Basics of Cleaning Your Food Processing Plant
Consumers rely on food processing plants to maintain the utmost standards when it comes to cleaning and sanitizing. It’s the responsibility of the company to uphold food plant sanitation best practices to protect food safety standards, workers, and consumers. Health hazards, like foodborne illness and other types of bacteria and viruses, can spread rapidly due to cross-contamination in a facility where cleaning and sanitizing aren't prioritized.
Since COVID-19, there’s also the added complexity of properly cleaning and disinfecting working areas to avoid potential infection spread among workers in your facility. When this happens, there is a loss of productivity from workers who call in sick and a growing lack of trust in the plant from the general population. If too many workers get sick (as we have seen throughout the pandemic) the facility may be shut down for several weeks for complete sanitization and disinfection.
For these reasons, it’s critical to understand the cleaning and sanitation procedures in the food industry and plan accordingly.
How to Clean Your Food Processing Plant
The key to a good cleaning process and sanitation program is educating workers on what needs to be done to ensure safety protocols to avoid cross-contamination, bacteria growth, and airborne viruses. Many food processing plants have sanitation teams, but it’s smart to educate workers on how they can help while they are working on the floor. Though disinfecting kills pathogens at a higher rate than sanitization, FDA guidelines include sanitizing all food-contact surfaces after every use¹.
Sanitize Food Contact Surfaces
Any food contact surface will inevitably get messy due to food work, prep, and cooking stations. These areas should be cleaned and sanitized after every use during the workday. Disinfectants should be used at the end of the workday, as the use of strong chemicals could impact food quality.
Maintaining proper standards will reduce the risk of food cross-contamination, including keeping raw meat containers away from cooked products or using multiple cutting boards when dealing with cooked/raw food. Additionally, it will keep a healthy environment for both workers and consumers. Along with keeping your food processing equipment sanitized and disinfected (which we will discuss below), this is the most critical component of a healthy processing plant.
Keep Food Processing Equipment Sanitized
Since food processing equipment generally deals with the same type of food products that are used on flat work surfaces, the cleaning standards are the same. Hot soapy water, sanitizer, and disinfectant will kill the harmful pathogens that could cause illness or cross-contamination on smaller items like knives, containers, and more.
Equipment used to manufacture food should be kept clean throughout the day and scrubbed daily. FDA-approved sanitizers and disinfectants can be used on larger processing pieces. There should be a dedicated storage area that is kept thoroughly sanitized to store equipment when not in use.
Maintain Clean Storage Areas
The areas used to store equipment are an important part of food processing plant cleaning. Only properly cleaned equipment should go into the storage to not contaminate the area. Remember, though, the shelving and storage stations need to be as clean as the equipment.
Before the food equipment is returned, clean and sanitize the stations using proper disinfection products specific to the needs of the facility as needed to ensure safety. This is something that professionals such as ServiceMaster Clean can maintain on a regular schedule. If professional commercial cleaning services are not used, it will be up to workers or the sanitation team to keep these areas maintained on a regular basis.
Sanitize Walls and Floors
Walls and floors are also included in food plant sanitation, even if they aren’t directly part of food processing procedures. Throughout the workday, walls and floors should be addressed and sanitized, swept and wiped down accordingly. Splashes and crumbs are common and will need to be attended to immediately. After production is done for the day, floors should be mopped and sanitized. Just walking on a tainted floor can lead to health issues among workers or consumers due to cross-contamination.
Leave Your Food Processing Plant Cleaning to the Experts
Sanitation in food processing is one of the most significant ways to keep consumers healthy. According to Trustwell, food recalls have increased 40% this year compared to 2022²—an alarming number that should be a wake-up call to plant owners. To protect your business and avoid foodborne illness, hire experts you know will keep your facility to standard. If you fail to contain various pathogens, like bacteria and airborne pathogens, your facility, workers, and public reputation are at risk.
The ServiceMaster Clean team are experts in industrial facility cleanings and are always up-to-date on the latest food processing plant guidelines. We’ve offered cleaning services for over 65 years and are skilled in a variety of industries, including those dealing with food processing. Contact a ServiceMaster Clean location near you to schedule your cleaning.
Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Guide on MICROBIAL Hazards of Fresh-cut Fruits and Vegetables. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/regulatory-information/search-fda-guidance-documents/guidance-industry-guide-minimize-microbial-food-safety-hazards-fresh-cut-fruits-and-vegetables.
Trustwell (2023, May 17,). Trustwell Analysis Shows 40% Increase in Regulatory Notices in Q1 2023 for Food Industry. https://www.trustwell.com/news-and-press/trustwell-analysis-shows-40-increase-in-regulatory-notices-in-q1-2023-for-food-industry/