How clean is your facility?

by Zia Siddiqi
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Food manufacturing environments are highly susceptible to food safety threats. Many of those threats, such as pest activity and food contamination, are directly linked to a facility’s cleanliness, and can also impact a company’s brand.

So, how clean is your facility? That’s a question you should ask yourself on at least a weekly basis – and even better yet, on a daily basis. And why is that? Food safety is greatly at risk if any stop along the food production, processing and distribution route does not have a stringent sanitation routine. If your facility is lacking in the sanitation realm, then it’s safe to say that you may find yourself with problems in the long run, whether with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, third-party food safety auditors or customers.

In the last year, the U.S. Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) has helped push the industry even further toward a preventive approach for food safety. FSMA highlights Good Manufacturing Practices, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, requiring food facilities to present clearly defined and well-documented controls to prevent food safety problems. Even with these and other industry regulations, many food manufacturing facilities do not have strict sanitation schedules. This has led to low third-party audit scores, Salmonella outbreaks and pest infestations, among other things. Avoid those problems by working with your pest management professional to ensure you have a daily sanitation schedule in place. This type of preparation will help you remain proactive in preventing food safety problems at your facility.

Follow this four-step process to establish and strengthen a sanitation program:

Create a culture of clean. Sanitation is one of the strongest building blocks in your defense against contamination and pest activity, so consider it a natural component of your Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan. This will help you establish a culture of clean at your facility, where there is no tolerance for spills, debris, waste or pests. As part of your culture of clean, implement daily, weekly and monthly sanitation routines. Don’t forget to schedule an annual deep cleaning for your facility as well.

Get your employees on board. It’s important that your employees understand that they, too, play a role in preventing food safety threats. As part of establishing a culture of clean, educate your employees about sanitation. They should know about “hot spots” in your facility where pests and bacteria can thrive, as well as how their daily responsibilities are tied to the daily, weekly and monthly sanitation schedules. Last, your employees are vital in helping you to keep common areas – such as locker rooms and break rooms – in the facility clean. Set processes for your employees so that dirty dishes, drink spills and overflowing trash bins are cleaned immediately, and that leftover lunches are not kept at the facility past expiration. These actions will help reduce growth of bacteria and conducive conditions for pests.

Take charge of sanitation indoors. The production floor and storage areas in your facility are the most important areas of focus for sanitation indoors, as this is the main point of exposure for food products. On the production floor, large, hard-to-reach equipment can offer a quaint home for pests, while the production line provides plentiful food sources and places for bacteria to grow. To keep these areas clean, sanitize all equipment and machinery periodically, paying extreme attention to areas that are out of sight. Also, remove drain lids and clean the drains to prevent grease, gunk and debris that attract pests from blocking the passageway. In storage areas, clean all containers before placing new products inside, and keep them within a 10-foot radius of residue whenever possible. Remove unused boxes and equipment so that pests are less likely to find areas for shelter and reproduction. Last, keep mops and cleaning equipment off the ground to decrease standing water and bacteria formation.

Don’t forget about sanitation outdoors. The exterior of your facility is just as important as the interior when it comes to sanitation. If outdoor areas aren’t clean, your building may look like a shining beacon of light to pests, so take the time to establish sanitation schedules for outdoor areas as well. Near your building exits are doors and loading docks that often remain open for lengthy time periods, and can allow pests to enter the facility. Keep these areas clean and closed whenever possible to prevent pest activity. Consider pressure washing the sidewalks and exterior walls to prevent grimy buildup, as well as remove bird droppings around the property that can be brought inside by foot traffic. In regard to dumpsters, place them as far as possible from building entrances and sanitize them regularly with an organic cleaning solution to prevent food buildup and strong odors. Don’t forget to clean areas that are above your line of sight such as gutters and rooftop ledges. Often, debris like leaves and standing water will build up over time, providing breeding areas and shelter for pests.

By following these steps, you will help protect your facility and your products from food safety threats. Remember that the ever-changing food safety landscape requires a stringent sanitation program so that your company can be a safe stop along the food supply chain.

Dr. Zia Siddiqi is Director of Quality Systems for Orkin. A board certified entomologist with more than 30 years in the industry, Dr. Siddiqi is an acknowledged leader in the field of pest management. For more information, e-mail or visit