Food Sanitation Questions

Q: Can I just use a cleaner with chlorine in it so I don't have to sanitize in a separate step?

A: No. Although we sometimes refer to plant cleaning as our "Sanitation Program," cleaning and sanitizing are two distinct separate processes. A food surface that has been fouled by organic material must be cleaned of all foreign matter before it can be sanitized.

Cleaners are used at very high levels compared to sanitizers. The cleaner may contain a sanitizer such as bleach (sodium or calcium hypochlorite), but its function in this environment is not to sanitize but to aid in cleaning. Bleach is really good at removing protein stains from inert surfaces, but to do this it must be used at levels much higher than when used for sanitizing and in the presence of surfactants and inhibitors that are not approved for food contact surfaces without an intervening rinse. Cleaners must be rinsed from the surface being cleaned with potable water. When the cleaner has been removed from the surface there is no residual left.

Sanitizers are EPA Registered pesticides that are approved for application to food contact surfaces and are designed to be left on the surface without a rinse. This allows a residual of the pesticide to remain on the surface to continue killing microorganisms. In order to be effective they cannot be compromised by food soils left on the surface. Because they are only allowed in very low levels (parts per million) they could not do their job if food soils remain. Spray Chem's technical bulletin on "Food Plant Sanitation" (4 pgs PDF Format) will give you much more detail on cleaning and sanitizing in a food processing facility.

Q: Will my employees need to wear special clothes and protective devices when they are using your chemicals?

A: Yes and No. This depends on the chemical and the method being used to apply it. The best way to determine what is required is to refer to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the particular product your employees are using. The section on personal protective equipment (PPE's) will tell the worker exactly what is required to protect them. Never work with any chemical until you have reviewed the SDS and are confident that you understand all of the hazards involved. Talk to your chemical supplier. They have experience in using these products in many different applications and can advise you about protective equipment for special uses. Spray Chem's technical bulletin on "How to use a Material Safety Data Sheet" (3 pgs PDF Format) should be read by anyone who is assigned to work with or around hazardous materials.

Q: Will your chemicals harm my equipment?

A: Not when the proper cleaner or sanitizer has been selected based on the food soils to be removed, the type of equipment to be cleaned, and the application or process to be performed. Even though a particular material may not show signs of attack from occasional use, repeated exposure of some cleaners and sanitizers to equipment surfaces can cause degradation and eventual failure.  Your Spray Chem sanitation specialist can help you with the proper selection to prevent deterioration of your processing equipment. Because Spray Chem manufactures and installs many chemical feed systems we have experience to draw from that most chemical suppliers don't have.

How do I apply a product properly?

A: Cleaners and sanitizers are applied in many different ways. Some cleaners need to be foamed onto a surface to allow for contact time without drying. When a cleaner is foamed onto a surface it allows the user to cover a larger area without having the product dry out or streak the surface being cleaned. This additional "dwell time" aids in softening the soils being removed. Foaming also limits the amount of aerosols in the air permitting the user to work without the use of a respirator in many cases. The air which expands the cleaner into a foam covers more area than when the product is sprayed onto the surface manually. Spray Chem can provide foaming equipment both portable and "in plant" to meet your needs and budget.

Some cleaners are added to a quantity of water then heated and re-circulated for a period of time. This is called "CIP" or "clean in place". When cleaning internal circuits such as tanks, pipelines, heat exchangers, and fillers, the solution concentration, temperature, circulation time and velocity are very important. For example: A heated pre-rinse must be hot enough to soften food soils adhering to internal surfaces, but if the rinse is too hot the food soils can be baked or cooked onto the surface actually making them harder to remove. During the CIP time with the solution the temperature is generally 10 to 15 degrees higher than the rinse temperature to ensure removal of the softened organic material. After the cleaning step a rinse must be performed at a temperature 10 to 15 degrees higher than the cleaning cycle. This elevated rinse temperature ensures complete removal of the softened food soils and cleaner. The highest temperature cannot exceed the allowable temperature the equipment is designed for to prevent damage or abnormal wear. Also, some cleaners limit the temperature you can use. For example chlorinated cleaners may off gas chlorine if heated too high. This can cause serious corrosion to stainless steel and is also dangerous to exposed workers. Velocity is extremely important and most often overlooked. The velocity is the speed at which the cleaning solution is re-circulated through the system. It is this velocity that becomes the "scrubbing action" in the form of friction to the surface being cleaned.  The minimum speed for CIP cleaning is 5 feet per second. Most CIP cleaning failures can be traced back to poor chemical selection, improper temperatures, and poor velocities. Our technical bulletin on "CIP Cleaning procedures" includes a chart that converts feet per second to gallons per minute of pump capacity and circuit line sizes. This is a great bulletin to read if you suspect your circuits are not coming clean because of flow.

Sanitizers are generally applied by premixing a solution then spraying through a hand held sprayer, portable or wall mounted applicator. Sanitizers have a very short life span and are easily compromised by food soils and substrates. One should never make up a solution greater than required to cover the equipment being sanitized. Any left over solution should be disposed of because its ability to kill micro-organisms is greatly depleted in just a few hours time.

Q: Can you help me train my employees on chemical safety?

A: Safety training and proper handling and storage of chemicals is necessary to keep your employees safe while on the job. OSHA has issued a rule called "The Hazardous Communication Standard". This standard will help you to keep your employees safe and healthy. It says they have the right to know what hazards they face on the job and how to protect themselves. As an employer it is your responsibility to inform and train your employees. Spray Chem can help you create a Hazardous Communication Program that will protect you and your employees. Spray Chem has an easy to read and understand technical bulletin: "The SDS. What is it and how do I use it?" (3 pgs PDF Format)

Q: What do I do if I spill a chemical?

A: Chemical spills can happen at any time. Usually when you least expect it.
Your company should have a written procedure for chemical emergencies in its "Hazardous Communication Program".  Here is an example of a typical procedure for a small spill. A large spill would require even more detail and precautions. Spray Chem can help you create your Hazardous Communication Program.

  • Alert persons in the area that a spill has occurred
  • Evaluate the toxicity, flammability, and other hazardous properties of the chemical as well as the size and location of the spill to determine whether evacuation or additional assistance is necessary. Large or toxic spills are beyond the scope of this procedure.
  • Consult your SDS, the Emergency Response Plan, or your supervisor for correct cleaning procedures.
  • Obtain cleaning equipment and protective gear if needed.
  • Wear protective equipment such as goggles, apron, chemical resistant coveralls, gloves, chemical resistant boots, or respirator. Base the selection of the equipment on the hazard.
  • Cordon off the spill area to prevent inadvertently spreading the contamination over a much larger area.
  • Absorb liquid spills with approved absorbent. Sprinkle the absorbent over the surface of the free liquid.
  • Place the used absorbent material in plastic bags or appropriate container for disposal along with contaminated disposable gear, such as disposable gloves.
  • Neutralize spills of corrosives and absorb, if appropriate. Sweep up waste and place in plastic bags for disposal.
  • Be prepared. Keep appropriate spill-containment material on hand for emergencies. Consult with the Safety Officer to determine which materials are suitable in a particular work station.

Q: What do I do if one of my employees comes into contact with this product?

A: Know where the nearest eyewash and safety shower are located.

  • For small spills on the skin, flush immediately under running water for at least fifteen minutes, removing any jewelry that might contain residue. If there is no sign of a burn, wash the area with soap under warm running water. Exception: Only five minutes of flushing for hydrofluoric acid (HF) burns. Proceed to aggressive antidote gel application as soon as possible. The antidote is the best hope of preventing permanent bone or tissue damage. If pain returns after the fifteen-minute flooding, resume flooding the area (except HF burns). When providing assistance to a victim of chemical contamination, use appropriate personal protective equipment.

  • For a chemical splash in the eyes, immediately flush the eyes under running potable water for fifteen minutes, holding the eyes open and rotating the eyeballs. This is preferably done at an eyewash fountain with tepid water and properly controlled flow. Hold the eyelids open and move the eye up, down, and sideways to ensure complete coverage. Use an irrigator loop to thoroughly flush the conjunctiva under the upper eyelid, if available in your first aid kit. If no eyewash fountain is available, put the victim on his or her back and gently pour water into the eyes for fifteen minutes or until medical personnel arrive. If HF is splashed in the eye, flush for five minutes and then irrigate the eye with a 1% solution prepared from the calcium gluconate antidote gel.
  • For spills on clothing, immediately remove contaminated clothing, including shoes and jewelry, while standing under running water or the safety shower. When removing shirts or pullover sweaters, be careful not to contaminate the eyes. Cutting off such clothing will help prevent spreading the contamination. To prepare for emergencies, shears (rounded-tip scissors) should be available in the first aid kit to allow safe cutting of contaminated clothing.

Consult the SDS to see if any delayed effects should be expected, and keep the SDS with the victim. Call 911 to have the victim taken to the emergency room for medical attention. Be sure to inform emergency personnel of the decontamination procedures used prior to their arrival (for example, flushing for fifteen minutes with water). Be certain that emergency room personnel are told exactly what the victim was contaminated with so they can treat the victim accordingly.

Q: How do I know if the food contact surface I'm cleaning is ok to process on?

A: All food processing facilities must adhere to a process known as "Good Manufacturing Practices". The Food and Drug  Administration (FDA) has established a general procedure that outlines how a food processor should handle food safety to protect the quality and safety of all food being prepared for commerce. Within these guidelines are procedures known as "SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures). SSOP's (Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures) need to be written to ensure that a food contact surface in a food processing facility is cleaned and sanitized properly and frequently enough to ensure that colonies of microorganisms are eliminated or reduced to acceptable levels for the process being performed. Part of this procedure should include verification by ATP monitoring or incubation of swab samples taken from the food surfaces and surrounding areas. These SOP's and SSOP's are typically written after an inspection and review of the facility and its operations. Spray Chem can help you create a strong sanitation program.

Q: We are new at this. Where can I find general information on cleaning and sanitizing?

A: The first place to start is by joining organizations that relate to your industry. Many of these organizations have literature, training aids, videos, and representatives that can help you understand your industry better. The USDA and the FDA have documentation in the form of videos and papers that can be obtained for free or for a low cost for specific areas of concern in food safety and sanitation. Your chemical supplier should be able to help you with the proper selection and usage of cleaners and sanitizers for your specific cleaning needs. Some can even help you with related regulatory compliance filing in your area.
Q: Can you help us develop cleaning procedures for our food plant?

A: Yes. Spray Chem can inspect your facility, review your current SSOPs and suggest improvements based on the results of this inspection. We can help you create a verification program to ensure that you are processing in a safe and sanitary manner and can provide you with the necessary test kits and lab equipment to verify the results of your cleaning. Spray Chem can also build, install, and maintain portable and in-place chemical dispensing equipment to meet your particular needs.