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By Andy Nelson

KANSAS CITY, MO. — With COVID has come an increase in demand for products that clean and sanitize the equipment used to produce foods sold in retail perimeter departments.

Companies that specialize in making those products have met the challenge with innovations that help ensure retailers and their suppliers maintain the highest food safety standards.

For cleaning and sanitizing equipment, St. Paul, Minn.-based Ecolab recently launched S&S Sanitizer, a revolutionary and easy-to-use, 3-in-1 cleaner, sanitizer and virucide that kills SARS-CoV-2 in 15 seconds and Norovirus in 30 seconds, said Adam Johnson, vice president and general manager of Ecolab Food Retail Services.

EPA-registered to use as a no-rinse food contact cleaner and sanitizer, S&S allows retailers to reduce risk while saving time and labor by using just one product to clean and sanitize equipment and high-touch points across the store.

“We also offer a variety of solutions for the fresh department that go beyond just equipment sanitation,” Johnson said.

For example, Ecolab’s ProduceMAXX is an antimicrobial water additive that can significantly reduce potential cross-contamination and enhance the quality of fresh produce. For the floral department, the company makes FloraFresh, which can extend shelf-life and maintain the freshness of flowers.

The most recent evolution in the equipment cleaning and sanitizing industry has been providing customers with products that combat the coronavirus. Ecolab offers sanitizers and disinfectants that kill a range of viruses, along with a robust line of concentrated and RTU hand soaps and sanitizers to help prevent the spread of germs, Johnson said.

Harnessing the power of digital, Johnson said Ecolab provides its customers with information and insights they need to improve compliance and reduce risk in their operations.

The company’s Marketguard 365, for example, is a checklist food safety and compliance management program that combines digital technology with Ecolab’s food retail industry knowledge and field expertise to deliver improved food safety protection and streamlined operations, Johnson said.

One of the main roadblocks retailers are facing when it comes to food safety and any number of other areas of their business is labor shortages. To help them overcome those problems, Ecolab offers a full line of mechanical warewash solutions that automate and simplify the warewashing process, delivering consistently clean and sanitized wares every time.

“Utilizing the Ecolab warewash program in a high food preparation area can save retailers 60% of their labor otherwise spent manually washing wares, enabling them to focus on serving the shopper,” Johnson said.

Properly cleaned and sanitized equipment is always important, as it plays a critical control factor to reduce the risk of foodborne illness, Johnson said.

COVID made retailers, their supplier partners and consumers think even more about public health controls in addition to standard food safety protocols. To address that, Ecolab has implemented products and programs to help advance public health and food safety practices and drive consumer confidence, Johnson said.

One example is the Ecolab Science Certified program, which combines advanced chemistries with public health and food safety training and periodic auditing to help businesses achieve a higher level of cleanliness while building consumer and employee confidence.

New era, new demands

In the age of COVID-19, cleaning in food handling facilities has become more than just a food safety concern, said Ulyana Stebelska, R&D director for Kieler, Wis.-based PSSI.

The virus that causes COVID-19 disease can land on surfaces, making it possible for people to become infected when they touch these surfaces and then touch their nose, mouth, or eyes, she said. High-touch surfaces such as display cases, shelves, counters, and handles need to be cleaned and sanitized at a higher frequency to combat the transmission of the virus.

“Developing and implementing robust sanitation programs that address both food safety and COVID-19 transmission is the task the food handling industry is faced with since the beginning of the pandemic,” Stebelska said.

One of PSSI’s new contributions to that fight is Microbarrier Elite, which offers antimicrobial protection of surfaces between cleanings. A ready-to-use water-based formulation, Microbarrier Elite, when applied to porous and non-porous food and non-food contact surfaces, creates a protective shield, which inhibits the growth of odor- and stain-causing bacteria, fungi (mold and mildew), and algae between cleanings for up to 90 days.

It can be applied to surfaces by spraying or fogging, with no-rinse required, Stebelska said.

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