Frequent news headlines tell the story of foodborne illness, with incidents occurring at some level on an almost monthly basis.
Salmonella and Camplyobacter, commonly found in raw chicken and turkey, have remained persistent issues in U.S. processing plants. In an effort to improve the safety of the nation’s food supply, on October 20, 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) implemented its new Modernization of Poultry New Slaughter Inspection Regulation.
Poultry Inspection Modernization
Despite some improvements over the years, the basic method of inspecting poultry slaughter facilities has remained the same since the 1950’s -- federal inspectors manually and visually check carcasses for defects as they came down the inspection line. This traditional procedure alone does not scientifically address today’s food safety issues, that is, it does not identify microscopic pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses. Thus, as part of the modernization, the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) was created.1
There are voluntary and mandatory components to the NPIS. At the time of this writing (Sept. 2015), approximately twenty major U.S. poultry processing facilities have reportedly implemented the voluntary component of the system, which among other adjustments, requires participating companies to perform their own microbiological testing at two separate points within their production process. Fourteen more facilities are said to be starting the voluntary program this month.2
Beyond the voluntary system, the stringent mandatory component of the NPIS requires every U.S. poultry facility to document how it plans to control Salmonella, Campylobacter and other threats to food safety. In other words, poultry companies must now take steps to prevent contamination, rather than simply address the issue after the fact. Companies must also prove to FSIS through new testing requirements that the steps they’ve taken to control dangerous food pathogens are effective.
Failing to implement successful pathogen control measures can result in inspectors imposing penalties, including suspending operations.3 It’s no wonder that managers of poultry facilities are taking the new regulations seriously.
But with so much to think about, is there something they may be overlooking – something that could buttress managers’ efforts to maintain a safer, more sanitary environment?
How the Right Flooring Supports Pathogen Control
Flooring is present in every room within a facility and can generously support – or dramatically hinder -- pathogen control efforts. Because concrete by nature is porous, the USDA and FDA place requirements on food facility construction when it comes to floors. Compliant fluid-applied flooring, which can be comprised of epoxies, acrylics (methyl methacrylate or MMA), urethanes, polyaspartics or other polymer resins, combined with a variety of powders and aggregates, offers a broad spectrum of benefits to food processing, preparation and packaging operations generally. However, each type of polymer resin floor, when installed in a particular manner, offers a unique set of performance characteristics. So, it is important that the flooring be carefully selected to handle the activity taking place.
For poultry facilities, resinous flooring made of cementitious urethane resin provides exceptional advantages to operations concerned with minimizing the presence of dangerous pathogens. Below are just three of its many benefits:
Monolithic, Bonded Surface
Free of grout lines and virtually seamless, cementitious urethane resinous floors help eliminate the risk of microbes forming in grooves or cracks. Integral floor-to-wall coving allows fluids to easily run off, rather than settle into, the joints where floor and wall meet. The finish can be easily customized for slip-resistance during installation to accommodate the activities of a given space and/or worker safety requirements without sacrificing cleanability. Cementitious urethane mortar can be used by installers to slope the floor surface downward toward the drain, coat curbs, trenches and a variety of topography as needed. It goes without saying that this monolithic, gap-free design makes an undesirable home for microbes.
Equally significant, resinous flooring is completely bonded to the concrete substrate. Unlike rigid tile, brick or sheet flooring that can allow for dark moist, pockets of mold or bacteria to develop between the underside of the flooring and the concrete substrate, fluid-applied resinous floors actually fill in the porous concrete surface, essentially becoming one with the slab, leaving little room for unseen pockets to develop. As a result, this type of flooring entirely bonds with the concrete in an optimal, highly hygienic construction.
Antimicrobial and Easy to Sanitize
While antimicrobial additive can be requested for any type of resinous fluid-applied floor, high quality cementitious urethane flooring often comes with an antimicrobial agent incorporated as a standard feature of the product. This provides an already superior flooring solution with an even higher level of permanent protection throughout the depth of the floor topping.
When it comes to cleaning and disinfecting, cementitious urethane once again wins over its epoxy, acrylic and other rivals in its ability to withstand the harshest of cleaning solutions. Its nearly unparalleled ability to withstand exposure to the chemicals and extreme pH of food processing also makes cementitious urethane flooring a star when sanitization protocols are implemented.
Thermal Shock Resistance and Moisture Tolerance
Poultry plant environments can severely challenge the durability of standard floor coverings. In such a consistently wet environment where the concrete slab can never be made “bone dry”, installation of standard flooring options can be severely compromised from the start. And, as a refrigerated poultry processing room gets regularly hosed down, hot power washed or steam-cleaned, the wet, moist conditions and extreme temperature cycling can begin to break down the surface and compromise the bond of typical industrial flooring. The resulting microscopic cracks, tiny surface breaches and hidden pockets that develop in inferior flooring may not be initially visible to the naked eye, yet can be an invitation for undesirable microbes to run amuck. Once this occurs, having to replace the floor earlier than expected may be the least of the facility’s sanitation concerns.
In contrast, resinous urethane cement flooring, possessing excellent long-term thermal shock resistance and moisture tolerance, stays bonded to the concrete, its antimicrobial, easy-to-disinfect surface intact, even in the face of the most challenging poultry facility conditions.
A Strong Ally in Pathogen Control
The combination of high performance materials and design makes USDA-compliant urethane cement flooring a strong ally in the fight against Salmonella, Camplyobacter and other dangerous microorganisms in poultry slaughter and processing operations. The floor’s impervious, monolithic and tightly bonded surface, easy cleaning characteristics and antimicrobial protection are just the beginning. Over time, the outstanding tolerance to ongoing moisture, harsh cleaning chemicals and thermal cycling allow this durable flooring solution to demonstrate reliable, hygienic service over its long usable life.
Overall, cementitious urethane flooring furnishes unparalleled pathogen-control support for facilities facing the new microbiological testing and reporting requirements of the USDA’s recently modernized poultry slaughter inspection regulations.
1. Poultry Slaughter Modernization http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/3b7e7781-c17e-4f73-810f-f66a904f66f3/Poultry-Slaughter-FAQ_073114.pdf?MOD=AJPERES
2. Food and Water Watch Blog, Sept. 1, 2015, by Tony Corbo.
About the author
Sophia Daukus is a Business Development Manager for Florock Polymer Flooring, manufactured by Crawford Laboratories, Inc., Chicago. Founded in 1952, Florock offers one of the most complete lines of epoxy flooring and concrete floor coatings on the market with decorative, high performance solutions to address the unique conditions of nearly every application. From manufacturing to food processing, from education to retail and beyond, Florock provides facilities across a broad spectrum of industries with optimal protection and outstanding flooring value.