Engineers should specify materials and design layouts that make food-handling facilities easy to clean, with adequate water flow and an efficient drainage system.

Best design practices at facilities where food is handled can help drastically reduce foodborne illnesses.

Manufacturing and food processing/packaging plants play a pivotal role in our society today. With less than 5 percent of people hunting and gathering their own food, most of us rely on food that has been prepared for us. Some of this food is rather easy to transfer and package thousands of miles across the country with very little risk of contamination. Some of it, on the other hand, can require a lot of discipline and awareness to keep the customers who will eventually eat it from becoming ill.

Animal products and food such as bread that is easily contaminated are some of the most common culprits of foodborne illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that almost 48 million people per year are affected by foodborne illnesses. Of those, 3,000 die each year.

These diseases can be prevented almost entirely by proper prevention methods. While they will never be entirely eliminated, best design practices at facilities where food is handled can help drastically reduce the number of foodborne illnesses contracted each year. Sanitation and cleanliness protocols are essential at these facilities, as well as the need for efficient drainage.

To better understand how food-handling facilities can design drains to be more efficient, following are some of the factors to consider when planning the drainage system of a facility that handles food products.

Build a cleanable facility — The first step is to use materials and design layouts that make the facility easy to clean. Make sure there is room between pipes and the walls for cleaning, and use washable jackets on insulated pipes. Caulk the perimeter of backer boards and use stainless steel plumbing. If a facility has any unreachable corner, it’s likely that area can become infected. An overall easy-to-reach facility means it can be cleaned consistently throughout.

Ensure adequate water flow — Many facilities can’t provide enough hot water for cleaning, or the water pressure fluctuates. This is a problem because high-pressure hot water is needed to clean properly.

This can be prevented by conducting a flow test on the facility and sizing backflow prevention devices to minimize pressure drops. A hot water recirculating system can also help make sure that hot water is always available for cleaning hands and washing dishes.

To best determine hot water needs during cleaning, perform a complete analysis of demands. Is there a water defrost on the blast freezer? Will the entire plant be washed down at the same time or will different areas be washed at different times? How many different hose stations will be running at one time? All of these questions will help straighten out water flow.

Install an efficient drainage system — This might be the most important thing to get right when it comes to preventing foodborne illnesses. Proper sanitary drainage will not only help keep a facility clean for employees, it will prevent potential contamination of products.

There are many types of sanitary drainage systems available. Some types of drainage aren’t suited for certain types of wastes, so the content of waste is another consideration. Whether producing solids or grease waste, the facility needs the correct waste systems with the right interceptors to mitigate potential contaminants.

Also, know what kind of traffic will be running over drains. Is it going to be a lot of foot traffic or will heavy vehicles and machinery also be running over the drains? A cracked-open drain grate can cause injury. Pitching floors is a good idea so that that waste naturally flows to the drain on its own.

Also make sure that indirect waste receptors are large enough to handle the anticipated level of flow and that floor sinks are big enough to prevent backup or splashing at full flow. It’s also a bad idea to run waste piping below a freezer. The temperature fluctuation will cause clogging, poor flow, leakage, and fractures over time.

Other considerations — There are a variety of other things to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining a clean facility. Good ventilation is important and employees should be wearing the proper equipment such as facemasks before beginning cleaning. Ensure that employees have access to goggles, leather gloves, and non-slip shoes. Cotton gloves are not ok to use because they can catch in the cable.

Prevent cross-contamination by keeping sanitary and plant waste systems completely separate.

Following all of these steps and taking everything into consideration during plant design can effectively minimize the chance of spreading a foodborne illness.

Information provided by Slot Drain Systems (