Keeping Floors Hygienic Begins at Installation
Keeping your plant floors hygienically clean is a process that begins at installation.
By Mike Pehanich, Plant Operations Editor | 04/10/2007
Valspar also offers a wall system called Descoglas RF that reduces the traditional five-layer wall coating process to a simple two- to three-step approach. The reinforced film (the “RF” component) can be sprayed or rolled onto cinder block.
“From our perspective a lot of the talk about antimicrobials is just sizzle,” counters Mike Jewell, vice president of marketing for Stonhard (www.stonhard.com), Maple Shade, N.J. “When you look at GMPs and HACCP practices, it comes down to one basic fact: When something falls on the floor, you have to clean it up.”
Much of Stonhard’s business comes from the food processing industry, which uses its Stonclad flooring systems — particularly Stonclad UT, a urethane-based formulation with textured surface. The floor system, with its dense, impervious surface, resists the kinds of food acids and chemicals commonly found in the processing environment.
Note to Quality Assurance
Faulty flooring is a major risk to food safety at your plants. Work regularly with your sanitation teams to see that plant sanitation practices maximize protection. Let your team discipline include proactive plant inspection. Investigate your plant surfaces together, discussing potentially hazardous areas and looking for signs of wear, poor design and areas that may harbor bacteria.
Discovering multiple at-risk areas together may help persuade management to make vital investment in new floors, walls and ceilings.
Jewell boils down the requirements of a food plant floor to the basics. “The floor must be safe for workers and easy to clean. And it must be able to withstand the rigors of a processing facility,” he says. “Plants are using CIP systems and chemicals regularly. The floors have to withstand all the exposure to food, chemicals and hot water that a processing plant uses. It requires a solid, structurally sound system.”
Though Stonhard provides antimicrobial coatings due to customer request, Jewell questions exaggerated claims of their effectiveness. “There’s no science that says they have a real impact,” he says. Easy cleanability is the important factor, he emphasizes. “A dense polymer floor system that is pinhole free will not support bacteria,” he says. “You need organic matter for bacteria to proliferate. If you drop meat on the floor and you don’t clean it properly, you will get bacteria. That’s why a surface that is easy to clean is the most important factor in choosing a floor.”
Acid brick and quarry tile were the norm in plants for 50 years, but the vulnerability of such floors with their inherent seams and joints is clear today. For modern plants, Jewell recommends a smooth, flat surface, but with some texture to provide secure footing even when the surface is wet or slick with matter. “Polyurethane works well because it has good resistance to organic acids. When food breaks down, it can be aggressive to the garden variety of epoxy. Urethane gives the best resistance, and ours are very dense.”
Pests are a constant challenge to plant hygiene, and any plan to keep plant floors hygienic should incorporate pest protective measures.
“If you have an active drain, there are some good bacteria-based products available,” says Ron Harrison, director of training for Atlanta-based Orkin Commercial Services (www.orkincommercial.com). “They are cousins to those used in oil spills. If there’s grease, the bacteria will chew it away so pests won’t have a feeding source.”
One product in that category is OE 30, Orkin’s Environmental 30-Day, an environmentally friendly product that eats away grease and grime. It is a unique product to the pest-control experts specifically because it does not contain pesticides, but relies instead on naturally occurring enzymes and bacteria. “But it does require water to be effective,” Harrison adds.
Harrison sees great promise in two other non-pesticide technologies: insect growth regulators, which put surplus insect growth hormones into the bug environment, and pheromones that disrupt insect mating. Last year, BASF (www.agro.basf.com), based in Research Triangle Park, N. C., introduced Phantom Termiticide-Insecticide for Ant & Roach Control, which is suitable for food handling facilities. It is a water-based formulation that lasts long and operates effectively at low chemical concentration. Moreover, the company claims it is almost odorless and leaves little residue.
BASF credits “cutting-edge chemistry” for this breakthrough product, claiming insects can’t detect its active ingredient, chlorfenapyr, by taste or smell. After the pests ingest it, they cannot create energy. Eventually they become paralyzed and die.
The product’s potency permits low-dose applications in specific areas where pests congregate. It can also be used in conjunction with other pest control methods.