Many of us who support or work in food and beverage processing plant facilities have been encountering scenarios pertaining to decontamination and disinfection of environmental areas, particularly in non-food plant areas. In order to preserve much-needed plant sanitation inventories for plant operations, in this trying time of the SARS-CoV-2 /COVID-19 pandemic, it requires us to be creative, yet provide cleaning and disinfection alternatives that are regulatory-sound and science-validated that will kill SARS-CoV-2 aka COVID-19.
In the actual food or beverage processing facility, according to both FDA and USDA, the normal concentrations of cleaner and sanitizer dictated in the SSOPs, will be sufficient to destroy COVID-19. Consequently, if the SSOPs are sound, science-based, verified and validated, do not require the continuous application of a US EPA-approved virucidal level.
However, if a facility has any plant employees (QA, Production, Maintenance, Management) with confirmed COVID-19, then they should decontaminate with available approved biocides at their EPA-APPROVED VIRUCIDAL DISINFECTION concentration and contact time, AFTER cleaning. Or they can utilize another biocide with such approvals on the label.
This concentration may exceed the same biocide’s food contact sanitizer level on the same product label. The EPA-registered biocide can then be re-applied on food contact and ancillary surfaces (Zones 1 & 2), with a secondary application of the same biocide at lower sanitizer food contact concentration. This should be done in order to dilute the virucidal disinfection ppm level down to the EPA-approved food contact ppm level. Of course, environmental Zones 3 and 4 do not need to be further diluted to food contact level.
Plant Restrooms, Common Areas, and Offices
Normal SSOPs for bathrooms/restrooms are applicable except where plant or office personnel are diagnosed with COVID-19. Again, for this scenario, utilize a biocide with the approved EPA-virucidal disinfection level or range on the label, after full cleaning is undertaken.
To be conservative for enclosed areas like potentially-contaminated COVID-19 restrooms, sanitation workers should utilize all appropriate PPE, and if N95 masks or other masks are available, they should be used. If not, you can initially fog disinfect contaminated restrooms with the same biocide at the approved EPA virucidal disinfection level. Once the room is initially decontaminated, you can then conduct the standard SSOP for the bathroom.
For common areas, and office suites or rooms with known or potential COVID-19 infected employees, using all appropriate PPE, clean and disinfect all surfaces following CDC guidelines: Environmental Cleaning & Disinfection Recommendations
CDC has clearly stated that 70% alcohol will destroy COVID-19 and all Coronaviruses. I am recommending for all electronics, etc. to apply as spray and then wipe or use saturated wipes to avoid damaging internal electronics on a laptop, CPU, keyboard, mouse, screen housings, and even desks. Therefore, any approved product that has 70% alcohol will work for electronics.
CDC has also recommended using hypochlorite (bleach) at 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon. Translating into ppm of hypochlorite, that is a range of 1000 -1200 ppm. However, this can be applied to inanimate non-electronic touch zones or areas, but hypochlorite is corrosive and should not be used on soft metals.
Also, any EPA biocides with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogen claims, see link, will be expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder-to-kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.). This includes Lysol or Clorox-approved disinfectant wipes.
A company may opt to fog disinfect the common and office areas or rooms. As stated above, with bathrooms, use an EPA-approved biocide that has an applicable Coronavirus claim per label instructions. The fogging procedure must comply with all required PPE and precautions that need to be taken within the plant. Proper care must be taken to cover and seal all sensitive electronic equipment as well.