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Getting started with wash-pack facilities

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January 22, 2020 - Author: Landon Tetil, Produce Safety Technician

Wash-Pack Overview

  • The WHY of a wash-pack facility
  • The WHAT of a wash-pack facility
    • The foundation
    • The stuff
  • The HOW of a wash-pack facility 

The foundation of a Wash- Pack

  • Space
  • Floors and Drainage
  • Doorways/ Thresholds/ Ramps
  • Walls

Space: How much do you really need?

If expanding, have you identified untapped market space you can grow into?

Are you cramped in your current setup?

How big can you afford?

Do you want to grow, shrink, or maintain the size of your operation? 

Types of floors: Decking

Pros:

  • Sturdy, durable, smooth
  • Open surface allowing flow through for drainage
  • Cost-effective for an outside wash-pack area

Cons:

  • Not ideal if product is moved with wheels
  • Bare wood should be avoided use composite materials instead
  • Not ideal for indoor wash-pack

Types of floors: Plywood

Pros:

  • More continuous, smooth option than decking
  • Easy to use wheels for moving product
  • Helpful in covering up and leveling existing uneven floors
  • Use indoors or outdoors

Cons:

  • Less durable when exposed to weather
  • Has seams that can require maintenance to keep watertight
  • Challenging to clean unless it is sealed

Types of floors: Patio blocks

Pros:

  • Pervious surface that is more solid underfoot than bare ground or gravel
  • Good option for an outside wash/pack area that is used seasonally or is undercover.

Cons:

  • Drainage and pooling can be an issue with sunken pavers
  • Outside use only

Types of floors: Asphalt or pavement

Pros:

  • Asphalt is a sturdy, waterproof, non-slip, seamless material
  • May also already exist as a driveway, etc.

Cons:

  • Installation can be challenging and expensive
  • Not ideal indoors
  • Coarse-textured surface creates a cleaning challenge, but a fine, smooth surface is possible to achieve

Types of floors: Concrete

Pros:

  • Durable, continuous, smooth surface
  • Good for using wheels to move product
  • Can be smooth yet not slippery
  • Not overly porous for clean ability
  • Can be pitched for drainage
  • Can be installed indoors

Cons:

  • When unsealed, can absorb moisture and is prone to staining 
  • Can be expensive
  • Once poured it is not easy to modify

Floors and drainage: Outdoors

Outdoor Facilities: drainage is ESSENTIAL

  • Crushed gravel several inches deep to allow water to drain down without pooling underfoot
  • Landscape fabric over bare ground can be used as long as a gravel filled furrow is in place to catch water coming off the wash line or under other equipment
  • Intentional drainage of water from the space can be accomplished by direct drains, trench drain, spot drains or a doorway out of the space

Floors and drainage: Indoors

  • Circular floor drains are fine IF they can be cleaned
  • Soil and debris can accumulate inside drains and Listeria can survive and multiply in drains
  • Grate-type drains that are open for several feet are a good option and can be cleaned easier
  • Water and soil can be squeegeed into them

Unloading ramp/ dock

Produce comes out of the field and heads to the wash/pack area.

  • Ideally, trucks or carts do not enter the actual facility space.
  • An unloading dock set at a height that is ergonomically appropriate will make work more efficient.
  • At the other end of the process, the clean and packaged produce can more easily be loaded on a dock where the height of the truck matches the loading dock.
  • Pallet jacks, forklift, or hand-truck can simply move a load onto the truck bed. 

Cleanable Walls

  • Makes the task of cleaning up after washing and packing produce a whole lot easier
  • Keeping space between objects and the walls alleviates hiding places for rodents and makes cleaning more efficient
  • Walls could be covered with a water resistant paneling, such as fiberglass reinforced panels (RFP). These panels provide a smooth surface that is impermeable to water and easy to wash stuck material off without ruining the surface (unless you use steel wool or something really abrasive)

Lighting

Make sure there is adequate light for workers to:

  • Sort and cull easily
  • Wash effectively (making sure debris is off produce
  • Correctly read SOPs or labels on sanitizers or cleaners
  • End-of-day equipment cleaning

Fixtures should to be positioned to give adequate light for workers and not cast shadows in the wrong places.

Common Wash-Pack Sinks

  • Kitchen sinks
  • Utility Sinks
  • Livestock watering tanks
    • Sheep stock tank
    • Rubbermaid stock tank
    • Repurposed dairy milk bulk tanks
  • Maple sap tanks
  • Restaurant Sinks
    • Double bay
    • Triple bay
    • With or without drainboards

What to store

DO keep in the wash-pack:

  • Clean AND Dirty hand harvesting tools
  • Clean AND Dirty harvest containers
  • Clean AND Dirty cleaning brushes
  • PPO, eye wash station, first aid kit
  • Cleaners and sanitizers
  • Thermometers, monitoring strips, measuring cups or dosers, etc.
  • Records and SOP’s
  • Packing supplies

What not to store

DO NOT keep in the wash-pack:

  • Non-food grade lubricants
  • Pesticides
  • Fertilizers
  • Field tools
  • Personal items

Waste water

Growers should design a system that will:

  • Avoid wash water pooling or gullying that may lead to drainage into surface water
  • Provide sufficient grass/sod area to absorb the wash water discharge
  • Provide a means for spreading the wash water over grass/sod area.
  • Avoid locating the grass/sod spreading area where bedrock or shallow groundwater may be present
  • If necessary, provide a retention area (tank or holding pond) to allow large volumes of water generated by washing to be spread later, at a slow enough rate to allow for soil absorption

Backflow prevention

  • Backflow is when water (and anything in it) travels in the “wrong” direction or a direction other than the intended one
  • Backflow is typically prevented by:
    • Obstructing flow in one direction (using a check valve,foot valve, etc)
    • Providing an easier flow path in a different direction that results in lower risk (air gaps, floor sinks, etc.)

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