It’s always been in the best interests of commissaries and other food facilities to keep their operations as clean and sanitary as possible. One food safety slipup can mean lost sales, or, in extreme cases, going out of business.

With the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) in 2011, the stakes were raised even higher. FSMA, the biggest reform of food safety laws in the U.S. since 1938, gives the U.S. Food and Drug Administration broad enforcement powers.

Not only is it now in operators’ interest to up their food safety games — it’s the law.

In July 2016, an amendment to FSMA’s rule governing food facilities was released. Among other things, facilities must submit a Hazard Analysis Risk-based Preventive Controls (HARPC) plan to the government.

Commissaries and other facilities have to work harder than ever to keep their operations clean and sanitized. With new technologies paving the way, they’re rising to the occasion.   

Douglas Machines Corp. offers a full line of commercial and industrial washers for the bakery, food processing and other industries.

With more than 80 standard batch and continuous washers, Clearwater, Florida-based Douglas can supply the needs of customers who need to clean several hundred — or several thousand — containers an hour.

And with the recent opening of its new manufacturing center in Clearwater, Douglas is better equipped than ever to meet customers’ cleaning and sanitizing needs, says Kevin Lemen, the company’s marketing manager.

“Increased capacity will result in shorter lead times for our customers,” Lemen says. “Potential customers want to verify the anticipated cleaning rates and cleaning effectiveness for their specific containers and soil types. Testing their containers at different rates in a machine similar to the one proposed allows us to confirm this.”

If a special version of Douglas’s equipment is needed to be affective, such as increased horsepower or extra spray nozzles, it can be determined by the company engineers who observe the tests.

The move to the 68,000-square-foot facility is the culmination of a nearly two-year transition that has seen Douglas triple the size of its manufacturing, assembly, testing and shipping areas, Lemen says. New state-of-the-art computer modeling technology and metal fabricating equipment — including Mazak Laser Cutters and Accurpress Press Brakes — will increase both efficiency and quality, he says.

In addition, the new plant’s dedicated wash test and research area will help Douglas’s clients confirm cleaning effectiveness and throughput rates using different models — benefits that are becoming more and more important in the FSMA age.

“FSMA requires standard operation procedures that can be verified,” Lemen says. “Automated cleaning equipment is more reliable than washing by hand and easier to document.”

To keep up with industry trends in cleaning and sanitizing technologies, Douglas provides optional data loggers and PLCs for customers who want them, Lemen says.

“Customers want to track data such as wash times, wash temperatures, rinse temperatures, and wash and rinse pressures to insure correct procedures and equipment operation.”

Commissaries are becoming a bigger part of Douglas’s business, as more and more companies start to see the benefits of centralized food prep, Lemen says.

“Larger production facilities use multiple containers and larger quantities of each making cleaning them a more important and time-consuming task,” he says. “Automated washing makes it more convenient and cost effective to keep up with these growing demands.” 

Automation is changing the way foodservice establishments operate at maximum efficiency, cleanliness and safety, says Whitney Murphy, marketing manager for branding, content and partnerships for Mendota, Minnesota-based Restaurant Technologies Inc.

“Kitchens, delis and back-of-house areas are becoming ‘smarter’ with automated technologies that take the strain of workers and deliver quality food product to customers,” she says.

Restaurant Technologies tries to keep pace with its clients’ evolving needs, Murphy says, by asking a simple question: What back of house job can we make safer and smarter via technology?

In the grocery deli, bakery and prepared foods world, Restaurant Technologies is best known for its Total Oil Management system. But the company’s newest product, a cleaner, is continuing to gain traction in the industry, Murphy says.

AutoMist, currently available in Florida and Minnesota and rolling out on a market-by-market basis, cleans hoods, flues and fans with a powerful spray mixture of detergent and water to prevent hazardous grease buildup, Murphy says.

The product is a safe, cost-effective alternative to traditional cleaning methods, in which hoods and flues are cleaned on a quarterly or semi-annual basis. Cleaning crews, Murphy says, use harsh chemicals an often leave a mess or damaged equipment. 

“Our system eliminates the need for these costly, messy cleanups by automating the entire process,” she says. “AutoMist also minimizes fire risk every day by keeping the hood, flue and fan area clean.”

With daily cleanings, grease no longer accumulates over time, which helps keep the operation clean and employees safe, Murphy says.

In addition to automation, keeping up with new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) regulations is top of mind for providers of cleaning and sanitizing solutions, Murphy says.

“FSMA has made the industry as a whole shift to preventing food contamination rather than only focusing on reaction methods,” she says.  

It’s easier to keep facilities clean and sanitized if there’s less waste to begin with, and Restaurant Technologies has worked with its customers to make sure their kitchens and other facilities are as “green” as possible.

“Sustainable practices have become a primary objective for many foodservice operators and will continue to be the trend,” Murphy says. “Operators are finally realizing that green technology helps decrease waste, reduce their environmental footprint and increase recycling. Many are turning to their vendor partners to find new solutions, and our technology is one of the many solutions that help operators achieve their sustainability objectives.”

Penn Valley, California-based Best Sanitizers Inc.’s Alpet line of hand soaps, hand sanitizers and surface sanitizers are commonly used in the foodservice industry, says April Zeman-Lowe, the company’s national account manager.

In particular, the company’s Alpet D2 surface sanitizers are extremely effective at sanitizing food and non-food contact surfaces, she says. Ideal for water sensitive equipment, the products kill 99.999% of nine pathogens in 60 seconds on food contact surfaces.

One trend in the industry, Zeman-Lowe says, is an increased awareness among food handlers and manufacturers of the dangers of cross-contamination from footwear. Best Sanitizers’ HACCP SmartStep and Defender Footwear systems, which use Alpet D2, were created to meet that need.

Another trend — demand for environmentally-friendly products — shows no signs of slowing, as products that have potentially harmful ingredients like triclosan are removed from the market, Zeman-Lowe says.

But it’s also important to remember, she says, that the desire for “green” not come at the expense of food safety.

“Pathogens will always be a part of the picture, and they’re not going to go away by themselves. It’s the responsibility of those in the industry to continue to develop products with both the environment and the criticality of food safety at the forefront.”