Q: Where can I find a list of reliable subcontractors to perform sanitation, disinfection and sterilization services in food processing plants?
Answer: This question has two parts. The first, as stated, is, "Where can I find a listing?" Implied is the question, "How can I determine the firm's reliability?"
You may find a food sanitation subcontractor in your area through a web search, but that would be the luck of the draw. Unfortunately, there is no single solution to getting this information, but here are some resource suggestions.
Check with food trade associations such as AMI (American Meat Association), NFI (National Fish Institute) and IDFA (International Dairy Food Association). They won't provide recommendations, but they can be a source for referrals.
Check with local or national chemical suppliers. It’s not uncommon for the subcontractors to purchase those companies' cleaning chemicals.
Check with the plant managers of local food facilities. Often times they are part of a larger network and have information on what other plants are using.
Check with local FDA and USDA inspectors. They have a wide network and are aware of the third-party cleaning services that food plants are using.
Contact a local or corporate food manufacturer’s sanitarian. They are also very knowledgeable about who is providing these services.
Once you have found a subcontractor, you must validate their reliability. This is a difficult business, with very high turnover, and you need to know how well they perform their services. Key questions that need to be asked include:
- Can you provide me with references for the past 4-5 years? Job hopping is a red flag.
- How do you train your people? High turnover rate can indicate poor cleaning results.
- What proactive indicators are used to validate equipment cleanliness?
- How do you handle "employee no shows" to ensure timely start ups?
- Can you provide data on your bacteria counts (colony forming units) from your past employers?
- Any hesitation in providing quality answers to these questions is a warning not to consider a subcontractor.