While an outside grounds program can help food facilities meet regulatory requirements, there is no one, uniform program they should all follow. Every facility will have different needs based on its products, processes, and location, and so must develop its own outside grounds program.
However, there are a few issues that all outside grounds programs should address, in ways that are adapted to each facility’s unique needs.
Food facilities should make every effort to maintain their property so that it does not negatively impact the surrounding properties. Likewise, facilities should encourage their neighbors to do the same, explaining the importance of grounds maintenance for food facilities. If neighboring lots do not cooperate, e.g., they fail to remove waste properly, the food facility may provide assistance. Local municipalities can be contacted, though this should be a last resort.1
Attractive landscaping can make a good impression on facility visitors, but the wrong choice of foliage can threaten sanitation and make work more difficult for staff. For example, certain flowers may attract swarming insects, fruit-bearing trees can create bird problems, and thick ground cover can encourage nesting rodents. Food processing plants should be aware of potential long-term or negative effects from certain types of foliage.2
Drainage is an important part of landscape planning. Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects, and may indicate underlying plumbing or construction problems.3 During dry spells, pooling water also attracts pests such as bees and rats. Make sure that drains are clear, inspect both the grounds and roof for standing water, and keep gutters clear of dirt and debris.4
Waste removal is also an important part of an outside grounds plan, since waste can attract pests and encourage bacterial growth. Keep trash containers covered, and empty them often. Put trash-container areas, including dumpsters, on the regular cleaning schedule.1
The right outside lighting can help control pests, especially night-flying insects. Mount exterior lights away from the building, directed toward the facility. This draws insects away from entrances while still providing sufficient outside light.1
Paved drives and parking lots
Outside grounds programs should include a food plant’s drives and parking lots. Damaged pavement can encourage dust, which can become airborne and enter the facility, carrying bacteria and mold.1
Education and training
All facility employees should receive education and training regarding the purpose of an outside grounds program and how they can contribute to plant safety. Establish a written protocol, determine who is responsible for maintaining outside grounds, and conduct regular self-inspections.
Title 21 of the Code of Federal Regulations requires that the grounds of a food processing facility be “kept in a condition that will protect against the contamination of food.”5
This section specifically addresses waste removal, trimming grass and weeds, road and parking maintenance, adequate drainage, and discouraging pests. Facilities should implement a thorough outside grounds program to meet these regulatory standards.
- AIB International. “Chapter 13 Outside Grounds Program.”
- AIB International. “Beauty or Beast? Common Landscaping Considerations for Food Facilities.” Food First Blog. 1 Feb.
- AIB International. “Tip of the Week – Standing Water.” Food First Blog. 9 Sep. 2015. www.aibonline.org
- AIB International. “Tip of the Week – Drainage.” Food First Blog. 1 June 2015. www.aibonline.org
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 21 C.F.R. § 110.20 2017. www.accessdata.fda.gov