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World Food Safety Day 2024

Benchmarking Sanitation Chemistry for Better Preparedness

By: Dr. David Buckley | June 6, 2024 | Reading time: 5 minutes

The theme of this year’s World Food Safety Day is preparing for the unexpected when it comes to food safety incidents. The World Health Organization identifies a food safety incident as a situation “where there is a potential or confirmed health risk associated with food consumption1. These incidents can occur for varied reasons, including food fraud, lack of preventative controls, and natural disasters. Being ready to manage these incidents requires dedicated efforts from all stakeholders, including lawmakers, growers, packers, food handlers, operators, and consumers. 

Benchmarking sanitation chemistry — the practice of comparing sanitation chemical usage against established standards to identify areas for improvement — plays a crucial role in preparing for and minimizing food safety risks. By maintaining stringent hygiene standards through precise chemical usage, businesses can identify and rectify potential lapses before they escalate into significant issues, ensuring a robust defense against the unexpected. This blog examines the role of precise chemical usage measurement and benchmarking in food safety and how these strategies can drive sustainability, simplify hygiene processes, and enhance audit programs. 

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Using Data to Enhance Food Safety 

The strategic use of data has become a cornerstone for enhancing operational efficiencies and ensuring public health in food safety. A perennial need within food safety is leveraging existing data to identify food safety opportunities and allocate resources efficiently. As a sanitation products supplier, we have seen our customers turn traditionally to chemical sales and order data to identify locations or regions where sanitation chemical usage has fallen outside the norm. This approach can pinpoint sites or groups of sites that may not be executing certain sanitation processes properly by identifying areas where supplies ordered are insufficient for effective sanitation. 

Over the years, Diversey, a Solenis company, has collaborated with customers to enhance the utility of sales data for food safety. For example, outdated sanitation programs often used the same SKU for both the three-compartment sink sanitizer and the meat room spray sanitizer. This overlap confounded the ability to detect compliance lapses in critical areas like dishware washing and meat room sanitization. By implementing a Ready-to-Dispense (RTD) format for meat room floor and equipment spray-down applications, Diversey eliminated the shared SKU issue, enabling better resolution of chemical consumption data for both processes. 

Until recently, order data has been primarily used to identify outliers in chemical orders within an account. However, our team, in collaboration with our customers, realized the potential of comparing chemical volume to independently generated consumption benchmarks. This was painstakingly done by weighing differences in concentration and accounting for density, dilution, and water flow. We calculated what proper chemical consumption should look like. Extrapolating this data over a month, quarter, and year produced compliance ranges for order volumes. This shift from relative to absolute measurements allows the industry to identify systemic habits or training lapses not visible when comparing individual locations only to their counterparts. Rectifying such systemic food safety concerns is invaluable, and setting expert benchmarks is critical to identifying these trends with existing data. 

Innovation in the Retail Food Service Industry 

Despite the clear advantages of benchmarking sanitation chemistry, the retail food service industry has yet to master this practice as many food stores and food establishments still rely on simple order data. Implementing this approach effectively in retail settings remains an innovation that holds promise for significantly improving food safety standards. The ability to measure and benchmark chemical usage accurately allows for more precise sanitation processes, reducing the risk of contamination and ensuring consistent hygiene standards across all locations. 

Sustainability and Chemical Usage Measurement 

Measuring chemical usage is also crucial for sustainability. Overusing chemicals not only leads to unnecessary costs but also has environmental repercussions. By establishing a clear benchmark for chemical consumption, businesses can avoid overuse, thereby promoting sustainable practices. Accurate measurement ensures that only the necessary amount of chemicals is used, minimizing waste and reducing the environmental impact. 

Simplifying Hygiene Processes Through Benchmarking 

Benchmarking hygiene products simplifies the sanitation process. With clearly defined benchmarks, employees can follow straightforward guidelines to achieve the desired hygiene standards. This clarity reduces the complexity of training and ensures that all staff members are on the same page regarding sanitation practices. Simplified processes lead to more consistent and reliable outcomes, enhancing overall food safety. 

Enhancing Audit Programs with Red Flag Indicators 

Food safety managers and auditors aim to capture the conditions within a food environment in relatively short on-site visits, focusing on critical violations that pose risks to public health. However, traditional auditing often fails to differentiate between sites barely passing and those at risk of future failures. Additionally, some risks, like microbial contamination, can be too small for an auditor to see. 

Diversey’s approach to auditing has evolved to incorporate red flag indicators — conditions that increase the likelihood of food contamination by environmental pathogens. These indicators, although not directly related to immediate food safety, highlight potential risks. For instance, the presence of standing water is correlated with detecting L. monocytogenes2. By incorporating questions about standing water into audits, retailers are prompted to investigate and make necessary changes, reducing future risks. 

This proactive approach provides pre-emptive, actionable information to food safety managers, improving future audit results and reducing overall risk. Benchmarked sanitation chemistry data can serve as a red flag, alerting managers to unusual chemical usage patterns that may indicate underlying issues. This integration enhances the audit process, making it more robust and predictive. 

Embracing Data and Food Safety  

The practice of benchmarking sanitation chemistry, while not entirely new, represents a significant innovation for the retail food service industry. By leveraging existing data to establish precise benchmarks, businesses can improve food safety and promote sustainability. Diversey’s ongoing efforts to refine these benchmarks demonstrate the potential for data-driven approaches to revolutionize food safety practices across the industry. As we celebrate World Food Safety Day 2024, let us commit to being prepared for the unexpected by adopting innovative and reliable methods for maintaining food safety. 

To learn more about our innovative solutions and commitment to food safety and sustainability, visit 




2 Burnett, Jack, et al. "Enhanced training, employee-led deep cleans, and complete sanitation execution are effective Listeria monocytogenes controls in retail produce environments." Food Control 135 (2022): 108761.


Dr. David Buckley

Principal Customer Experience Scientist

David joined our heritage Diversey team in 2020 after working for the USDA. He has a strong passion for applied sciences that deliver innovation to food safety and microbiology.