In the age of COVID-19, cleaning and sanitization are more important than ever in snack and bakery facilities. Chemicals for cleaning, degreasing, and sanitizing can help with sanitizing these facilities.
“There are many one-step cleaners and sanitizers on the market that do a great job of routine spot cleaning and sanitization of surfaces,” says Chip Manuel, Ph.D., food safety science advisor, GOJO Industries, Akron, OH, maker of PURELL.
“In general, most of these products don’t have the same level of cleaning performance as dedicated, heavy-duty cleaners and degreasers. So, determining which of these products are best suited for the cleaning task really depends on the nature of the soil as well as how much soil is there. Remember that cleaning prior to sanitization of a surface is critical for the efficacy of the sanitizer, so always ensure you’re equipped with the right tools and chemicals to get the job done.”
Ken Campbell, sales director at PathoSans, a division of Spraying Systems, Glendale Heights, IL, says that most food production facilities will use a combination of chemicals. These chemicals can include:
- Hypochlorite—chlorine combined with an inorganic compound
- Quaternary ammonium compounds, more commonly known as “quats”—complex chemicals composed of nitrogen bound to multiple alkyl chains
- Peroxyacetic acid, which is often combined with hydrogen peroxide
“Food production facilities use multiple cleaning chemicals because bacteria will begin to identify these chemicals and, if used regularly, will develop an immunity that keeps the chemistry from functioning correctly,” notes Campbell.
Alkaline cleaning detergents should work for challenging bakery environments, says Brad Sims, food division team leader, Madison Chemical, Madison, IN. “A challenging bakery environment where the products may include additional flavorings, coatings, or other sticky components likely calls for the use of alkaline cleaning detergents utilized in a hybrid dry/wet cleaning process,” he suggests.
Heated, alkaline, detergent solutions applied via foam, spray, soak, or COP cleaning in a separate wet clean area are vital for the removal of organic soils like the carbohydrates (sugars) that are present in these challenging bakery sanitation environments, Sims says. “Additionally, the inclusion of allergen removal will typically necessitate the use of alkaline cleaning detergents containing oxidizers like sodium hypochlorite or alkaline detergents used in conjunction with hydrogen peroxide additives that are proven effective for the removal of protein soils.”
Sims says that most food processing/sanitation managers will have a few cleaners in rotation. “It is currently one of the better prevention techniques for bacterial resistance and is required by the FDA and USDA. The types of cleaning products and sanitizers used in a facility will depend on the specific environment, the equipment being used, and numerous other factors.”
There are many benefits associated with implementing safe, sustainable chemicals that don’t contain fragrances, preservatives and other additives, Sims notes. “These ingredients can cause irritation to bakery employees’ skin or eyes, especially if used frequently. Today, facilities can opt for electrochemically-activated solutions (ECAS) for cleaning and sanitizing that are generated using three ingredients: water, salt, and electricity. ECAS are an ideal choice because they are effective at removing soils and biofilms and eradicating viruses without the use of harsh toxins found in many traditional chemicals. They are also drain-safe, reducing the environmental impact of a facility’s cleaning processes.”
Sims says that each operation will be different, but chlorinated-alkaline cleaning detergents are perhaps the most common throughout the industry. “Depending on the soils present, the situation may also call for a more heavy-duty alkaline for cooked and/or carbonized carbohydrates, solvent-containing detergents for the effective removal of lipid-based soils, or enzyme-based detergents in sensitive areas where strong oxidizers and heavy alkalinity may not be desirable,” he adds.
The choice of sanitizer may be dependent on the microbial risks being controlled, the processing equipment being used, or the product/facility’s organic status, Sims suggests. “Working with your sanitation crew and chemical supplier to understand the challenges specific to your operation is the most effective way to determine the proper cleaning detergent and sanitizing solution for your operation.”
Campbell says that ingredients play a big part in contributing to cleaning-related challenges. “Bakeries work with a lot of sticky ingredients like chocolate, molasses, and dough products with fillings or very fine products such as flour and cinnamon, which can be challenging to clean. The facility itself is another factor. The age of the facility and condition of the equipment can pose sanitation challenges. In some older facilities, there may be no room to clean equipment due to the layout or structural issues, like flooring, may create safety challenges. The sanitary design of a building has as much to do with preventing places for bacteria to hide as it has to do with controlled access areas.”
With the increasing rates of serious food allergies, special care is needed to ensure allergens are not inadvertently transferred between food products, he explains. Sanitation departments must meet all food safety guidelines and train their teams in safe cleaning methods and procedures for allergens and cross contamination.
“With all cleaning and sanitation programs, it is important to set and follow standard operating procedures and perform equipment maintenance tasks on a regular basis,” Campbell says. “Warm environments are great spots for bacteria. For facilities that are older, identify areas that pose a potential harboring point. Once identified, set up SOPs that will attack and mitigate any potential risks. Food and ingredients need to be stored properly to mitigate the risk of cross contamination before or after production. This includes storing allergens in a separate designated area.”
Company: GOJO Industries
Sanitation Snapshot: Manuel says that two challenges he see often are poor hand hygiene compliance and allergen cross-contamination. “Addressing these concerns starts with adopting easy-to-execute Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Do you have the tools (i.e., chemicals, cleaning equipment) to get the job done? Are they easy to use? Do your employees enjoy using them? Additionally, making food safety a high priority from the top down instills a culture of food safety which is emphasized among all levels of employment. This, along with rewarding good food safety behaviors, can help to increase compliance to hygienic practices across the board.”
Campbell says that many of these sanitizing solutions will also help reduce viruses on surfaces. The key is to always first check the EPA-Registered label for a list of viral kill claims—for SARS-CoV-2 claims, always refer to EPA’s list N.
- One-step cleaners and sanitizers
- Clean prior to sanitizing a surface
- Ensure good hand hygiene
- Avoid allergen cross-contamination
Company: Madison Chemical
Sanitation Snapshot: Sims says that in bakery production environments, the biggest challenge he sees is finding the balance between effective wet and dry cleaning practices in facilities that may be limited on space, resources, and time. “This can be addressed by working closely with the production and sanitation teams to push continuous improvement and make the most effective use of the resources available to each team to ensure the facility is clean and safe, quality food is being produced.”
“In snack food production environments, the biggest challenge we see is the cleaning of burned-on, heavy fats and oils, typically in fryers. Here we apply our industry expertise to determine the correct blend of alkaline chemistry that will hold up to the high heat of the boil out process while effectively removing the burned-on soils caked onto the fryer interior and exterior surfaces,” Sims adds.
- Clean fryers well to avoid burned-on, heavy fats and oils
- Determine correct blend of alkaline chemistry that can remove these
- Sanitizing and disinfecting solutions from Madison Chemical, which appear on EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use against Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Sanitation Snapshot: Sanitizing solutions do help to mitigate the risk of viruses on surfaces. However, it is important to understand that cleaning properly is the first step, says Campbell.
“Cleaning is the removal of soil particles from surfaces by mechanical, manual, and chemical methods. Sanitizing is the treatment of a cleaned surface with a chemical or physical agent to destroy disease/spoilage causing organisms. Cleaning allows the sanitizer to function correctly,” says Campbell. There are electrochemically-activated sanitizers on the market that have been proven to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 in 60 seconds on a pre-cleaned surface, he notes.
“What’s great about a sanitizer composed of hypochlorous acid solution is that hypochlorous acid is powerful enough that pathogens can’t build a defense against it, meaning the chemical won’t lose efficacy over time,” says Campbell. “Review the manufacturer’s efficacy claims to understand which pathogens the sanitizer can be used against.”
Additionally, having standard operating procedures and active training programs are just as important as the cleaner and sanitizer itself.
- Electrochemically-activated sanitizers to remove SARS-CoV-2
- Review manufacturers’ efficacy claims before using products
- Have good SOPs and active training programs