According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), an estimated 1,600 people get sick from listeriosis–listeria–each year. Of those 1,600 people, 260 of them died from the illness, which is most likely to affect pregnant women, newborns, older adults, or those with weakened immune systems. It is a serious problem that only continues to grow in severity as food production facilities work to ensure that their facilities are kept clean and properly sanitized.
What is Listeria?
Listeria, scientifically known as listeriosis, is a severe food-borne illness that is caused by eating food that is contaminated with the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. It is a serious problem that affects countless people every year and results in hundreds of deaths. In fact, the mortality rate for listeria is higher than any other foodborne illness. It is especially dangerous for pregnant women, who can suffer from miscarriages, stillbirths, and even newborn deaths. Babies who contract listeria require immediate care, otherwise they may face serious and lifelong health problems that can even result in death.
Where Does it Come From?
The L. monocytogenes bacteria grows in all types of environments, but is primarily found in moist environments, such as soil, water, sewage, and even decaying vegetable matter. But, L. monocytogenes can also survive and grow in cold and even freezing temperatures. It is transmitted when food goes through any steps of the food production process while contamination is present. This includes processing, preparation, packaging, transporting, and even storage.
What makes listeria particularly dangerous is that it is impossible to detect. Contaminated foods do not smell, look, or taste any different than non-contaminated foods, so you won't know unless you show symptoms. Furthermore, it can grow into a bacterial biofilm, which is difficult to kill and remove from surfaces.
Listeria and Floor Drains
Listeria thrives most in wet, dark places. This means that it is commonly found in places like floor drains within food processing facilities. Unfortunately, it is incredibly easy for listeria to spread within food production facilities, especially where drains are involved.
- It can spread simply by employees walking over contaminated drain grates and then spreading it to uncontaminated parts of the facility.
- Fruit flies and other insects are also notorious for spreading listeria from drains to production equipment and other areas.
- It can also spread during the cleaning of the drain system. Specifically, pressure washers can send listeria into the air where it can travel, while scrubbing brushes and buckets can lead to cross-contamination as you clean other parts of the drain.
- If a drain becomes clogged, it can flood, which also has the potential to spread listeria to your floors. The cleanup of this type of flooding can lead to the further spread of listeria.
Preventing Listeria in Drains
Since it is easy for listeria to spread due to ineffective floor drainage, preventing listeria in drains is critical. The FDA has specific guidelines dedicated to the prevention of the spread of listeria in food facilities and ready-to-eat food producers. While there are many steps that a facility can take (according to the FDA), one major area of focus is with the floor drains of a facility.
Employees who clean the drain systems should not touch or handle food in any capacity without changing their uniforms and protective gear, thoroughly washing and sanitizing their hands, and putting on clean gloves. All of this is essential, as listeria can cling to their clothing and end up spreading if they do not take the correct precautions before handling food products or other equipment.
Another important requirement the FDA has outlined for listeria prevention is ensuring that all employees, both maintenance and food production, follow the same hygiene requirements. Ensuring that everyone follows strict hygiene measures will help to reduce the spread of listeria and other bacteria significantly.
One of the simpler, but still critica,l FDA guidelines is proper drain design. Floor drains should feature a design that makes them easily accessible for cleaning, and be manufactured using materials that help to prevent the growth of bacteria. Additionally, any floor drains should feature a design that eliminates the possibility of standing water, (where listeria can easily grow) and drain backups that can lead to flooding.
If drains become backed up and flood over into any food preparation areas, food production must stop immediately. Stopping production until the problem is solved and the mess is cleaned will help prevent any listeria contamination from spreading to products, but it can be very costly in terms of maintenance and lost production time.
Choosing the Right Drain
Having the right floor drain in your food facility is essential to prevent the spread of bacteria and illnesses such as listeria. To ensure the safest possible food production, the FDA has defined specific requirements that a floor drain needs to meet in a food processing facility. The drainage systems in these facilities need to be sanitary, easy to clean, and capable of large flow rates to prevent flooding, to name just a few features.
FoodSafe Drains offer low profile drainage systems for the food and beverage industry that meet the specific, strict FDA requirements and recommendations. The Slot Drain system is unique in its design, as it is a linear system with a slim channel opening that doesn't require a grate. It features a bacteria and corrosion-resistant, food-grade stainless steel body that arrives fully assembled and ready to install. Stainless steel is also helpful in preventing the formation of biofilm since it is non-porous, and the bacteria have nothing to cling to. The design also prevents liquids from splashing out of the trench, which reduces the potential for cross-contamination as well as being a slip hazard.
Slot Drain is very easy to clean, with specialized cleaning instruments, clean-in-place, and even self-flushing options available to make cleaning and sanitation a breeze. Slot Drain is an incredibly durable system that can handle flow rates of up to 33 grams per minute, and up to 10,000 pounds of weight.
Listeria is one of the biggest concerns for food and beverage facilities. While it can spread in many ways, drain contamination is usually the primary culprit. Having the right drainage system and knowing proper sanitation techniques is vital in preventing listeria contamination. Slot Drain is an effective trench drain system that is ideal for food and beverage facilities. Their drains are sanitary systems that prevent the spread of bacterias and foodborne illnesses like listeria, and help maintain clean, safe facilities.
Contact FoodSafe Drains today to speak with an expert on drainage and preventing listeria.