(April 16) LOS ANGELES — There is more that goes into building a processing facility than just bricks and mortar.

In fact, those bricks and mortar had better be cleaned and sanitized first.

Don Graham, owner of Graham Sanitary Design, Chesterfield, Mo., said new stresses have been placed on the food chain in recent years, including new strains of foodborne bacteria — and consumer demand for ready to eat foods.

Because of those strains, Graham said, a sanitary design for a food processing plant is more important than ever.

“Sanitation and sanitary design are true partners,” he said.

Graham spoke at a panel discussion on fresh-cut facility design that took place during the International Fresh-cut Produce Association’s annual conference April 12 in Los Angeles.

Graham was joined on the panel by George Bachnivsky, a principal in MSKTD & Associates Inc., Fort Wayne, Ind., and Bruce Paulson, vice president of Evapco Inc., Owatonna, Minn.

Bachnivsky said sanitary design must start with the layout of the site where the plant is to be constructed.
“You have to look at vehicular circulation,” he said. “How are trucks coming into the site, and what is their reaction with (on-site) personnel? You want to keep truckers out of the plant.”

Bachnivsky said it also is important to isolate cracks and crevices to keep vermin out and to keep vegetation (trees, flowers, etc.) at least 150 feet away from the plant doors.

Product flow also is important, he said. Planners have to make sure incoming and outgoing product are kept separated.

“Don’t let the product return upon itself,” he said.

Bachnivsky said everything from the floor to the ceiling must be properly designed to minimize the ability of contaminants to enter the facility and to ease in the cleaning of each area.

Paulson, meanwhile, discussed the best options for air circulation and ventilation inside a processing facility. Proper air control and filtration is necessary, he said, to help contain and destroy airborne contaminants.

“Contaminants are continually falling from the air,” he said.