Most sanitation takes place between shifts. It’s the most logical time. That is when product and employees are off the line and out of the way, allowing for the most comprehensive and deepest cleaning of tools, equipment and work area.

But messes and contamination don’t politely way eight hours for shift change. Because of that, some sanitation is always needed during the shift — and it requires more than just wiping down a counter.

Handwashing, the most basic part of in-shift sanitation, is one of the biggest components in the battle of controlling contamination.

Cleaning up

GOJO Industries of Akron, Ohio, has focused on both the cleansers to get hands clean and getting people to use them regularly on the floor.

“We have a program for food processors where we have specialized cleaners that meat companies have requested for use in process areas and [the cleansers are] designed to enhance employee hygiene by pushing compliance,” says Dan McElroy, market development director for GOJO. The company is a producer of cleansers designed for working in food processing. Several of its products, including S2 Foam Soap, are designed to effectively kill bacteria without hurting the skin. Making sure that employees’ skin is kept healthy is a very important factor for those working in environments that are cold, damp or dry. And not only for hygiene reasons.

“Industrial dermatitis is a leading cause of workman’s compensation,” says McElroy.

GOJO also produces a waterless hand sanitizer, sold at the retail level as Purell. The gel can be used in 15 seconds to kill bacteria on hands without needing water. This and other products are also approved for kosher use.

“The big concern is compliance,” says McElroy. “With [U.S. Department of Agriculture] regulations, everyone thinks that’s easy. The biggest problem is getting people to use it.” He explains that each processor needs to consider their own needs and the kind of soil that needs to be washed away.
Zep Manufacturing Co., based in Atlanta, is another company specializing in hygiene systems that keep employees' hands and boots clean.

“Whether you’re referring to hand or boot sanitation, anytime you can avoid actually touching the system, you are one step closer to minimizing this very important aspect of food safety,” says Bob Sherman, technical marketing manager.

Zep’s C4 (Cross Contamination Control Center) uses a thick sanitizing foam at entryways, through which all employees and vehicles travel, thereby sanitizing the floor as well as anything that comes in contact with the foam. The coupling of Zep’s Markstone Touch-Free Dispenser with Zep’s Alcohol Spray Sanitizer combats cross-contamination, as well.

Mixing it up

The other big area of in-shift sanitation centers around the chemicals used in the process. John Itterly, regional vice president of Chattanooga-based Zee Corp., says these chemicals can also be called “day shift” chemicals. Itterly also says that the use of these chemicals can far exceed those used during the between or night shift sanitation of a plant. “Their uses depend solely on the type of food processing plant that they are being used in,” he says. “They can range from CIP cleaners, sanitizers, microbial intervention, alkaline cleaners, floor dressing compounds, hand sanitizers, laundry detergents, et cetera.” The biggest concerns in this area are employee and food safety, Itterly says. Training of workers for both concerns make a difference.

Maumee, Ohio-based Spartan Chemical Co. also produces products for in-shift sanitation. “The technology for ‘cleaning’ is basic technology,” says Chris Celusta, manager of food processing sanitation. “However, some cleaner/degreasers clean, dilute, and rinse better. The ‘chemistry’ is basic in formulation, whereas, they ‘key’ is how the manufacturer ‘makes’ their product...wetting agents, surfactants, chelating agents (hard water tolerance), active ingredients, foaming capabilities etc., differentiate each product.”

The public attention paid to food safety has increased the need to ensure the safest possible process and in-shift sanitation is a part of that. Celusta notes that public confidence has dropped to low levels. Recent outbreaks and recalls have had a major impact on the views of food safety in general.

New chemicals and formulations are coming into the product stream. Dana Johnson, a formulation chemist for Denver-based Birko Corp., says the USDA National Organic Program has recently added some chemicals to the Federal Register that can be used in or on food. Peracetic acid, for example, is now officially allowed for use as a post-rinse sanitizer on equipment used for organic food without having to rinse afterward when used as directed on the label.

Itterly says that Zee has introduced two detergents — Oxy Power and Oxy Plus — that have proven effective in reducing bio-films. Both were developed for use in the manufacture ready-to-eat (RTE) products.

Alex C. Fergusson Co. (AFCO), based in Chambersburg, Pa., has been promoting its “Perasafe” specifically for use in the meat industry.

Celusta says Spartan has found success with hydrogen peroxide. The company has found that the common chemical is effective in brightening applicable surfaces, eliminating odors, and a good cleaner in the right applications.

Staying natural

Chemicals rooted in natural materials such as citric acid or enzymes are also gaining speed in the marketplace.

“Natural materials like citric acid cleaners are getting more attention due to their capabilities in a variety of applications and surfaces” says Ken Julliet, regional sales manger for AFCO. “They are safer on metal surfaces giving them wider ranges of areas for use.”

Johnson says that enzymes will take some time to work. However, Birko is seeing an increase in food-grade acids and other chemicals allowed for use as processing aids as processors are looking for ways to keep bacteria counts down on the food during processing rather than just doing nightly sanitation.

Finding the right cleanser can have a major effect on the cost of maintaining cleanliness during the shift. Johnson says that many companies make the mistake of simply buying cleaners and sanitizers based solely on price per pound or gallon without looking at how much it actually takes to get the job done. A product that may be expensive in bulk may cost less with each use because less is used at one time.
Julliet points out thatenvironmentally safe cleansers can allow for easier disposal into water systems. That can become a higher priority as more companies look into keeping control of water use.

“Cost is always a factor, but it’s a cost effective measure to reduce the risk,” says McElroy. “What is the cost of a recall, what is the cost of my brand, what is the cost of employees sick because of poor hygiene.”

But chemicals aren’t the final answer. The best chemicals can help, but sanitation still comes down to good training and hard work.

“Cleaning boils down to thoroughly cleaning the surface,” Celusta says. “There are no shortcuts. Some people think the ‘sanitizer’ will offset any cleaning shortcuts they take. However, that is not true, nor will it ever happen.”