in your organization.

For more information on Employee Safety, No Touch Disinfection or COVID-19 prevention in the workplace contact your local branch today and ask to speak to a chemical specialist. Visit www.imperialdade.com/locations to find a location near you.

Restaurant Reopening Guidelines

By Vickie Holland

On a Zoom call last weekend my friends were talking about what they miss most during the “Stay at Home” order. The #1 answer was going to a restaurant! Thankfully most of the restaurants in our area have pivoted to curbside pick-up but that doesn’t take the place of sitting down in a beautiful restaurant while someone brings you a plate of delicious grilled red snapper on a bed of quinoa topped with a tropical fruit salsa. Or an order of jerk chicken wings (flats only) well done.

Once the “Stay at Home” order has been lifted, is your restaurant ready for customers? The National Restaurant Association has published this handy comprehensive reopening guide to help you get ready. Take the time to read it carefully. In addition, Imperial Dade’s HyProtection Zone consultation is available. This complimentary service includes a site survey, product recommendations, and review of best practices addressing disinfection and hygiene.

Here are our 10 favorite reopening guidelines:

  1. Check in with all employees’ well-being. They may have lost a loved one or experienced anxiety, loneliness or depression during quarantine.
  2. Instruct sick employees to stay home. Prescreen employees on arrival for signs of COVID-19 by taking their temperature.
  3. Enforce strict hand hygiene. Prompt reminders with posters on best practices.
  4. Develop a strong SOP for cleaning and sanitizing surfaces. Check that your disinfectant is EPA registered and appropriate for use against SARS-CoV-2.
  5. Train employees on the new, more detailed disinfecting and sanitizing practices.
  6. Follow the 4 steps of Food Safety: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill
  7. Consider rolling silverware and eliminate table presets.
  8. Provide hand sanitizer for customers and employees.
  9. Use single-service gloves, deli tissue or suitable utensils.
  10. Consider a reservation only business model to better space diners.

Employees should be aware of the steps you have made to protect them from COVID-19. Ask employees for feedback on these changes and listen to suggestions. Employees often have creative solutions.

For more information on restaurant reopening guidelines, disinfectants, or COVID-19 prevention in the workplace contact your local branch today and ask to speak to a chemical specialist. Visit www.imperialdade.com/locations to find a location near you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 by Cleaning, Sanitizing, & Disinfecting Touchpoints & Other Surfaces

COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that has been devastating countries worldwide. Its most common symptoms include dry cough, high fever, and shortness of breath. As of this posting, all 50 states have confirmed cases of COVID-19 and many states, especially Washington, New York, and California, have been hard hit by a high number of deaths due to the virus and its side effects, primarily pneumonia.

While many organizations are having people work from home, it is imperative to continue to maintain facilities and keep all frequent touchpoints clean and disinfected as much as possible. The cleaning supplies, chemicals, and equipment available at Imperial Dade are necessary now more than ever to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and help keep everyone safe and healthy.

Cleaning or Disinfecting? Know the Differences to Stay Healthy

When it comes to cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing surfaces, many people incorrectly believe that those terms and actions are interchangeable. While all three types of cleansing are effective and necessary, they have their specific uses and should not be treated as equally efficacious.

Cleaning

Cleaning is the first step to safe surfaces. It is, by definition, the removal of dirt, impurities, and some germs via soap and water or other surface cleaners. While cleaning surfaces with soap and water does reduce the number of germs on the surface and, thus, the risk of infection, remaining germs will continue to multiply.

Sanitizing

Another step for safer surfaces involves sanitizing. Sanitizing surfaces effectively reduces the number of harmful bacteria to safe levels according to most health standards and requirements. While sanitizing does kill approximately 99.99 percent of most types of bacteria, it does not kill or remove all viruses and fungi. In the current health climate, it is best to bypass surface sanitizers and head to the disinfectants after cleaning most surfaces.

Disinfecting

For the safest surfaces, use a disinfectant. Disinfecting surfaces involves using solutions that destroy or deactivate viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms after leaving the properly diluted solution on the surface for the stated dwell time, typically 10 minutes. Imperial Dade has many disinfecting solutions for commercial use, including Victoria Bay disinfectant sprays with EPA certifications and kill claims for emerging pathogens.

Common “Touchpoints” Requiring Cleaning & Disinfecting

As mentioned above, COVID-19 is a highly contagious and infectious disease, so surfaces used frequently by many people are considered high-risk touchpoints. The majority of individuals in the U.S. carrying COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning that they will not show symptoms but could still transmit the virus onto surfaces they have touched or on which their respiratory droplets (through coughing or sneezing) have landed.

Here are a few of the most common touch that should be disinfected in commercial and residential buildings:

ImperialDade_IG 

For more information regarding how to best prevent the spread of COVID-19, review Imperial Dade’s recent posts or contact your local branch today and ask to speak to a chemical specialist. Visit www.imperialdade.com/locations to find a location near you.

Increasing Floor Care Productivity

By Laura Craven

The New Year often brings new budgets and goals for reducing costs while improving productivity. For this issue of The Expert Interview I spoke with Jim Lety, Imperial Dade’s Director of Janitorial Sales and a champion of productivity initiatives. With over 30 years of experience in the janitorial industry, Jim has held positions with distribution companies, national marketing organizations, chemical manufacturers and a floor equipment manufacturer. For the last 17 years, he has been part of the Imperial Dade team. 

LC: What are the major changes that you have seen in recent years that impact facility managers?

JL: One of the most significant changes is the availability of labor to perform the task of cleaning the facility. Turnover is one of the toughest challenges that face many of the facility managers today. Properly training an ever changing workforce on proper product usage is a major challenge.

An answer to such a challenge is the new P.L.U.S. labeling system. The PLUS label system provides a universally understood icon based system to train your team. The label is easy to understand, reduces product waste, encourages proper product usage and requires less time to train.

LC: Saving time is a big factor.

JL: Yes, facility managers are now required to do more with less. They have additional square footage to maintain yet their budgets have been cut and they have fewer employees. Increasing the productivity of their labor is a major challenge.

LC: What can they do to address that issue?

JL: Understanding proper cleaning procedures, including the use of powered equipment, to increase productivity is paramount. I often compare floor care to lawn care. Lawn care companies have equipment purchased based on the increased productivity of their labor. This increased productivity allows the crew to complete each job efficiently and move on to the next project. Floor care productivity can be increased by using equipment designed for the square footage of your facility.

LC: That makes sense, but what about the cost?

JL: Rider equipment pays for itself. There is a minimum 20% increase in productivity compared to a walk-behind scrubber and 500% productivity increase over a mop. New models are available in smaller sizes as well. Micro-riders have the same foot print as a 20 inch walk behind. We have productivity calculators that can determine the ROI based on square footage, frequency of cleaning, and the hourly wage of the crew. It is an investment that really pays off.

LC: Sustainability is a hot topic right now. How does floor care fit into a green cleaning program such as Imperial Dade’s Greensafe Program?

JL: Manufacturers of floor care equipment have been tasked with creating equipment that fits into a green cleaning program. The use of orbital technology prevents cleaning solutions from “slinging” out, or spraying into the area being cleaned. This type of equipment also uses 50-70% less water and chemicals compared to conventional scrubbers. Chemical-free stripping is another process that is ideal in education and healthcare facilities where indoor air quality is critical.

LC: What is something a facilities manager can do today to improve their operations?

JL: Consult with a knowledgeable supplier about their challenges. There are many new cleaning technologies on the market today that can save time and money and produce better results. Also, never trade service for price. Expect both and partner with a supplier that provides the overall best value.

Jim Lety and his team are available to consult with customers about floor care and facilities maintenance programs. Jim can be reached at jlety@imperialdade.com.