For decades, food processors have been using footbaths (also called shoe baths and foot mats) as a method of reducing cross-contamination from footwear in food and beverage processing facilities. Typically, a footbath is a large tub, trough, mat or tray filled with an antimicrobial solution. Workers walk through the solution, which saturates the soles of their footwear, thus reducing the number of pathogens.

However, footbaths have several issues.

Diminished effectiveness. After the very first use, the antimicrobial solution’s effectiveness is diminished. The more workers who walk through the solution, the less effective it becomes. The only remedy is to dispose of the old solution and add a fresh mix.

Requires frequent monitoring and maintenance. To maintain the footbath’s effectiveness, frequent monitoring and maintenance is required, so that the solution doesn’t drop below the required concentration. This can be costly and labor intensive.

Inconsistent results. With the footbath’s solution continuously diminishing, a facility cannot ensure consistent, measurable results for each worker.

Avoidance. Footbaths can be stepped over, walked around and generally avoided by workers.

Visually unattractive. Footbaths can be messy and visually unattractive. This can send the wrong message to customers and guests.

Wet vs. dry

If your facility is dry, footbaths can introduce unwanted moisture into the environment. Here’s what to look for in an effective footwear sanitizing program:

A pre-clean step. Before sanitization can occur, footwear must be properly cleaned of all dirt and debris where the sanitizer will be applied, such as the bottom and sides of the footwear. Facilities can use a boot washing system or hand brush to clean footwear. When using a boot washing system, it is critical to select equipment and chemicals appropriate for different soils in the facility. Additionally, equipment compatible with the footwear tread patterns used in the facility is an important consideration. Sanitization is not effective if footwear is not cleaned properly.

Consistent results. Choose a footwear sanitizing system that applies a unique application of sanitizer for each user. When using a system that delivers an atomized spray of surface sanitizer to footwear soles, each employee receives a fresh application of surface sanitizer, providing consistent, measurable results every time.

Less labor. With footwear sanitizing units that provide each worker with a fresh spray of ready-to-use sanitizer each time, there is no need for constant monitoring. These footwear sanitizing units are connected directly to a pail of ready-to-use surface sanitizer, which eliminates the need for ongoing monitoring and maintenance throughout the work day. Types of surface sanitizers that can be used are alcohol-based, quat-based or a combination of the two.

Conveniently located. To encourage employees to sanitize footwear, place footwear sanitizing units throughout the plant. Using a compact footwear sanitizing unit allows facilities to place units practically anywhere, making footwear sanitization convenient and accessible.

Maintaining traffic control. Through proper placement, traffic flow can be designed to eliminate the possibility of workers avoiding the footwear sanitizing units, and the unsightly visual of a messy footbath is replaced with a clean, effective piece of equipment.

Here’s what to look for when choosing a surface sanitizer:

Less mess and reduced possibility for error. Use a ready-to-use, no-rinse surface sanitizer to eliminate the hassle of measuring and mixing potentially hazardous chemicals. A no-rinse surface sanitizer saves time and reduces the risk of reintroducing contaminants to previously sanitized footwear.

NSF listed. A D2-rated surface sanitizer that is NSF listed meets all FDA (GRAS) and USDA requirements for food and beverage processing facilities.

Formula. Choose a formula that best suits your plant. Whether it’s alcohol-based, quat-based or a combination of the two, there are D2-rated surface sanitizer options for all facilities.

Claims you care about. Look for a surface sanitizer with a footwear sanitizing claim. A surface sanitizer that kills 99.9% of tested pathogens in 10 seconds on non-food contact surfaces, including rubber footwear is the best option available because it has the fastest dwell time recognized by the EPA for a non-food contact surface sanitizer.

EPA registered. When a surface sanitizer is registered with the EPA, the user can feel confident that the product will do what the label says it will do. To ensure a surface sanitizer is EPA registered, look for an EPA registration number on the label.

Cross-contamination from footwear can come from inside or outside the processing plant, making a footwear sanitation program necessary for all facilities. Implementing a footwear cleaning and sanitization program can be easy with the help and training of a food safety specialist.