Food Safety on the ground

Choosing the Right Flooring For Your Food/Beverage Operations

Thursday, January 17, 2019

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A few weeks ago we looked at some areas where pathogens can lurk inside food and beverage processing facilities; one such area was flooring. Flooring is often neglected but in fact undergoes a lot of wear and tear from daily employee trafficking, multiple trips from forklifts, dragging of equipment from one area to the next, excessive moisture, spills from production, high temperatures, harsh cleaners and sanitisers. And I'm sure you may be thinking, “It's just the floor; it was made for all this!” While you may be able to operate a factory that produces non-consumable products with numerous cracks and crevices in the floor, this may not be safe for a food or beverage production facility.

Some of the activities and substances that production facilities are exposed to will cause serious damage to a normal concrete floor. Additionally, some contaminants can infiltrate uncoated concrete, resulting in uncontrolled growth of bacteria, ultimately posing a risk to the food/beverage being produced. What is also worth mentioning is the use of ceramic tiles on production floors; while this may seem easier to clean, we must consider the inconvenience of having to replace cracked tiles due to damage from excessive strain on the floors. Additionally, the grout lines are also areas for potential bacteria and other contaminants to lurk in if not properly cleaned and maintained.

To meet the international requirements for food and beverage export, all facilities will need to ensure that their production areas are devoid of sections that will harbour contaminants. The right flooring ensures that there is no harbouring of bacteria that can affect the safety of the product. As mentioned before, numerous dangerous pathogens can be found in floors that have not been properly cleaned, and floors not designed properly and with the right material can allow for water to pool near critical equipment.

Here are some questions you can ask when assessing the flooring at your operations:

• Are the floors in areas where product is handled or stored constructed of durable, easily cleanable materials which are impervious to moisture?

• Are floors installed and maintained to reduce the likelihood of cracks, depressions or other low areas that would accumulate moisture?

• Do floors where operations are conducted have slip-resistant surfaces?

• Are floors sloped to avoid puddles or depressions within the slope where water will stand?

There are companies locally that can provide you with recommendations on the type of flooring that will suit your operation. These may include flooring made of epoxies and polyurethane. There is even flooring material that may have antimicrobial properties which will prevent bacteria and mould from proliferating. Of course, you will need to choose the best flooring for your food and beverage processing facility. Some selection criteria you may look at are:

•Do I need flooring with antimicrobial properties throughout my production floor or just for specific areas?

•What is personnel traffic like in different areas of the facility? Do I need to ensure all areas are skid-resistant?

•What's the frequency of cleaning and sanitation that the flooring will need to be exposed to?

•Will harsh chemicals and steam be required to clean the floor?

•Will odour emitted from the flooring affect the quality/safety of the product?

•How much downtime can I withstand to install flooring?

•Can the flooring withstand the atmospheric conditions of the facility?

You may be thinking that your concrete floors and tiles are cheaper to maintain, but think about the potential hazards that may lurk around in those cracks, crevices and stripped oil paint on your floors. Remember, food safety is your responsibility.

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