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If you are in a drought, just have me visit, because I seem to bring rain storms. At first, I was frustrated by rain and having to navigate to a facility new to me. But when touring food plants after or during a rain storm, it is a blessing. Now I pray for rain! Examine Your Facility During a Hard Rain was a slide title in a presentation by Kevin Lorcheim of ClorDiSys Solutions, Inc., during the workshop Key Elements of a Food Safety System. Hearing Kevin talk, plus there was an 80% chance of rain that afternoon, got me thinking about my visits to food plants.

The next time you get a hard rain, I encourage you to walk your entire facility and perimeter outside. When inside, you are going to look up at the ceilings. Search for any evidence of water getting in and dripping down. Are the ceiling tiles bowed and holding water? Do you see evidence of water from stained ceiling tiles or hanging light covers? Are tile tracks rusted? Pay particular attention to pipes and I-beams coming down from the ceiling and any water coming down.

The next level down is the dripping lines. In most facilities and when it rains, there will be excessive condensate dripping down from cold lines. Pay extra attention to areas over the open product, in packaging, in dry ingredient and packaging storage and in final product storage. While you are looking for condensate drips, look for leaking pipes. I am a professional leak detector. Product, steam or water. This is a point of high complacency in food plants, where employees get numb to leaks and don’t report them for repair. You do not need to pay a consultant to detect leaks. Repairing leaky pipes is critical for efficient operations.

I was in a plant one morning where liquid product was shooting from a pipe. The pinhole leak had been reported before midnight, and the split had grown. This was a 24/7 operation. Product was literally going down the drain. The QA Manager reported the leak; the pipe was repaired and reinstalled. Not long after, the pipe had split again and farther, so product was showering out. The QA Manager reported the leak again. Please train all employees on the importance of reporting leaks.

You are probably not standing at shipping or receiving as you read this, but when you get a hard rain, investigate those sites. When a driving rain hits the side of your building, does water ingress around bay doors and outside doors? As part of your facility walk, examine doors and outer walls as soon as possible after the rain to detect leaks. Look for rivers flowing from bay doors and wet floors under the doors. Many food plants have screened windows and other air intakes; check these too. Does the rain flow down an inside wall from an upper window?

As you walk your facility, has a new river of water formed on the floor? There may be a leak coming down along an I-beam or into an interior wall and then out. The good thing about water is that it follows the path of least resistance. When you start at the river on the floor, follow the path to the wall or interior structure, and trace back to the source.

Examine EVERY room from top to bottom in your facility: boiler room, maintenance, break room, dry storage, cooler, offices, shipping and receiving. Talk to your people and ask them where they see water. Do not skip any area. Be deliberative about seeing every room. It would be best to check the outside of the building during the rain storm. Walk the perimeter outside. Note standing water. Check the integrity of the building to keep water out. Check the that downspouts are functional.

By fixing your problems of water coming in, you will stop or prevent problems in your food plant. Still have questions? The ConnectFood website has free resources, and the folks at ConnectFood are here to help! Contact us.

About the Author
Kathy Knutson, Ph.D.
Kathy Knutson Food Safety Consulting
Dr. Kathy Knutson works nationwide with food manufacturers on recall investigations, problem-solving, training, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. After being trained in 2016 as a Lead Instructor with the FDA-recognized curriculum for Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals, she delivered over 20 workshops to industry. With over 35 years in microbiology and 15 years of full-time teaching, Dr. Knutson is passionate about training and is an effective communicator at all levels in an organization. She has taught and consulted with companies on laboratory methods, interpretation of lab results, quality assurance, sanitation, environmental monitoring, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) and the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). As a life-long learner, Dr. Knutson is trained in prevention of intentional adulteration, a topic on the horizon for the food industry. Dr. Knutson is a contributing author at CannabisIndustryJournal.com. Dr. Knutson writes a food safety blog and contributes expert services to manufacturers through ConnectFood.com, an online site for writing HACCP and food safety plans. When Dr. Knutson is not traveling, she works from home in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, two sons, and an adorable Bernedoodle. Learn more about her at https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathyknutsonphd