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“We consider ourselves to be unique in the industry”

Clean produce facilities are crucial in preventing food safety outbreaks

“For the past eight years, we have been targeting the fresh produce industry,” says Elis Owens with Birko. “Our historical focus has been the red meat and protein industries, but because of our expertise in chemistry and food safety, we have diversified into cleaning and sanitation for fresh produce.” The big difference between produce and meat is that at some point, meat is going to be cooked and heat kills all bacteria. Large amounts of fresh produce, on the other hand, do not get cooked prior to reaching the consumer’s plate.

Impact of food safety 
“To prevent cross contamination, the produce industry needs to be extremely diligent,” said Owens. In 2011 there was a Listeria outbreak associated with cantaloupes, processed through a packaging shed in Colorado. The epidemic killed 33 people and resulted in a major cantaloupe recall. The impact on the cantaloupe industry was significant. Although the source was a single packaging shed, consumers’ perception was that all cantaloupe were impacted. Consequently, the outbreak hurt the whole industry.

Events like these may result in companies becoming extremely cautious. Nobody wants to be associated with an outbreak. “A Listeria outbreak in 2015, associated with caramel apples, has resulted in some apple packers re-evaluating who they sell to, based on the food safety risk associated with the end product. We see the interest in our products going up after an outbreak,” declared Owens.

Unique in the industry
Birko helps companies with their food safety processes, including cleaning and sanitation. “Our main ability to contribute to the produce industry is within larger factory-type facilities that make futher processed ready-to-eat products,” said Owens. Fresh-cut facilities with fruits or vegetables are a good example. “Our role is to provide the cleaners and sanitizers that are used to remove any food residue from the facility and kill the bacteria remaining on the surfaces.” mentioned Owens. Birko provides the chemical products as well as the technical knowledge required to use them safely and effectively. Birko’s equipment division builds specialty chemical handling and dispensing equipment, as well as components that can help facilities automate some cleaning processes. “Due to our ability to combine equipment, chemistry, and technology, we consider ourselves to be unique in the industry.”

For more information:
Elis Owens
Tel: 303-289-1090

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