One area of the grocery store perimeter is often overlooked when it comes to food safety because it’s not seen — literally.

How many people, whether it’s consumers or employees, think to look up when they’re walking the aisles of the instore deli or bakery or fresh produce or meat section? That’s exactly what Phoenix-based OSA Specialized Cleaning does when it goes to work, and it can make a big difference when it comes to food safety.

OSA specializes in making sure that the ceilings of grocery stores are free of dirt and other materials that, if they found their way into the foods below, could create major food safety-related headaches.

“I think what separates us from other cleaners is our drive to clean areas other people may not want to,” said Brad Pierce, OSA’s owner. “This means doing whatever we can to reach high areas, such as using a taller lift or taking the time to clean areas that may not be visible from the floor.”

Just because the client or their customers can’t see an area of dirt and grime is not an excuse to avoid cleaning that area, he adds. Those unclean areas can still present a health risk.

And it’s not just retailers are realizing that.

“Currently we only work with retailers, but we’re considering working with their suppliers as well. We do extensive work with central kitchens since restaurant and kitchen cleaning is one of our specialties. If a business has a cafeteria or food onsite, then we are the perfect fit for high ceiling cleaning and dusting.”

For most of its retail grocery jobs, OSA uses a lift so it can clean sprinkler systems and remove dust that frequently accumulates on the open architecture ceilings commonly seen in most grocery stores, Pierce said.

In the perimeter, the instore bakery, meat department and areas where prepared foods are fried are among the places where dirt and grime can accumulate quickly on ceilings.

Not that it’s easy to see. “Out of sight, out of mind” is a trap that many retailers fall into, Pierce said.

“A grocery store owner might put off high ceiling cleaning and dusting because dirt on the ceiling is harder to see than dirt on the floor,” he said. “However, it’s only a matter of time until gravity catches up with you and a large dust bunny falls from the ceiling and onto your produce.”

The cleanliness of your grocery store, Pierce added, speaks to the quality of your business. No customer is going to think a grocery store is worth going to if they think dirt and grime are going to fall from the ceiling and onto their food.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule dictating how often grocery stores should clean their ceilings, Pierce said. It depends on where you live.

OSA is based in Arizona, where dust storms are a frequent occurrence, which means grocery stores hire the company three or four times a year. Grocery stores in other states may only need to conduct high ceiling cleaning once a year.

Whatever the frequency, Pierce said ceiling cleaning is an essential part of the food safety process, and more and more retailers are getting onboard.

“Customers walk into a grocery store with the expectation that the place where they get their food is going to be clean and sterile,” he said.