From the website foodsafety.gov, Listeria is “…a bacteria found in soil and water and some animals, including poultry and cattle. It can be present in raw milk and foods made from raw milk. It can also live in food processing plants and contaminate a variety of processed meats.” Listeria is especially dangerous to many food processing plants because it can withstand the cold temperatures that would normally make other microbes inert.
Listeria outbreaks can be very costly and dangerous for companies as there exists a potential for huge product recalls as well as sickened customers. It is very important that food companies have strict decontamination protocols in place, as well as effective cleaners, sanitizers, and disinfectants in order to prevent these scenarios from occurring.
When it comes to decontamination protocol, there are many different variables to take into account such as the frequency of cleaning, the depth of cleaning, and the simplicity of which workers can follow. Although it may be very tempting to cut back on the amount of regular disinfections and sanitizations in order to save money, the lack of control of the microbial population may end up costing more money.
Also, it may seem as if deep cleanings are not necessary as long as there is consistent sanitization. However, simply sanitizing surfaces does not completely kill the population of pathogens that is living there. This allows them to multiply over time and build up immunity to the chemical used in cleaning. In addition to regular sanitization of process equipment, it should also be accompanied by regular disinfection. Although disinfection does not completely eliminate microbes, it takes them to levels that are nearly undetectable. Disinfection should also occur between all product transitions in a processing facility. For instance, after processing raw milk to manufacture ice cream, equipment should be disinfected before switching to poultry. This step prevents cross contamination.
Further, it must be taken into account that a protocol that is difficult, time consuming, and strenuous on workers will most likely not be followed as intended. Protocols that are not followed as they were intended are much more likely to result in decontaminations. It is important to keep your cleaning strategy simple, yet effective.
Your Disinfectant Matters
In addition to a proper protocol, the proper chemical must accompany it. Disinfectants and sanitizers should be EPA registered pesticides in order to ensure efficacy. Even more, a chemical should have what is known as “agency confirmed efficacy” which means the EPA has tested all of a products biocidal claims. It helps even more if a product is easy to use. Problems can arise when it is necessary to mix two or more chemicals into one disinfecting solution. Incorrect ratios could seriously affect the efficacy of the chemical. However, you must be careful not to lose effectiveness to gain convenience.
It might seem like there are a lot of stipulations when it comes to what type of sanitizer/disinfectant should be used in a food processing facility, and it’s true. These stipulations are to ensure outbreaks of Listeria do not occur. If it doesn’t seem like a chemical that hits all of the above exists, don’t worry, it does. SMT’s pure chlorine dioxide is easy to use. Just add water and you are ready to disinfect. Plus, it is an “agency confirmed” EPA registered pesticide that is capable of killing listeria. And it is also an FDA approved food contact substance! Pure ClO₂ is easily implemented into any existing protocol, or if you wish, a protocol can be designed especially for your facility.