Keeping clean while being green

by Dan Malovany, Baking & Snack
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Sustainable sanitation. It’s not an oxymoron. Rather, it’s about focusing on food safety above anything else and then finding ways to incorporate cleaning into a company’s sustainability program. Sanitary equipment designs can be a big help, and many bakeries, snack manufacturers, and cookie and cracker producers will see the latest in automation and sanitary designs at the International Baking Industry Exposition, Oct. 6-9, in Las Vegas.

In our exclusive report, we challenged our contributing editor Joe Stout to tackle the issues of sanitation, food safety and sustainability.

Mr. Stout, CEO and founder of Commercial Food Sanitation LLC, worked for Kraft Foods for 29 years, eventually as director of global product protection, sanitation and hygienic design. While at Kraft, he oversaw global responsibility for manufacturing plant cleaning controls and processes, allergen and pathogen control programs, pest control and hygienic design for facilities and equipment used in more than 200 Kraft plants to ensure the equipment and facilities were cleanable and effectively cleaned.

Mr. Stout knows more than almost anybody in the world about sanitation and food safety. That’s why Baking & Snack’s Dan Malovany asked him to share his thoughts about sanitation and food safety in a world that’s more environmentally friendly. To contact Mr. Stout, email him at Joe.Stout@cf-san.com.

Dan Malovany: What primary steps must a bakery take to establish more sustainable sanitation procedures?

Joe Stout: Actually, I ask two questions when I hear sustainable sanitation. First, how does a facility build sanitation programs that will be robust for many years to consistently keep — without deviation — the plant clean and food products safe on a 24 /7 basis? Second, how can we minimize the impact to the environment from the chemicals, tools and time it takes to complete the sanitation process? Each is very important. After all, sanitation is the start of the process to make a safe product, and unless you begin clean, you are not going to succeed.

In either situation, first and foremost, food safety must not be compromised. This means the proper validations, verifications and overall monitoring must be in place before starting the effort. Getting procedures written and establishing a strong training program so sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs) are ­repeated the same way every day are a great start to make sanitation sustainable over time while minimizing the impact to the environment.

With the program foundation rock-solid, a cross-functional team of sanitation, quality, maintenance and operations should be engaged to optimize the process. On a monthly basis, calculating key performance indicators (KPIs) will be a window to your success. This must be supplemented with inspections or walk-throughs that provide indications of performance as well. The KPIs as well as plant and line appearance during inspections should align on the performance level and environmental friendliness of the program.

What are the most difficult challenges in making sanitation more environmentally friendly?

The challenge is getting an optimally designed bakery. Legacy bakeries are more difficult to modify to be sustainable, but a new facility design with new equipment can be dreams-come-true for sanitarians and environmentalists. In legacy facilities, the key is working with the leadership team and engineering group to understand that improvements are possible. In either legacy or new facilities, putting resources toward getting hygienic design correct takes a real vision.

Getting the best design can lead to more efficient cleaning with simpler procedures, less chemical and water usage, and more repeatable results. While this can have the greatest impact, it is also generally the most difficult because this approach needs investment of resources where it may be harder to quantify the return on that investment. The payoff, however, can be tremendous in the long run.

How does a bakery strike a balance between food safety and sustainable sanitation?

Food safety cannot be compromised. Clean is clean, and there is no in between. So as we look at cleaning challenges and how to be more environmentally friendly as we clean, we still need to meet all KPIs. One way we can be more environmentally mindful is to clean it right the first time. Then we would not need to repeat procedures that may not have been completed correctly the first time.

How do you avoid common mistakes when making sanitation environmentally sound?

Starting without a strong monitoring program already in place or making changes without validating the effect. Clearly, a monitoring program looks at key sanitation effectiveness indicators, including pest activity, when making changes to assure continued effectiveness. Also, any decision to change should be analyzed well before execution. I suggest companies test a change and monitor with more inspections or swabbing while being prepared to immediately adjust the plan depending on the results.

What are the challenges in switching to environmentally friendly cleaning solutions?

The most significant impact to reduce sanitation time for cleaning is to improve design and maintenance of equipment to reduce the amount of broken or reworked product. This usually runs in the single-digit numbers in terms of the percentage of product that does not end up in the package. If it doesn’t end up in the package, sanitation usually plays a role of placing it elsewhere.

In some cases, it could be in the double digits. Think of the impact if this number could be in the area of 1% instead of 9%. That would reflect a significant impact to sustainability by reducing the use of energy to heat ovens and power equipment. Better designs of transfer points and declines, as well as more sensitive handling of product, improve sustainability but are often unrecognized as an opportunity.

How can bakeries use less water, create less waste­water or recycle water?

One method that can help tremendously, yet needs to be approached very cautiously, is to extend production runs. In many cases, by working with quality, microbiological, sanitation and production departments, the possibility of extending a production run to a historical length is a viable option. This is an extensive undertaking and needs very tight oversight. Reducing the number of sanitation events over the course of a year can have an extremely large impact on water reduction and overall sustainability efforts.

What sanitary design ­elements of equipment complement a company’s efforts to become greener in the long run?

Cleanable equipment as well as ­having systems that are accessible for inspection, maintenance and cleaning/sanitation are the two principles that when followed can bring about efficiency in cleaning, allowing for no overuse of water, energy or chemicals. Better accessibility usually equates to less non-value added parts to the equipment and gives the sanitor the ability to clean more efficiently.

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