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Here’s why food processing companies are obsessed with cleaning

This is the story of how a leading fruit product company pays unwavering attention to cleaning operations and standards at its processing plant, to protect both its product and its equipment. Murali N, Head of Manufacturing and S Mohana Lakshmi, Head of QHSE, Galla Foods will take you through every minute detail of the level of cleaning that is the norm in the food processing business – from inaccessible areas to machinery, choice of chemicals to choice of service provider.

Tell us a little about the products that are produced at your facilities.

Galla Foods was founded in 2005 primarily as a way to directly give back to the farmers of Chittoor district in Andhra Pradesh, who depend on mangoes for their sustenance. The company is one of the best sources in the country for tropical fruit pulps and concentrates.

We have two businesses – the Ingredient Business and the Consumer Business. The facility has the capability to produce fruit pulps and concentrates, and best-in-class processing equipment with advanced controls that provide consumer products under beverages.

The company has the following products:

  • Thermal sterilised aseptically packed tropical fruit and vegetable purees and concentrates.
  • Fruit based beverages packed in PET bottles
  • Non-fruit, non-alcoholic, non-carbonated beverages packed in PET bottles

What FSSAI standards and procedures do you follow for cleaning and hygiene at your production facility?

We strongly believe in providing our customers with the safest food products and complying with international food safety standards. At Galla Foods, we follow the ISO TS 22002-1: 2009, FSSAI & USFDA standards for cleaning and hygiene. We are a FSSC 22000 & SGF Certified company.

The technology initiatives of Galla Food cover multiple areas such as PLC-operated equipment for enhanced monitoring and management, two-phase washing of fruits for HACCP quality assurance, two-stage sterilisation to keep the original flavor and smell, high-speed advanced mono block aseptic filling machine from SIG Manzini, and an ERP system for automation of business operations, data collection for analysis and reporting, and close control of quality and performance.

The layout of the plant is designed to be efficient, so there is minimal loss of power and steam transfer. The production flow is organised in a linear fashion to keep areas clean and orderly. In addition, the floor is made with self-leveling food-grade epoxy to keep the environment hygienic. The walls and corners are curved and have a food-grade epoxy paint to prevent the buildup of dust and simplify the cleaning process.

The roof is insulated and has double layers of galvanised iron sheets with air extractors to maintain the temperature inside the building. Utility lines are routed outside the plant to prevent dust from accumulating inside.

What are the difficult-to-clean parts of the manufacturing areas? What makes them difficult to clean? How are they cleaned?

At our processing units and manufacturing lines, the difficult-to-clean parts include surfaces with deep and narrow corners, edges, folds, etc as they are less accessible or reachable since they are hidden areas. At Galla Foods, we use alkaline disinfectants with high temperatures at certain times as it gives an effective cleaning to the surfaces.

What makes cleaning the shop floor difficult? How are spills dealt with? What equipment is used?

At the shop floor, the corners, curves, grooves, roof, cracks (if any) are difficult to clean as they are extremely narrow. We manage the spills by wiping the area with a cloth mop moistened with 1% hypochlorite solution and allow it to dry naturally. We also use a floor cleaning machine with detergent solution or 1% hypochlorite solution.

Considering the fact that food products are being produced, what cleaning chemicals can and cannot be used?

As we are primarily focused on fruit and vegetable pulp and concentrates, the cleaning chemicals that we use need to be safe-to-use ones. So, we use food-grade acids and alkalis for the cleaning of all food contact surfaces. We do not use chemicals which are not food-grade and are having Quaternary Ammonium Compounds.

How can lack of effective cleaning affect the quality of your products?

Cleaning of the surfaces is important, especially while dealing with food items. If the effectiveness of the cleaning is compromised, it can affect not only the quality of our product but also our processing mechanism. If product residues are not cleaned properly as per the defined frequency, it can contaminate the product and any chemical residues not cleared will affect the products by chemical contamination.

What factors/capabilities/equipment should an external agency have to clean a facility such as yours?

We give top priority to cleaning and maintaining the facility at all times. Any external agency must have an automatic Cleaning in Place (CIP) system for cleaning along with written procedures (SOPs) detailing the cleaning processes, including CIP between product changeovers and/or as per frequency defined, based on validations.

Foam cleaning machines must have a Clean Out Process (COP) for effective cleaning of the process lines.

We also look for cleanliness verification through visual observation and detection of every tiny amount of residual through ATP analyser and microbiological analysis. From the design stage, itself we ensure the easy cleaning accessibility at all the locations.

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