In the age of COVID-19, sanitizer applications are essential for producers to keep their workforce healthy.
Laurel Dunn, Assistant Professor in the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Georgia, offers several guidelines for using sanitizers and other cleaning products in facilities where vegetable and specialty crops are cleaned and packaged.
Not All Sanitizers are Appropriate
The first step is to realize not all sanitizers are appropriate for equipment or other areas where produce is being handled.
“Sanitizers in general are a bit trickier because it depends on where you’re using them. If you’re using them to clean your floors or your bathrooms or things like that, you can use whatever,” Dunn said.
“If you’re using anything that’ll contact your food contact surfaces; your conveyors, packing equipment and stuff like that, then you have to go through your EPA registrations and make sure you’re using something that’s appropriate and approved for use on the food and is also adequate to inactivate something like the coronavirus.
“You might be trying to deal with your microbial concerns by using that sanitizer, and in doing so, put a chemical hazard right in your food product.”
Another tip to remember is that sanitizers work better on surfaces that are free of dirt. Also, remember that sanitizers need time to work so don’t spray and then wipe off immediately.
“Another thing we see a lot too, and I’m guilty in my own house, is using a sanitizer and spraying it on dirt, which, that doesn’t do a lot of good. You need to have it pretty clean,” Dunn said.
“Then also spraying a sanitizer and wiping it off immediately. A lot of our sanitizers need like 30 seconds to a couple of minutes to work. You have to make sure you’re using the right thing, but also make sure you’re using it correctly.”
Dunn said COVID-19 is a “relatively puny virus” compared to others so it will react quickly to the various sanitizers available.