The Importance of Proper Cleaning and Sanitation in Food Processing and Preparation

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of proper cleaning and sanitation in all aspects of life has become more apparent than ever before. One area where this is particularly crucial is in the food processing and preparation industry. From plant managers to safety officers, all stakeholders must work to ensure that the food they produce, handle, and transport is safe for consumption.

Failure to maintain a clean and hygienic facility can cause bacteria, such as Escherichia coli (E. coli), Salmonella, Listeria, and others to run rampant and contaminate your food products. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans gets sick from contaminated food or beverages every year. These illnesses are common, costly, and, importantly, preventable.

Here’s what you need to know about proper cleaning and sanitation practices so you can prevent food contamination and the chaos it creates, including widespread illness, revenue loss, reputational damage, and beyond.

Common Sources of Food Contamination

Contamination can occur at any point in the food supply chain, from production and handling to transportation and consumption. There are four primary types:

Physical contamination occurs when foreign objects (e.g., hair, metal or glass fragments, etc.) are present in food.
Chemical contamination is the result of chemicals or toxic substances coming in contact with food, and can include chemical cleaning agents used to sanitize food preparation surfaces or equipment.
Microbial or biological contamination happens when harmful microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, or parasites are found in food, leading to foodborne illness and infection.
Allergenic contamination is a growing concern as food allergy rates continue to climb around the world. Allergenic contaminants can cause allergic reactions in people who are exposed to certain allergens, the most common of which include tree nuts, shellfish, gluten, and many more.

The consequences of a foodborne illness outbreak can be devastating for your business. In addition to potential loss of life, an outbreak or product recall can result in legal action, a loss of brand credibility, and financial implications. In fact, according to a report by the Food Marketing Institute, a single foodborne illness outbreak can cost a business more than $10 million.

Best Practices for Cleaning and Sanitizing

The first step in maintaining a clean and safe environment is to select the proper cleaning and sanitizing agents. Seek out products that are EPA-certified and designed specifically for use in the food industry, and be sure to follow the appropriate application and dilution guidelines.

Once you’ve got the facility supplies you need, it’s time to start cleaning and sanitizing. Best practices vary depending on a number of factors, including the type of food your organization processes and what equipment you use, but here are the general rules of thumb you should follow:

Using tools like cloth wipes, hardware scrapers, sponges, and squeegees, remove dirt, debris, and visible residue from all food contact surfaces.
When possible, rinse all residues using warm water. This may not be possible in cases where the area or equipment being cleaned needs to stay dry.
Apply chemicals or detergent—and don’t spare the “elbow grease.” Again, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper application, dilution, and contact time.
Rinse the surface or piece of equipment thoroughly.
Inspect the area, paying particular attention to hard-to-reach places and internal mechanisms that aren’t easily cleaned by hand.
Sanitize or disinfect using the appropriate cleaning agents in order to kill bacteria and other microorganisms.

If using a rinse-off disinfectant, perform a water rinse before drying the surface or equipment.

Partner with a Facility Supplies Pro

The use of high-quality facility supplies and cleaning and sanitizing products is essential to maintaining a safe environment for both your employees and customers. It’s also critically important to establish defined cleaning and sanitizing protocols and train your staff accordingly.

Whether you need assistance selecting the right facility supplies or developing a comprehensive cleaning and sanitizing strategy, Mac Papers and Packaging is here to help. With in-house experts who specialize in everything from drain cleaning to equipment maintenance (and everything in between), we’ll work with you to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your customers and maintain your reputation as a trusted provider of exceptional food products.