Listeria’s Most Common Hideouts and How to Minimize its Risk of Spreading

This is adapted from an article from Vikan. Find the original here

Listeria is a very common bacterium that adapts well in many environments. It is found in soil, water, animal guts, and on raw foods, and it can easily be introduced into and spread throughout food production facilities.

Listeria can form biofilms that help them attach to the surface of floors, drains, and equipment – making them more difficult to remove during cleaning and protecting them from drought, heat, and standard cleaning and disinfection chemicals. Listeria biofilm is often the source of food product cross-contamination.

Additionally, Listeria can grow in cold environments and can survive freezing temperatures. These conditions are often used to control microbial growth, but for Listeria they serve only to restrict the growth of its competitors. This means that refrigerated and frozen foods still are at risk. Most ready-to-eat food processing environments are chilled and provide the nutrients and moisture required for Listeria growth. So, there’s good reason for being concerned about Listeria contamination if you produce ready-to-eat, chilled food.

Floors

Floors that are made of inappropriate materials or that have been installed poorly can lead to static water pools, water trap points, or water absorption. Badly constructed or poorly sealed wall-to-floor or drain-to-floor joints often lead to water becoming trapped, as can poorly maintained and damaged floors with cracks, holes, or gaps. All these situations can lead to Listeria colonization. Consequently, the appropriate selection, installation, and maintenance of your production floor are very important for Listeria control.

Drains

If Listeria is present in your food production facility, it will most likely be found in your drains. Drains act as collection points for most of the Listeria-contaminated water on site, and then provide the nutrients and moisture required for Listeria to grow.

Even though cleaning drains is an unpleasant and complex task, it is critical for Listeria control. Dirty drains can be a source of Listeria contamination, and flooded drains can spread listeria via pools of contaminated water on the floor. Drains should (if possible) only be cleaned during production downtime to avoid spreading listeria particles. You should also give aerosols time to settle before rinsing and disinfecting your food contact surfaces. You should use specific drain-cleaning equipment to keep contamination from spreading. Many facilities use black handles to denote that a brush should only be used on floor and drains.

Select, install, and maintain your drainage systems to eliminate the chances of standing water and water backups. Hygienically designed drainage systems are much easier to clean and maintain, and they minimize the risk of microbial growth.

Processing equipment

Like floors and drains, hard-to-clean areas on and inside food processing equipment can allow for water accumulation and contamination, which can then lead to Listeria colonization and growth.

To minimize the risk, it’s essential to use hygienically designed processing equipment, which is easy to clean and made of suitable materials that are safe for food contact.

The frequency of cleaning and disinfection should be based on a risk assessment, but for equipment used to process chilled ready-to-eat foods, it should most likely be at least once a day.

Daily cleaning should be supplemented with regular equipment strip-downs and deep cleaning to ensure that areas that are difficult to reach during daily cleaning are controlled. Again, the frequency of deep cleaning should be based on a risk assessment.

During cleaning and disinfection, pay attention to hard-to-reach areas on the equipment. These are the areas where Listeria is more likely to be present, especially if an area is wet. These areas can include poorly drained open equipment frameworks, niches, hollow unsealed rollers, poor welds, spaces inside slicing machines, and areas under covers and guards.

Equipment lubricants and moisture traps on compressed air lines can also become a source of Listeria contamination and should be changed and checked regularly to minimize this risk.

Cleaning equipment

Cleaning equipment can be a major source of Listeria contamination – with surveys showing that up to 47 percent of cleaning equipment in food-processing areas tests positive for Listeria (Campden BRI, 1990).

To prevent Listeria contamination, there are two important factors to consider for your cleaning equipment: hygienic design and proper maintenance.

Your cleaning equipment should be of appropriate hygienic design to facilitate easy cleaning and prevent microbial growth. Hygienic design features include smooth surfaces, one-piece construction, easy dismantling (if it’s not one-piece), and a lack of crevices and coatings.

In addition to using hygienically designed tools, it is very important to maintain your cleaning equipment properly. All tools should be replaced, cleaned and/or disinfected regularly after use and stored correctly on suitable wall brackets or shadow boards. It is also essential to use color-coded tools, and to segregate tools used to clean floors from those used for food contact surface cleaning.

How to avoid Listeria contamination from floors and drains

Listeria can be transferred from contaminated floors and drains to other food production areas – and to food itself – in several ways. These include footwear, equipment, and trolley wheels, as well as cleaning equipment. The best way to avoid Listeria contamination from your floors and drains is to clean and disinfect them regularly. Remember to clean floor and drains in a way that minimizes the possible contamination of other surfaces in the room. The use of high-pressure hoses or mechanical scrubbing will increase the risk of Listeria aerosolization, where the bacteria spread through the air into other areas and onto equipment, food, and food contact surfaces. Instead, use dedicated color-coded manual cleaning tools for floor and drain cleaning. Tools used to clean floors should have a different color from those used to clean drains and from those used to clean food contact surfaces.

Chillers, freezers and air-handling systems

As mentioned above, Listeria can survive at very low temperatures – even as low as 23° Fahrenheit (or -5° Celsius). Chillers and freezers are cold and wet, and Listeria faces less competition from other microorganisms in these environments, making them perfect Listeria hideouts.

It is essential to keep the evaporation plates and fans in chillers and freezers clean and disinfected at all times. Condensation from cooling systems should be directed to the drains or to drip pans, which should be emptied, cleaned, and disinfected regularly. Never allow products to pass underneath a cooling or freezing system.

In many air-handling systems, there are also evaporators that need to be cleaned. Moreover, it is critical to prevent condensation – and subsequent water buildup – in your air-handling systems.

To download the original article from Vikan, written by Stine Vislev, click below.

Relevant white papers, all of which can be found in our Knowledge Center:

White Paper: SQF Edition 8

SQF Edition 8 White Paper

SQF Edition 8: Focus on Hygiene and Sanitation

The SQF certification program can help facilities comply with crucial hygiene and sanitation requirements, as there is an enhanced focus in preventing, eliminating, and significantly minimizing food safety hazards of public health and legal significance. This whitepaper explores the notable contributions of SQF Edition 8 as a global standard, toward developing, implementing, and maintaining sanitation controls and hygiene practices within food and beverage processing sites.

This white paper will help you understand:

  1. Why GFSI-benchmarked programs are worldwide
  2. How SQF Edition 8 focuses on hygiene and sanitation
  3. Significant changes in Edition 8
  4. SQF System Elements for Food Manufacturing
  5. How to prepare for SQF certification

Download this White Paper

The Food Code Gets a Boost at the 2018 Conference for Food Protection

Remco, as an industry support member, is proud to have sponsored and participated in the 2018 Conference for Food Protection (CFP) Biennial Meeting that took place from April 16-20 in Richmond, Virginia. The event was well-attended by over 360 members from industry, regulatory, academia, consumer and professional organizations, who mainly deliberated on the significant changes required in the U.S. FDA’s Food Code.

The Food Code is a guidance document that helps state, local, territorial, and tribal regulators to model their own food safety rules on a national policy basis, and also, to be able to provide scientific and technical basis for regulating the retail and food service industries such as restaurants, grocery stores, and nursing homes. The current 2017 Food Code version is available on FDA’s site at: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/RetailFoodProtection/FoodCode/ucm595139.htm.

The following councils were formed, in which members collectively discussed the important Food Code and various committee issues.

Council I: Laws and Regulations – Some important issues discussed were on:

  • Clean-in-Place (CIP)
  • Biofilms
  • Food Equipment Certification Standards
  • HACCP Plan

Council II: Administration, Education, and Certification – Key issues deliberated were on:

  • Employee Food Safety Training
  • Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards (VNRFRPS)
  • Food Allergens Training

Council III: Science and Technology – Important aspects covered were on:

  • Safety of Mail-Order Foods
  • Safe Cooking of Rotisserie Chicken
  • Handwashing Compliance Requirements

The meeting also hosted regulatory officials from the FDA CFSAN (Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition), USDA-FSIS (Food Safety and Inspection Service), and the CDC, who provided important food safety updates. There was also an interactive workshop study and a networking event at the Science Museum of Virginia included within the conference program. Overall, this event was a great opportunity for the food industry to understand and get involved in understanding and developing the policies and recommendations that strengthen our national food safety system.

The 2020 Biennial CFP conference venue will be at Denver, Colorado. More details are available at the CFP site: www.foodprotect.org.

How to Choose the Right Brush for Food Processing

scrub brushes

Proper cleaning tools can increase plant hygiene and make it easier for food processing facility staff to do their job. Finding the right brushes for each job is easier when you understand the role bristle stiffness, brush type, and bristle/block attachment play in how a brush functions.

Hygienic Design of Brushes

Drilled and stapled brushes are made by drilling a hole into the brush block and stapling bristles into it. Higher quality versions will have only small gaps near the attachment point, making it less likely for contaminants to become trapped. Low-quality versions may have issues with bristles falling out and will have larger gaps around the fiber attachment points, making it easier for microorganisms to hide and multiply. For many food processing needs, a high-quality version of this type of brush is appropriate.

Resin-set brushes pose a variety of hygiene concerns. For this brush, holes are drilled in the block, filaments are stapled into them, and resin is added for extra bristle security. Resin itself isn’t approved for food contact and often gets trapped in between bristles and falls out, creating a source of contamination. This type of brush isn’t suitable for food manufacturing.

Ultra Safe Technology (UST) brushes from Vikan improve bristle retention and brush hygiene. These innovative brushes have a unique construction and design. Bristles are fully molded into individual bristle security units. Those units are then molded directly into the brush block, eliminating holes, gaps, and contamination traps. Because of this production technique, bristle security units can be arranged in patterns that allow brushes to be cleaned easily while maximizing cleaning efficiency. These ultra-hygienic brushes are ideal for food production plants that make infant formula, baby food, and ready-to-eat food.
Continue reading “How to Choose the Right Brush for Food Processing”

Remco Products Partners with Top Dog Manufacturing to add Hygienic Worker Protection

Remco Products expands its color-coded tool selection to include high-quality PPE through Top Dog Manufacturing

Remco Products has partnered with Top Dog to offer a line of food-safe aprons, gowns, and sleeves. Top Dog offers a line of reusable die-cut color-coded worker protection gear that perfectly complements Remco and Vikan’s core color offerings.

Top Dog’s high-quality reusable garments are made from 100% pure polyether polyurethane, which makes them durable and hygienic. There are no seams to come loose and no crevices for bacteria to build up in. After use, they can be put in the washer and dryer for easy cleaning. Since the garments don’t absorb moisture and aren’t affected by paint, chemicals, bleach, ammonia, acids, food coloring, glue, and more, the washer and dryer will be enough to get them ready for use again.

These polyurethane garments are:

  • Food safe (FDA-compliant)
  • Reusable, for around 3 months with regular use
  • Virtually non-stick and non-staining
  • Resistant to chemical and acidic sanitation products
  • Impervious to animal fats and degreasers
  • Odor-free and have no off-gassing
  • Non-porous—won’t host bacteria or mold
  • Washer and dryer safe
  • Able to be used in cold and hot environments without cracking or stiffening
  • Easily repairable
  • Able to return to its original shape after stretching
  • Completely latex free
  • Recyclable
  • Waterproof
  • Highly abrasive resistant

Remco is proud to add such high-quality products to its color-coded sanitation line. The five colors Top Dog offers pair with the core colors of Remco and Vikan tools, increasing the effectiveness of end users’ HACCP plans. Color-coded garments provide food manufacturers an additional tool for quick visual verification. This helps ensure that the right people are using the right tools for specified zones. These products are durable and hygienic, making them an excellent complement to Remco Products’ cleaning and material handling tools.

About Remco Products

Remco provides color-coded tools for cleaning and material handling where hygiene and safety are critical. The introduction of a food-safe poly shovel more than 30 years ago established Remco as an industry pioneer of hygienic design. In addition to its hygienic shovels, scoops, and scrapers, Remco features Vikan’s advanced line of brushes, brooms, and squeegees. Together with Vikan, Remco supports color-coding plans by offering more tools in more colors than any other supplier. Remco also provides training and support to end users, helping ensure regulatory compliance. Regardless of an operation’s size or complexity, Remco has the tools and expertise to help execute HACCP color-coding plans.

About Top Dog

Located in the Prince Edward Island province of Canada, Top Dog Manufacturing uses pure polyether polyurethane because of its suitability for industries in which hygiene is a top concern. The company’s aprons, gowns, and sleeves are all CFIA, FDA, and USDA compliant.

How to Choose the Right Broom for the Job

Color-coded brooms

Maintaining hygienic standards is easier when employees have access to the right tools for the job, including the proper brooms. The staff in charge of cleaning will be better able to carry out cleaning tasks effectively and efficiently when they have tools that are fit-for-purpose.

Hygienic Design of Brooms

Drilled and stapled brooms are produced with the traditional method of folding bristles and stapling them into a block. This creates a tight fit that holds bristles in place. When a tool is well-designed, there are minimal places for contaminants to hide in and multiply. However, bristles have been known to fall out, though less frequently on better-quality tools. For most food industry purposes, this provides a high level of hygiene and supports sanitation efforts.

Resin-set brooms have cropped up in recent years, but they present a host of hygiene concerns—namely, that the resin itself isn’t approved for food contact and have been known to fall out of the broom, creating and spreading its own contamination. This type of broom isn’t recommended for food processing.

Ultra Safe Technology (UST) brooms from Vikan are state-of-the-art tools that have a unique design and construction that improves bristle retention and hygiene. Bristles are fully molded into bristle security units in patterns that maximize efficiency while allowing the broom itself to be cleaned easier. This level of hygiene is appropriate for facilities that require a higher level of cleanliness, such as ready-to-eat food, baby food, and infant formula processing plants.
Continue reading “How to Choose the Right Broom for the Job”

Remco to Give Hygienic Design Talk at IPPE 2018; Will Be Available at Booth B4716

The hygienic color-coded tools company will be at Booth B4716 during the Expo

Remco Products will give a presentation on hygienic design standards at the International Production & Processing Expo on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. The presentation will be titled “Hygienic Design for Cleaning and Food Handling Tools,” and will take place from 10-10:20 a.m. in Booth B8715.

Rob Middendorf, business development director at Remco Products, will be delivering the presentation. Along with some of his colleagues, he’ll be available to answer questions at Booth B417 throughout the three-day Expo. Topics covered in the presentation include specific hygienic design standards, such as BRC, FSSC 22000 v. 4.1, and SQF Code Edition 8, and real-world applications. He will also include information on HARPC, preventive controls, and cleaning tools as vectors of contamination.

Participants interested in attending the session should make their way over to Booth B8715 about 10 minutes early to ensure a good spot. Plan on the presentation lasting 20 minutes, hopefully with time for questions. Those who are interested in food safety, want to know more about HARPC or any updated design standard such as SQF Edition 8, or are in charge of food industry sanitation measures won’t want to miss this.

Remco Products Will Have Booth at IPPE 2017

Rob Middendorf of Remco Products will give a presentation on hygienic design at IPPE 2018

Remco Products will give a presentation on hygienic design standards at the International Production & Processing Expo on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. The presentation will be titled “Hygienic Design for Cleaning and Food Handling Tools,” and will take place from 10-10:20 a.m. in Booth B8715.

Rob Middendorf, business development director at Remco Products, will be delivering the presentation. Along with some of his colleagues, he’ll be available to answer questions at Booth B4176 throughout the three-day Expo. Topics covered in the presentation include specific hygienic design standards, such as BRC, FSSC 22000 v. 4.1, and SQF Code Edition 8, and real-world applications. He will also include information on HARPC, preventive controls, and cleaning tools as vectors of contamination.

Participants interested in attending the session should make their way over to Booth B8715 about 10 minutes early to ensure a good spot. Plan on the presentation lasting 20 minutes, hopefully with time for questions. Those who are interested in food safety, want to know more about HARPC or any updated design standard such as SQF Edition 8, or are in charge of food industry sanitation measures won’t want to miss this.

The Importance of Hand Washing in the Food Industry

Hygienic nail brush being used in hand washing
Handwashing in the food industry is one of the first lines of defense in food safety. Along with being a consumer health risk, inadequate personal hygiene can lead to costly and reputation-destroying recalls. However, it’s not just the responsibility of individual employees to ensure proper handwashing procedures are followed. Managers must cultivate a culture of food safety where taking time-off from lines to wash up is encouraged. Facilities also must be equipped with adequate hand washing stations.

Not only will setting the scene and creating the culture for effective handwashing help protect consumers, it will also help protect your business.

When to Wash

Employees knowing when to wash their hands is just as important as knowing how to properly wash them. High-visibility signs posted around the facility can teach and remind employees about handwashing. 

Signs posted around the facility make for great reminders, but the topic should also be covered in training seminars. Don’t forget to translate instructions in whatever languages required to communicate with all of your employees.

Continue reading “The Importance of Hand Washing in the Food Industry”

Remco and Vikan Introduce New UST Detail Brush

Pastry and detail brush
New ultra-hygienic detail brush cleans hard-to-reach areas or works as an FDA-compliant pastry brush

Remco Products proudly introduces the UST Detail Brush from Vikan, the smallest brush to join the Ultra Safe Technology line. The small brush is ultra-hygienic, FDA-compliant, and fully molded. Useful as either a cleaning tool or a pastry brush, this product is appropriate for bakeries, food manufacturing facilities, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and wherever hygiene is a top priority.

Corners, crevices, narrow gaps, and other hard-to-reach areas make perfect hiding places for dry debris, including allergens. These areas are also difficult to clean without just the right brush. With its optimized soft bristles, great ergonomics, and UST advantages, the UST Detail Brush is ideal for cleaning these areas. The narrow block and long bristles allow the brush to get into the crooks and crannies other brushes can’t touch, and the soft bristles easily clear soils away.

The UST Detail Brush is the latest Vikan brush to feature Ultra Safe Technology. UST brushes incorporate hygienic design principles and the fully molded UST bristle system, giving users:

  • Vikan’s best cleaning efficacy
  • Easier hygienic cleaning of the brush
  • Lower risk of bristle loss
  • FDA-compliant material
  • Minimized risk of cross-contamination

The Detail Brush can also be used as a pastry or glazing brush. The bristles are soft enough to spread butter, eggs, and oil over delicate pastries without damaging dough or the finished product. The brush’s small size gives workers superior control when in use, too. It’s also a more hygienic option to standard pastry brushes and comes in eight colors to support color-coded HACCP plans.

Along with other brushes in Vikan’s Ultra Safe Technology line, the Detail Brush can take end users to the next step toward the greater hygienic certainty that only Remco and Vikan delivers.