Dry Footwear Sanitation Tech Talk from Food Safety Summit

In early May, Meritech attended Food Safety Summit in Illinois. It was a great opportunity to network and speak with a variety of vendors within the food safety world. Our CTO, Paul Barnhill, was given the chance to speak in one of the 'Tech Tents' located around the convention hall. The presentation was so informative and engaging, that we wanted to make it available online! Be sure to watch the entire video and read through the transcript of the talk provided below for more insights and valuable information!


Transcript of the Dry Footwear Sanitation Tech Talk

Food Safety Summit Host: I am pleased to introduce Paul Barnhill Chief Technology Officer at Meritech.

Meritech CTO Paul Barnhill: Today we're going to talk about footwear sanitation in dry environments or dry footwear sanitation. So just to give you a quick background on myself, as she had said, I'm Paul Barnhill, Chief Technology Officer for Meritech. I've been with Meritech, a little over 31 years, and all focused on really employee hygiene, what can you do for a plant and an operation done that work for for medical device companies have done that for pharmaceutical companies. But the bulk of my time I've spent in food manufacturing facilities, working on methods and technologies to better sanitize staff members as they come into plants.

Paul Barnhill: So we have a short period of time. Hopefully there's a little bit of time for questions and answers at the end. If not, please come take and visit us. Meritech at booth 109. I would love to be able to answer any questions you have or demonstrate the products that we're going to go over today.

Paul Barnhill: Okay. So really, when we get started in this and there, there are several key topics about how do we design out a really good footwear sanitation program for your plants. And you really need to have one of the very first things you got to figure out what to do is can it be validated. Not only is that validation done by the manufacturer of that sanitizer or that chemical, but can that validation process be additionally done internally within your facility. So is there that methodology that you have in place or procedures that you have in place and has your manufacturer of that product, given you the means of being able to validate that process.

Paul Barnhill: Additionally, is that process consistent? Not only is it consistent from from plant to plant, but entrance to entrance to make sure that you are following that process the right way. One of those larger challenges that I see often in food plants is when you have maybe a main entrance where you have a really good consistent process for footwear sanitation, but it may not be the same where your maintenance staff are coming into the facility, they may come in different ways, or there may be other outside influences. So you need to make sure that you're looking at that consistency, and it carries throughout every one of those processes.

Paul Barnhill: The next one is location. Obviously, you know footwear. Sanitation is super important when people are coming into the plant. But is that location really ideal that you're getting everybody in again back into that consistent manner to make sure that they're taking the time doing what they need to do following your process and procedure? And then lastly, is it easy to use for your staff. By far the most important thing that we do is make sure that this is simple and easy and understandable for our diverse culture of staff members. And that is one of the key aspects that we look at as meritech of any hygiene program that we put forward is making sure that we're achieving that as our number one goal. Number one goal is easy, simple, fast, understandable. Two, does it meet that efficacy data that you need to have? And three, is it repeatable? Can you do this every single time multiple times multiple ways so that you can get that validation?

Paul Barnhill: Okay, so let's dive into really kind of the five different topics that we're gonna go over today. We're going to touch briefly on all those and then near the end, we'll talk about what meritech offers to handle this challenge. But we're gonna talk briefly about dry cloth powder and pellets. We're going to talk about booties, we're going to talk about UV sanitation, tacky mats. And then lastly, we'll talk about what Meritech offers, which is their CleanTech® EVO station or CleanTech® EVO Three station with the Sole Clean system.

Paul Barnhill: So let's go over shoe covers and booties we've all seen them. We've all been in those plants that have them and they have some pros and cons that go with them. Some of the pros is that they are brand new every single time that you're somebody is using them over and over again. That is one of those things but when people look at those, what is your main objective? Are you worried about debris and soils? Or is pathogen concern the bigger or is it both? Is it some people like maybe visitors or something or wearing a bootie and that's that's what you're wanting to cover? But some of the pitfalls of booties is one you putting them on? So your donning and doffing this bootie, you have to have space for that.

Paul Barnhill: One of the challenges now that we're seeing in food manufacturing is we have an older work staff within that older work staff this becomes a little bit more challenging for them to be able to put on and take off. Also understand whenever a bootie has been taped, put on or taken off, does need to have a hygiene intervention step both times both when you're donning it, and especially when you're doffing that, for the simple fact that you don't want to have to be able to compromise that person's own hand hygiene, as well as then whatever it goes into the plant. The other challenges is that can be slippery. But one of the largest that we look at when we talk about booties, is it preventing the pathogens from moving around? Is it preventing that pathogen from going through that booty? Or is it just protect protecting that boot and or the environment for many debris and soils?

Paul Barnhill:  Then we have tacky mats with tacky mats, they're really good at entrances, they're very good for collecting those debris and soils. And if those pathogens are on those debris in soils, they'll actually be picked up. But if you have a large facility, you have a large number of people migrating through your main entrances that are covered by attacking mat, you may be compromised in that tacky mat after the first maybe dozen people and then it loses its effectiveness. So you may have to be switching that out more often. Or if people are just kind of moving through quickly. And then all of a sudden, it's not changed out. One of the things I've seen about tacky mats is that people will change them out initially when they're new, and they're so forth. But it doesn't stay consistent. So back to that one thing. We talked about a good hygiene program, a footwear hygiene program is are you doing it consistently? Are you able to make sure that somebody's got a routine to where they're doing it often? Again? Are you preventing those pathogens? Is it picking up those pathogens? Are those pathogens living? Or are they actually being compromised by that? Then we're going again to two other topics here.

Paul Barnhill: One, we got the UV sanitation now I threw this in here. The reason I threw this in here is it's been brought up a few times of is this a good method? Is this a way that you can prevent pathogen growth? I really have a renewable product and so forth? The answer is there's not really good science behind it. The fact is, is that UV is a known proven way of killing bacteria. But it takes time. UV sanitizer is often used in hospital rooms, they can clean a room in about 40-45 minutes. I don't know any plant operator that's got about 40-45 minutes for an employee to stand on a machine to sanitize their footwear. So the science isn't really backing it up. Obviously, the time is not backing it up, it seems a little gimmicky to me. But if somebody comes forward with the science, I'll be more than glad to read it and understand it. The other challenges with it that I see is if you have to breathe in soils and pathogens that already exist, can it penetrate and answer that is probably not. So that's one of those problems.

Paul Barnhill: So then the last one I'm going to get into here right now is about dry quat powder or pellets. Now dry quat powder and pellets is commonly used in a lot of the drier plants. It is it is a known standard by many, many facilities. It's It's good if you're using the right amount of product, but where it becomes challenged, is you know you're wanting to keep your plant dry, there's a reason you're wanting to keep it your plant dry. And quat does that but one of the problems with dry quat pellets. If you look at most of the brands are out there, they require some level of moisture to be able to be activated to get that kill levels that you need. One of the challenges with that product also is if you're in a very arid environment, let's say Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, something like that, you may not be getting that natural, humidified air enough to activate that, you might have to add some moisture step that counteracts what you're trying to do in keeping your plant dry. Other problems with it and I remember a plant I did some consulting for many, many years ago. If your plant is vertical in any way, shape or form, this is not the right product for you, that product will end up in places that you really don't want it to be. And if you have catwalks or above space that goes above any type of product processing or production line, that is a risk. You're also replenish it very often.

Paul Barnhill: I want to really point that out that on that QR code. There is a study that is linked in here. I really do want you to kind of get a copy of that. And I'm sure this presentation is available. Post this you can see and look at that study. It's a little bit older, but it's got some very good data in regards to what level of that kill can you really get to as well as a little bit of cost analysis and I believe we're coming out with a cost analysis in comparison to it very soon.

Paul Barnhill: All right, moving on now to what Meritech offers now we're again, we're over here at booth 109. We are demonstrating a bit not in its it's running state of the wetted part of the footwear and you're saying hold it we're talking about dry footwear sanitizing. It's You're still saying it's wet. Well, we're actually using a Santifect D2 in this Meritech product. What it is, is is 50% Alcohol 200 parts per million quat mixture, it dies very rapidly. So what it is, and one of the advantages of of our system is you have a captive audience, we're washing hands 12 seconds, at the same time that we're sanitizing that footwear. There's an advantage, every single sanitizer out there need some time to be effective. And that's what this model will give you. It plugs in like a standard hand sink is the sole clean part of his independent, it, it can adapt to any type of plant, number of personnel that you have, you don't have to have a floor drain that goes with that, again, this is meant for those low moisture or dry environments. And so it's customizable.

Paul Barnhill:  So if you have 10 staff members, you have 1200 staff members, the system is designed in such a way that it can replenish that pan when it needs to based on your specific plant operation. And again, not 100% dry, but it uses alcohol and takes about 15 to 20 seconds, and it's dry as they walk off.

Paul Barnhill: So I want to show a video here real quick. And I'm going to kind of talk us through that video. As we go is it plan? There you go. So what this person does, they walk up, they put their hands directly into the hand washer, they've stepped into the pan, were washing their hands with those 20 jet nozzles in there. On each hand washing sanitizing, rinsing that 12 seconds down below where this individual is standing, that felt mat is actually damp. It's not a pool of the sand effect. It's actually a felt mat, it replenished. So if we look here, again, you'll see right at the end, now that's all customizable by the system. You can have depending on the level the quantity of product that you want in that pan, the amount of time when it goes off if do you want it to be timed? Do you want to be timed based on the number of individuals going through and it just squirts out a small amount that sanitizer right at the end right at that toe area. And all the person does is step in there.

Paul Barnhill: One of the questions asked a lot about this is what do I do about cleaning, cleaning is actually fairly simple with this, all you do is pop out those mats, take them into your clean out of place zone, hose them down, let them dry out, replenish that mat the next day, or just change them out all the time. They're very low cost and they're easy to maintain. The only time you actually replace the felt mat is when you actually see it visibly worn once you see that time to change out, but they are very low cost. Go. So when you're looking at a footwear sanitation program, I always see this a lot.

Paul Barnhill: Often when I'm talking and consulting with food plants about you know, what is the right footwear, you know, we always ask the same questions. Is it comfortable for the staff members? Is it really safe for them to walk around in? Is it meet those two objectives? One of the last objectives I hear from a lot of plant managers and so forth that are doing this? Is that a cleanable footwear? Is it designed in such a way that it can be sanitized effectively either in a wet clean or in a dry clean like in our environment? So is the sole pattern designed in such a way? What does that use look like? Are we dealing with heavy debris and soils? Are we dealing with powders or something that may be more complicated like rice or something like that that may be dry, that can become impacted debris? So how are you choosing your footwear?

Paul Barnhill: Yes, we want to footwear that is safe for the staff to use. We want to have footwear that is comfortable for the staff to use. But thirdly, we really need a footwear that is designed to be sanitary. So when we look at that, that footwear and when we look at that sanitation of that footwear, we want to understand okay, how do we show you a validated study that shows how we're going to clean that footwear, sanitize it, but how are we going to help you to understand how do you create a methodology for your own validation for auditors and so forth when you go into that next phase.

Paul Barnhill: And so when you look at that as one of those methods, one of the ways that we've taught that is using an ATP method. The reason why we do that and recommend that method is so that you can look and start creating baselines, you can start to get that data point for it both pre and post of that footwear sanitation, and then make sure that you have it to where then you can start creating it. So we're showing plant managers you're showing other plants that are within your network or you're sitting there wanting to show to auditors and so forth what to do and then lastly you know is it real world is The true footwear that you're doing. And the reason I say that is because that's what really matters most are we testing in our footwear? We're not testing it directly, you know, what is our bacteria reduction built into a test tube? How is that bacteria duction really done on footwear. And the reason I get into that next is this next slide.

Paul Barnhill: One of the challenges when Meritech decided that was going to create the sole clean is how can we create valid validated data? So we worked with a company a third party laboratory, there called Nelson labs out of Bozeman, Montana, formerly bioscience labs. They're one of the top topical antimicrobial laboratories in the country, when it comes to hand hygiene when it comes to topical antimicrobials, and how do you clean surfaces and so forth? So we looked at that in comparison to what we did for our hand hygiene methodologies. And how could we adapt that directly to footwear sanitation. And what we did here is we actually used an adaptation of what is called the ASTM E 1174. Standard, which is a hand hygiene protocol, they call it kind of flippantly the glove juice protocol, what we did is we actually stood on saturated pads of either salmonella or listeria.

Paul Barnhill: And what we would do is then put this footwear and this is true real footwear. So we're using the most the two most popular footwear that are actually in the market. One of those is your standard plant, street shoe that is incredibly popular by a lot, I'm not going to name the company that produces that. And then one was another rubber boot, again, made by a very large corporation that is the most popular in the market. And that's what we chose to test directly. So we truly applied that pathogen directly. Then once we had that pathogen applied to the footwear via that pad, we then put it inside a sterile bag. And we used a wicking fluid in and removed all that to collect our baseline or our data point. And we were showing on that, that we're applying seven log of both Listeria and salmonella directly to these footwear on these two different types of footwear. And then we would do like we would do, we would go stand in front of the CleanTech® system, wash our hands, with our feet in the sole clean for that 12 seconds. And then we were measuring what that data point was.

Paul Barnhill: So moving on to that data, you know, looking at this data. So this is the comparison of what they are, we have a starting with a main beast baseline of 7.03. And the low end, I think it is in 7.53 on the high end. And then looking at three replicates of each of those pathogen reductions, both in left, right, left and right foot, as well as testing both types of footwear, both the common street shoe, as well as then the rubber boot to be able to see what that reduction truly was right on that foot were not in a test tube directly live. And so what we're showing in that 12 seconds, we are showing a four log reduction of both pathogens within that timeframe. Again, that's just from your staff member standing there, they're not having to make sure they walk through the quad pellets, they're not making sure that they have to hit the the tacky mat at the right time. They're just getting that 12 seconds of contact time with the sole clean and the sand effect de to sanitizer while we're washing their hands. So we're really accomplishing all their hygiene steps in one fashion.

Paul Barnhill: So one of the things that we look at when Meritech helps a lot of plants is what we call the three P's, the people the place and the products. So I've talked about it often at the booth here today. I've talked about it often and numerous times when I walk into a plant. Once we understand the three P's, we're able to really help you understand exactly how can we put a hygiene program together that really meets and achieves your goals as a company. So we need to really understand first what the people are. You know, what kind of staff do you have? What is the number of staff? What is that staff? You know, what is their PPE look like when they're coming into the plant? What are your intervention steps that you have that staff member going through today? And understanding exactly what you do for that person. But number number of pupils in those are really critical to understand, then we need to understand your place really need to understand specifically what is the building look like? What is the layout of that building look like? What are my entrances, exits, what is the future look like for your company? As food safety professionals, you really need to ask yourself that question. You need to ask your general plant managers exactly that question. What does it look like for our future so that we can think about what food safety has to be done down the road?

Paul Barnhill:  And then the last thing that we look at is really what is your product? We understand what your product is? Do you have a messy product? Is it just a clean product? Is it a powder? Is it a gel? Is it cooked rice and packs into every crack and crevice that you can imagine? Or what does that look like? Once we understand what these three P's are, we can design any hygiene program that would work for your facility be wet or dry into your plant. And so think about these steps when you're thinking is food safety professionals. What are my three P's? How do I make sure I understand these and to make sure that I'm meeting that a goal. Because you know, again, with it, it has to be consistent, it has to be efficacious, and it has to be easy to use for the staff. And that kind of goes back to those three P's as well.

Paul Barnhill: In this image, I want to kind of show you a couple little before and after images that we have done with where we had traditional hand hygiene sinks, where then we outfitted those. So if you kind of look on the image that is on to the far left, you can see that's a couple of hand sinks with neat petal faucets on there. And then we replace those with a couple evil ones with the soul cleans again to replace that area. The other area before and you can see where it's kind of yellow caution taped off the sink. We've all seen that in our facilities before. And there were we just put a couple of our CleanTech® EVO once again with the sole clean, just to the side of that as they transitioned that area over from manual hand hygiene to automated hand hygiene. And then the upper image on the far right is just a couple of our EVO Threes.

Paul Barnhill: And what's the difference between EVO One and EVO Three? Well, there's three of them. Now, there's a little more to it than that. It's actually where it's a simpler system for larger plants and larger operations, where they can have one utility source of one hot one cold, one power one drain, versus having three independent for single stations, that system can handle a typical system handles four to five people in a minute per day. So that'll handle about that 12 to 15 people in that minute, that really does help them get the high numbers of people through your facility, performing that all same function. But keep in mind, all of the Sole Clean pans, all the hand washers work independently. It's not like some giant large trough where you're hoping that it's feeding at the right ratios. It's getting each ratio in front of each bay the right way.

Paul Barnhill: And the last one I want to show is that lower corner, they're using actually the EVO Three with the Sole Clean at the entrance of that facility, again, like all the other images showing it that entrance, then as they go out of that room. As you can see, as they're exiting that room, because there is a little bit more debris at this plant, they're actually using a Meritech Boot scrubber that looks like an XBW sole only system. And what that does is that any of that plant debris and so forth, are being removed before those staff members really move on and go into those next areas. So that they're not transitioning those degrees and soils from the plant into other areas like HR, locker rooms, break rooms, so forth, let's keep those areas just as sanitary, because this is where the staff is hanging out. This is where they're eating the lunches, so forth, and so on. So let's make sure they have a safe environment to enjoy those things.

Paul Barnhill: The last thing I really want to kind of go through and I think this is super important. You know, I was very, very fortunate with Meritech to do a, I think six blog is that what we call it post some time ago on the culture of hygiene. And it's really important to be able to understand that and so I really kind of want to go through this is bullet by bullet because I think this is super important that how how do we think about this, and bringing this back into your company. And this is an important one, please take this back with you. Also visit our website, there is a six module series on this that you can download that will help.

Paul Barnhill: But does it improve your your company's food safety culture? I think that is an important important fact that you should always think about when making food safety decisions. Is it easy to train your team members on the method? That is again, I'm going to say every one of these is critical, but I'm going to keep reiterating. If it is simple for your staff, it is going to be simple to sit there and do time and time again. Can this method be conducted consistently in your facility? Again, back to that part about being consistent. Is it the same way at the entrance of the facility? Is it the same way at the truck courts? Is it the same way where the maintenance staff come in? So you make sure that you have everybody following the same set of standards coming in the plant? Is it sustainable? Now sustainable goes a couple of different ways. You look at a sustainable from a cost effective aspect that's always important. Every plan should always be thinking about that have, is it saving us money? Is it not costing us money?

Paul Barnhill: Is it something that we can maintain? But the other thing is about consistency of making sure is it consistent that I'm going to do it time and time again, as long as I've implemented this process doesn't mean that you don't change the process slightly, but it are we going to do it, you're not going to all of a sudden you launch a new program, and you get really, really good adherence to the program, and then it starts to drain off in time. That's where you run into, to food safety problems. That's where you start to see those sanitation, things start to fall down, when you start losing that consistency. My boss tells me all the time, the CEO of our company, if you can just create a habit for 17 days, and you just consistently do it for 17 days, it'll stick. So just keep it up for at least 17 days.

Paul Barnhill: What is the impact that you're going to have on your employee safety? I think that is very, very key to any hygiene program that you have. Does, again, back to your sustainability from a financial aspect to an environmental aspect is always key. And last, last last, can it be easily validated by your team in your auditors? Do you have something you can show your team members that you have something you can show your auditors that shows that the process that you've implemented is meeting your food safety objectives?

Paul Barnhill: I thank you all for time! 

Topics:WebinarsDry Footwear Sanitation