Karl Thorson, BEMA
General Mills’ Karl Thorson calls bakers and suppliers to work together for more effective and efficient sanitary practices.

LAGUNA NIGUEL, CALIF. – At the BEMA annual convention, held June 26-30, Karl Thorson, food safety and sanitation manager, General Mills, Minneapolis, addressed an issue that’s on the minds of bakers, ingredient suppliers and equipment manufacturers alike: clean.

Mr. Thorson is a member of BEMA’s Baking Industry Forum (BIF), designed to bring bakers and suppliers together to solve common problems in the baking industry.

“’Clean’ actually has several meanings – clean labels, clean equipment – depending on your point of view,” said Ed Fay, president, CMC America, sponsor of the BIF presentation. “BIF created a hands-on experiment in ‘clean’ that addresses the challenges bakers go through every day.

"Speaking to convention attendees, Mr. Thorson said that bakers must first understand why and how they clean before they can truly understand what “clean” is.

To address these concerns, Mr. Thorson emphasized that the industry must come together, and each facet – bakers, equipment suppliers, chemical suppliers – has a specific role to play for effective and efficient cleaning. “The most important thing everyone needs to understand is that we all need to work as a team,” he said. “Everyone needs a seat at the table, and we need to do this early and often.”

Transparency, Mr. Thorson said, is key. For example, bakers have a responsibility to communicate the types of formulas they plan to run on their lines; traditional baked goods will run differently – and have different cleaning requirements – from trans-fat-free products, he suggested. Additionally, bakers should clearly state their success criteria for specific types of cleaning on equipment. “What is the benchmark for ‘clean’ that I’m expecting from this system or type of equipment?’” he asked.

Cleaning method and frequency are critical for an equipment manufacturer to understand.

From their side, equipment suppliers must provide a clear list of materials of construction, Mr. Thorson advised. “Are there polymers, elastomers, metals or soft metals that are sensitive to certain chemistry or cleaning processes?” he asked, also noting the importance of disassembly instructions for proper cleaning.

“Don’t overdesign,” he added. “My risk and threshold for sanitary design is different for a dry environment vs. a wet environment. Don’t spend extra money and resources unnecessarily.

“From a chemical supplier standpoint, Mr. Thorson asked the suppliers to set clear parameters such as temperatures and time for cleaning. “What mechanical actions need to happen for an adequate clean?” he asked.

Bringing these things to the table together is, according to Mr. Thorson, the first step toward developing proactive sanitation plans that will ultimately eliminate the necessary downtime that currently occurs for cleaning. “This is how we facilitate and maintain good discussions that lead to food safety and ultimately get us closer to that goal of minimizing time for cleaning while also minimizing food safety risk.”