How FSMA’s Sanitary Transportation Rule affects the cleaning process

When the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was put into motion by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, most branches of the food industry jumped into a wave of changes to improve food safety practices across the board.

Not only were producers and processors impacted, but so was another important wing of the food industry: those who transport and distribute food products and ingredients. FSMA’s Final Rule on Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food set a number of new standards to “create a modern, risk-based framework for food safety.”

Clean it up

A huge part of this proactive approach is cleaning. FSMA’s Sanitary Transportation Rule mandates cleaning between shipments, alongside other steps to prevent cross-contamination of food with unintended food allergens or pathogenic bacteria.

This involves sanitizing some of the obvious food-contact areas: shipping containers, refrigerators, trucks, railcars, sea containers and the like, but it doesn’t stop there. Companies need to seek out places where bacteria might linger even after routine cleaning, like nooks, crannies and other hard-to-reach areas. This goes beyond obvious areas like walls, floors, doors and chutes — it also encompasses the underside of surfaces, places where people may have tracked bacteria in their shoes, places that sponges and swabs don’t easily fit. Anywhere that dirtiness may have oozed or dripped should be cleaned.

Sanitation verification

Cleaning these hard-to-spot harborage zones becomes easier when there’s a way to identify them for re-cleaning and eventual confirmation of full cleanliness.

That’s where sanitation verification programs come in. These plans confirm that the effort put into cleaning is actually working. There are a few fast tools that can help with this:

ATP testing, a method which seeks out evidence of living or once-living cells that should be eliminated by proper cleaning. This type of test is an objective, actionable tool that shows and documents whether there is enough biomass on a cleaned surface to support microbial growth.

Protein testing, which detects protein left behind from previously transported foods and liquids, is a relatively quick, inexpensive and easy-to-use method.

Allergen testing allows the detection of trace amounts of food allergen residues. Specific allergen testing is the only recognized method for identifying and controlling allergen risk.

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