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Germicidal UV technology is not new to Healthy Trailer.
We’ve been using it for over two years now to reduce bacteria in food transport trailers.
As the novel coronavirus has rampantly spread and disrupted lives across the globe, scientists and healthcare professionals have been working hard to find a way to step into the virus’s path and bring it to a screeching halt.
UV light, a proven technology in the destruction of dangerous pathogens, quietly working away in various types of industries where sanitation is critical, like food transportation, has moved from semi obscurity to the forefront of viable options in the fight against COVID 19.
The stories emerging from the news reports raise many valid merits and problems with using UVC in different applications. At the end of this discussion about Healthy Trailer’s use of UV we’ll address the pro’s and con’s as presented in the news articles.
Why did Healthy Trailer choose germicidal UV light instead of typical or standard methods of sanitization?
Healthy Trailer’s Path to UV Light
The start of our story begins with FSMA.
Keeping food safe as it travels through the supply chain is a non negotiable requirement.
While there is much focus on preventing contamination from the field and through the processing plant and shipping facility, there has been marginal interest or concern about what happens from shipping point to delivery.
Specifically, this is largely true about the cleanliness of the shipping containers, whether by land or sea. Temperature control has been the primary focus in safe food transportation. This is for sure a critical piece in preventing unsafe transportation practices. But given the emphasis in the field and facilities on sanitation, FSMA was certainly intended to carry out effective sanitation measures throughout the supply chain, including trailers.
Healthy Trailer’s founders needed to comply with FSMA. So we went to commercial washouts both in our area and throughout California to observe washout processes. Seeing the lack of protocols, training and overall absence of accepted food safety practices, we knew we had to build a better system, for us and everyone else who wanted to know that their food trailers were clean and sanitary.
The Objective and the Solution
Needing a plan to better clean and sanitize a 53 foot trailer environment, we turned to science and established food safety procedures to build our robot. One of the core problems we needed to solve was how to get an acceptable, reliable reduction in microbial contamination without sacrificing time and or money in operational costs.
Hot water? Good idea, but to be an adequate kill step, water has to be at 212℉, which is when it turns to steam. Heating water and building enough pressure to use the steam to sanitize was going to be a challenge, and a dangerous one at that.
Chemicals? Well, in talking to trucking company owners, the concern was that heavy and/or frequent chemical use would void sections of their trailer manufacturer warranties. Drivers didn’t like chemicals because many washouts that used them didn’t completely remove the residues. Equally important, to actually sanitize a surface, it has to be completely clean, meaning particle free, AND then the sanitizer needs to sit on the surface for a period of time. That can work against a driver’s HOS concerns.
Ozone? This was another (and continues to be) non chemical method of sanitizing surfaces. But effective levels of ozone presented dangerous personnel risks. Also, it was another time intensive method of effectively sanitizing surfaces.
Hmmmm….what to do.
And then we thought of the water park down the road. All those people (little kids) playing in the water all day long. How were the owners keeping the water clean?
Germicidal UV light.
The rest is history.
We had much to learn, but the path has been exciting.
We claim that our process is specifically engineered to clean a 53 foot trailer. We base that claim on the method used to develop the UV process used in our cleaning and sanitation system.
Here’s how it happens...
The UV company has modelling software that calculates the necessary exposure time and distance to effectively kill bacteria. We provided the company with the trailer dimensions, surfaces and target pathogens (for example, E Coli, Salmonella and Listeria.)
With their calculations, we knew what type of lamps we needed, the distance from the trailer walls, floor and ceiling our lamps needed to be positioned, and the time of UV application we needed to implement into our process.
Our objective in the beginning was to find a method of sanitizing surfaces. What we learned through microbial testing and sampling is that trailers have varying levels of contamination. Therefore, what we now know is that our goal is to reach a 2 log reduction after our process. There are many trailers transporting food that are not routinely cleaned and would require additional UV light exposure to be effectively sanitized.
We’ve made modifications over the past two years, both in our design and our process. We’ve had third party food safety professionals help us test and improve our process. And we work with a UV research expert who specializes in the use of germicidal UV light in food safety applications.
Healthy Trailer is committed not to UV only, but to providing our customers with a clean and sanitary trailer. In our opinion, this translates to giving our customers peace of mind in knowing that they have chosen one of the most effective methods of reducing human pathogens in their food transport trailers.
News Reports and What We Can Learn From Them
Both CNBC and the BBC posted articles about the use of UV in hospital environments. Maybe people did not know that the use of germicidal UV light to combat hospital infections is increasing worldwide.
We found articles about this when we first started down the UV path a few years ago. Choosing a sanitization method that was proven and accepted in healthcare made sense to us.
What about the articles calling UV a myth?
You should know two things about these reports:
First, they are NOT claiming the germicidal UV light is not effective in killing dangerous pathogens. The sources are both very clear about the fact that this technology is being researched as a valid, effective method of sanitizing surfaces.
Second, they are concerned that people will somehow manage to get their own UV lamps and use them on themselves.
DO NOT DO THIS!
The information about the dangers of UV exposure on skin and eyes is VERY true. The tricky part about UV is that the initial exposure is not something a person can feel. But a few hours later, OMG. We had a few mishaps as we learned about the strength of UV.
Using UV requires training and protective gear. Enough said.
An interesting report that highlights two unique perspectives on the use of germicidal UV appeared in The New York Times. Consumables in the fight against the spread of the novel coronavirus, for example masks and gloves, have created another layer of challenges for healthcare professionals.
Masks are of utmost importance. Dr. Lowe, mentioned in the article, is using UV light to sanitize masks. Of course, his preference would be to have new, unused masks available for his staff. But UV light, along with other methods such as bleach, ethylene gas, moist heat, have been shown to be effective in decontamination.
Dr. Lowe says he ‘sleeps well at night’ because he believes they are doing the right thing in implementing UV light to sanitize their masks.
That’s something we say a lot at Healthy Trailer. “Do the right thing. You’ll sleep better.”
Another doctor, Dr. Lynn Goldman, also quoted in the same NY Times article, had an interesting perspective about research that focuses on protection and prevention. Her view is that until and unless there's a crisis pushing research in a new or novel area, there isn’t a lot of interest in proving it’s effectiveness.
It’s worth mentioning because here at Healthy Trailer, this is something we talk about all the time. Companies throughout the food supply chain are not only disinterested, but often unwilling to accept the fact that trailers carry the potential of contamination along with the food products.
Will it take a foodborne illness crisis to garner the attention of the food transport industry?
The last piece of news comes via Youtube. In a few short minutes, co-founder and president of Dimer UVC Innovations Elliott Kreitenberg, explains how their patented Germfalcon works quickly and effectively through airplane cabins, disinfecting surfaces and air.
His story has an interesting application to Healthy Trailer because it involves people and surfaces.
Passenger planes are made to transport people, and where there are people, there will be germs.
But a food transport trailer is made to transport food. The assumption here is that the frequency or number of people moving in and out of trailers could not cause contamination in trailers.
Healthy Trailer has been operating for about two years, so we know a few things about the sanitary conditions of trailers. To show why trailer sanitizing is important, here are two points to consider.
First, people moving in and out of trailers are coming from many different environments. For example, drivers, maintenance and repair workers, loaders and lumpers, food safety personnel, all have reasons to be in a trailer. They have been in bathrooms, across parking lots, in their offices and maybe just ate a meal in a restaurant.
Have you ever driven by a shipping facility and noticed how many trailers are sitting with doors open? Birds, pests, and dirty air all can spread contamination. Forklift tires and other types of equipment also
Second, if people don’t think a trailer is dirty, they won’t make sure it gets properly cleaned. Last year we collected data from drivers and found that 50% did not know when their trailer had last been washed out or what the prior cargo had been before loading fresh produce.
This news story scrubs up something we all need to keep in mind when people are depending on us to keep things clean and sanitary. Focus on using technology and processes that are effective, fast, affordable and convenient.
If you have questions about food transport trailers, FSMA’s Safe Food Transportation requirements, or about our patent pending UV trailer sanitizing process, please call us at 831-753-6700 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.