If Karl Thorson had a bucket list, his first wish would be that the bucket never contains water when it comes to cleaning bakeries. For Mr. Thorson, food safety and sanitation manager at Minneapolis-based General Mills, water may be the source of life, but then again, maybe that’s the problem.

All types of living things grow because of it, and not all of them — like listeria — are necessarily good.

“If we’re going to make a change in the food industry, especially in the production of low-moisture foods, we are going to have to control water,” he said. “It is the root of all of our evils, especially when related to pathogen risks.”

Mr. Thorson has developed a hierarchy of cleaning methods that specifically apply to the baking and snack industries.

“Our ultimate goal is zero cleaning,” he observed. In some applications, flushing a system with salt or another abrasive ingredient can loosen up debris and facilitate dry cleaning. He also suggested using alcohol-based cleaners/sanitizers to loosen up caked-on materials. For wet cleaning, the best alternatives are clean-in-place systems followed by controlled spot cleaning. Moreover, removable components can be shuttled to a remote, enclosed washing area for cleaning away from the production floor.

“The worst-case scenario, in my mind — and at the bottom of the list — is flood cleaning and dragging out the hoses and doing what one does in the meat industry by washing down the ceilings, walls and equipment with copious amounts of water,” he noted.

For more details for best practices in sanitation, check out Mr. Thorson’s education poster for the International Association for Food Protection annual meeting, which runs July 8-11 in Salt Lake City.