When we think about cross-contamination in a food processing facility, equipment, employee handling, hygiene and other obvious sources immediately come to mind. An often-overlooked source of cross-contamination is footwear. Pathogens such as salmonella and listeria, which are the most frequent cause of food recalls, can enter a facility on a worker’s boots and spread throughout an entire plant. There are various ways to sanitize footwear as it enters a building and each has its pros and cons.
Alcohol is a ready-to-use sanitizer that requires no dilution. It is highly effective at sanitizing and removing contaminants from organic matter. Alcohol is also great for water sensitive environments and it meets organic standards.
Another type of ready-to-use sanitizer is the granular sanitizer. Granular sanitizers are applied manually or with a fertilizer spreader, which makes them economical and easy to use on both small and large surface areas. These Quat–based sanitizers come in particle form and have a slow-releasing antimicrobial action. The granules stay put and leave a bacteriostatic film on the floors. The product also adheres to equipment wheels, such as those on a lift truck.
A disadvantage to granular sanitizers is that they require moisture in order to release their biocidal action. Once the product gets wet, it leaves behind deposits that are difficult to remove. While granular sanitizers do not freeze, they can be a slip hazard and manual application makes it hard to standardize the quantities used.
Designed to cover large areas such as entrances and exits, doorway foamers are chemical dispensers that combine sanitizer with water and air, to produce a foam that disperses at a set frequency. For best results, you need a suitable sanitizer that produces a stable foam that doesn’t collapse easily, provides a good kill, and does not damage flooring. Doorway foamers are much more expensive when compared to other foot traffic options, but they have some very distinct advantages. Foam provides better contact time; it sticks to boot soles and coats equipment wheels. It also has a wide dispersion surface that prevents people from walking around or stepping over the treatment area. And the automatic functioning means it dispenses fresh, pre-mixed solution, making it a maintenance free option.
A footbath is a rubber or foam mat filled with a liquid sanitizer. Workers walk through the solution, coating the bottom of their boots with disinfectant. This simple, inexpensive option is odorless and great for use on concrete. Simply fill the mat with a Quat–based sanitizer, which leaves behind a bacteriostatic film after the product has evaporated. Some mats even have flexible grooves on the bottom that rub against the bottom of the boot, loosening debris and allowing it to fall into the mat.
As with any solution, there are a few drawbacks to consider. Assuming that workers do not walk around or step over the mat, this option provides very short contact time with boots. Ironically, the solution itself can easily become a source of bacteria that would render the sanitizer ineffective, so frequent changing and cleaning is required. You also need to monitor the level of solution regularly. These footbaths are not suitable for treating equipment wheels and splashing into the mat can dilute the solution. These mats are also a potential trip hazard.
While they are not as economical as the footbath, these standalone stainless steel machines are easy to use and effective at reaching areas that are more prone to build-up. They are available in automated or manual models, capable of cleaning the soles and sides of footwear, or just the soles. You can use the cleaning solution of your choice, Avalanche foaming footbath sanitizer, or a combination of alcohol-based sanitizer followed by granular Quat, as long as the quat is contained in a rubber mat to prevent it from being carried throughout the plant.
Whatever system you choose for implementing for boot hygiene, if you want to ensure compliance, you must train your employees in the importance of clean footwear, and the most effective use of the solution provided.