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Sanitation: The Key To Prevention

Created in 2011, The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was designed to focus on prevention of contamination, rather than simply the response to foodborne illness or contamination. To achieve this, FSMA highlights sanitation efforts as one of the primary tenets under preventive controls.

FSMA’s Stance on Sanitation

As stated in FSMA’s Preventive Controls section:

“Sanitation controls include procedures, practices, and processes to ensure that the facility is maintained in a sanitary condition adequate to significantly minimize or prevent hazards such as environmental pathogens, biological hazards due to employee handling, and food allergen hazards. Sanitation controls must include, as appropriate to the facility and the food, procedures, practices, and processes for the:

(i) Cleanliness of food‐contact surfaces, including food‐contact surfaces of utensils and equipment;

(ii) Prevention of allergen cross‐contact and cross‐contamination from insanitary objects and from personnel to food, food packaging material, and other food‐contact surfaces and from raw product to processed product.”

In other words, cleaning procedures must be established to ensure that food is not compromised by

  • microbiological contamination from the environment or food contact surfaces
  • cross-contamination from raw products
  • cross-contamination from personnel
  • cross-contact from allergens

Achieving Effective Sanitation

While cleaning is an important element of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), it is only one step in the sanitation process. The FDA defines “cleaning” as the removal of soil, such as bacteriological nutrients, fats, carbohydrates, proteins, and minerals that can build up on food contact surfaces and processing equipment. “Sanitization” is defined as treating cleaned surfaces with a process that effectively destroys pathogens, and substantially reducing the quantity of other undesirable microorganisms, without adversely affecting the product or its safety to consumers.

Where cleaning processes might include wet cleaning (the use of chemical cleaning solutions) or dry cleaning (sweeping, brushing, scraping, vacuuming, etc.), methods of sanitation will generally include heat, radiation, or chemical use (though radiation is a rarely utilized method).


There are three methods of using heat to sanitize surfaces: steam, hot water, and hot air. If hot water is to be used, it must reach a temperature of at least 171°F for 30 seconds.

Chemical Sanitizers

Chlorine, iodine, and quaternary ammonium are commonly approved chemical sanitizers. Because food particles and soil can render chlorine and iodine less effective, proper cleaning prior to sanitization is crucial. Three factors that can also influence the efficiency of sanitizers include:

  • Concentration – The presence of too little sanitizer will fail to effectively reduce harmful microorganisms and too much can be toxic. The pH range must often be controlled as well.
  • Temperature – Chemical sanitizers work best in water that is between 55°F and 120°F.
  • Contact time – In order to successfully kill microorganisms, the cleaned item must be in contact with the sanitizer (whether heat or chemical) for the recommended length of time.

We’re Here To Help

While effective sanitation can help you mitigate the risks of food contamination, ridding your facility of harmful microorganisms can be difficult to achieve. Avert’s team of food safety professionals are equipped with over 20 years of hands-on experience in the food industry and an in-depth understanding of microbiology to give your manufacturing facility the best protection possible.

Contact us today!


Matthew McClure provides sound strategies that instill cost-effective methods for building robust food safety, operational and quality assurance programs. Along with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Microbiology from The University of Akron and an MBA in Finance from Louisiana State University, Matthew brings over 20 years of experience in the food safety industry to AVERT Food Safety Advisors. His knowledge spans many areas including FDA food processing facilities, USDA meat and poultry plants, dietary supplement manufacturers, retail, cannabis manufacturing, and food service operations.

Contact us for more information: | Tel: +1 702.706.6574

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