Importance of Cove Base
Cove Base Overview:
Sanitation procedures, to address strict hygiene standards required by food regulatory agencies, are of paramount concern to plant managers in the food and beverage industry. Thorough and regular sanitation procedures are necessary to prevent disease and vermin outbreaks, that have been linked to microorganisms growth in the seams of the floor. Few areas of the floor are as prone to bacterial contamination as the gap that runs along the side of the room where the floor meets the wall. Not only is proper sanitation imperative for maintaining a hygienic facility, it is also important for worker safety as a leading cause of workers compensation injuries are due to slips and falls. These sanitation procedures typically utilize high pressure and high temperature temperature spraying and water flushing. To make cleaning easier and more effective a seamless floor with cove base is needed. So what is cove base and how does it address strict government hygiene standards?
What is coving and where is it used?
Coving is the floor material found at the base of walls and equipment toe-kicks (Toe-kicks include the bases of counters, cabinets, salad bars, and other floor-mounted equipment). Easily cleaned, coving leaves dirt, dust and germs without a place to hide, helping food and beverage facilities ensure a hygienic floor that meets every standard. In most areas of a food or beverage facility, it is required that the floor material extends integrally up the walls and toe-kicks as the coving. To meet government regulations, the following areas, of a food and beverage processing facility, must have the flooring material extend integrally up the walls and toe-kicks at least 4 inches with a minimum ⅜ inch radius at the wall/floor and toe-kick/floor junctures:
Food preparation, storage, handling, and packaging areas
Utensil washing and storage areas
Interior waste disposal areas
Bars (employee side)
Customer self-serve areas where non-individually prepackaged foods or beverages are sold or dispensed (e.g., salad bars, buffets, bulk food sales, beverage stations)
Employee change and storage areas
So now that we know what coving is and where it needs to be installed, let’s get to the question of what the government regulations are around it. The agencies that give guidelines for coving in food and beverage facilities are the FDA and USDA. Please keep in mind that each processing environment is unique and that in some cases, the coving guidelines given may be inadequate to ensure sanitary conditions.
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), an agency of the USDA, provides a “Sanitation Performance Standards Compliance Guide” which outlines the following guidelines:
6-201.11 Floors, Walls, and Ceilings.
Except as specified under § 6-201.14, the floors, floor coverings, walls, wall coverings, and ceilings shall be designed, constructed, and installed so they are smooth and easily cleanable, except that antislip floor coverings or applications may be used for safety reasons.
6-201.12 Floors, Walls, and Ceilings, Utility Lines.
Utility service lines and pipes may not be unnecessarily exposed.
Exposed utility service lines and pipes shall be installed so they do not obstruct or prevent cleaning of the floors, walls, or ceilings.
Exposed horizontal utility service lines and pipes may not be installed on the floor.
6-201.13 Floor and Wall Junctures, Covered, and Enclosed or Sealed.
In food establishments in which cleaning methods other than water flushing are used for cleaning floors, the floor and wall junctures shall be covered and closed to no larger than 1 mm (one thirty-second inch).
The floors in food establishments in which water flush cleaning methods are used shall be provided with drains and be graded to drain, and the floor and wall junctures shall be covered and sealed.
6-201.16 Wall and Ceiling Coverings and Coatings.
Wall and ceiling covering materials shall be attached so that they are easily cleanable.
Except in areas used only for dry storage, concrete, porous blocks, or bricks used for indoor wall construction shall be finished and sealed to provide a smooth, nonabsorbent, easily cleanable surface.
6-201.17 Walls and Ceilings, Attachments.
Except as specified in (B) of this section, attachments to walls and ceilings such as light fixtures, mechanical room ventilation system components, vent covers, wall mounted fans, decorative items, and other attachments shall be easily cleanable.
In a consumer area, wall and ceiling surfaces and decorative items and attachments that are provided for ambiance need not meet this requirement if they are kept clean.
6-201.18 Walls and Ceilings, Studs, Joists, and Rafters.
Studs, joists, and rafters may not be exposed in areas subject to moisture. This requirement does not apply to temporary food establishments
In the FDA 2013 Recommendations of the United States Public Health Service it states the following:
Cleanability 6-201.11 Floors, Walls, and Ceilings.
6-201.12 Floors, Walls, and Ceilings, Utility Lines.
Floors that are of smooth, durable construction and that are nonabsorbent are more easily cleaned. Requirements and restrictions regarding floor coverings, utility lines, and floor/wall junctures are intended to ensure that regular and effective cleaning is possible and that insect and rodent harborage is minimized.
6-201.13 Floor and Wall Junctures, Coved, and Enclosed or Seal
When cleaning is accomplished by spraying or flushing, coving and sealing of the floor/wall junctures is required to provide a surface that is conducive to water flushing. Grading of the floor to drain allows liquid wastes to be quickly carried away, thereby preventing pooling which could attract pests such as insects and rodents or contribute to problems with certain pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes.
Meeting these guidelines are not only necessary to keep a food and beverage facility from being fined but also to ensure a sanitary environment. A seamless floor with a cove base significantly improves the efficacy of sanitation procedures which is vital to preventing outbreaks. Take the fresh fruit processing facility “Simply Fresh Fruit” that experienced a Listeria problem in 2016 causing a product recall by US Foods and also by the California Department of Public Health. Listeria monocytogenes is a pathogenic bacterium that is widespread in the environment and may be introduced into a food processing facility from raw materials, humans, or equipment, according to FDA. Without proper flooring, it can proliferate in food processing facilities where it may contaminate food. FDA inspectors ended up investigating the plant and wrote, “You implemented more aggressive sanitation procedures for your floors and have made corrections to your floors. We will ascertain the adequacy of your corrective actions during our next inspection.” FDA gave the company 15 working days after receiving the warning letter to respond with specific steps it is taking to correct the violations, including an explanation of how the firm plans to prevent future violations, or similar ones, from recurring. They ended up making the corrections to keep the facility operating but not without expensive renovations.
The importance of coving for a food or beverage facility cannot be overstated. Remember only a resinous flooring expert can determine where and the dimensions of the coving your facility needs. A great case study of a food processing facility with a unique cove base can be found here: Seafood Processing Floor| Boston, MA. To learn more about resinous flooring for food and beverage processing facilities check out my blogs on “Importance of Flooring for Food Processing Plant Hygiene” and “What resin flooring options are available for the food and beverage industry?”