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Using a hose end sprayer to quickly sanitize totes, tools and equipment

 Annalisa Hultberg, Extension Educator, food safety

It is important to sanitize food contact surfaces on the farm to reduce the levels of disease - causing organisms, such as E. coli, Salmonella and Listeria that can be on surfaces and spread to our fresh vegetables. It can also help increase  produce shelf life and reduce the spread of plant diseases around the farm.   Here are some tips on sanitizing efficiently and effectively to keep your customers and product healthy.

Why sanitize?

Sanitizing reduces the contamination level on surfaces by killing  microorganisms that cause disease. Sanitizers are most effective  when surfaces are clean and free of soil and residues.  So, make sure to clean surfaces before you sanitize! Here are the steps: remove visible soil, scrub with detergent and water, rinse again, and then sanitize the surface.

The surface will not be totally free of microorganisms, but  they will be greatly reduced. If done correctly, this process results in safer products while maintaining quality.  

Using a hose end sprayer to apply sanitizer

Applying sanitizer with a hand held spray bottle can be time consuming. It is perfectly acceptable to do this, but sometimes we want to spray a lot of totes or large equipment, and using a hose end sprayer is a fast way to do that. Here are some tips on using the hose end sprayer.

First, fill the sprayer reservoir with the sanitizer. Here, we are using SaniDate 5.0 from Biosafe. Next, turn the valve to 2 teaspoons per gallon, which is the rate to sanitize food contact surfaces. Make sure that the internal siphon is set to teaspoon, not tablespoon. You might have to insert the small plug inside the siphon straw to make it set to teaspoon per gallon.

Next, run the hose for a few minutes. Then fill a container with some solution to test for concentration. Make sure you use the tester strips made for the sanitizer you are using. We are using the PAA tester strips in the 1-160 range.
Next, make sure the concentration is appropriate. SaniDate 5.0 has a labeled rate of about 150 PPM for food contact surfaces. If the strip turns black very quickly, it is likely too high. You might need to reset the sprayer. 

You can now use the sprayer to sanitize surfaces after cleaning, like totes, tables, brush washers, drains, and cooler walls. Remember: Always wear the correct PPE when using these chemicals! SaniDate 5.0 is OMRI listed and approved and is made of vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and water and breaks down in the environment, but at full concentration it can be very dangerous to skin and eyes. Wear goggles, gloves and an apron when dispensing it at full concentration. 

Another tip - rinse the hose end sprayer with water frequently. The container will corrode. And recheck and calibrate often. If it seems too high, the internal teaspoon dispenser may have become dislodged. You should not apply PPM over 160 PPM, as per the label. 

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