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Pharma & Food Production Housekeeping & Hygiene Practices

Equipment and chemicals used for hygiene and cleaning


B-Gautham-BaligaContamination and more specifically, cross contamination is the bane of pharma and food industries. HVAC systems ensure the comfort of personnel together with integrity of the products by controlling temperature, relative humidity, filtration and room pressures as required.

– B Gautham Baliga

There are different tools for different purposes but no tool should leave behind any residue or impurity. Chemical cleansing involves a component of soap for cleaning and a component of disinfectant to reduce microbial load and it should not impart any kind of odour to the food. Other equipment comprises of vacuum cleaners both hand held as well as industrial vacuum cleaners.  


The new age food processing facilities are no longer inferior to pharmaceutical facilities. They actually use the same technologies – the same air lock system, level of hygiene and level of detailing that a pharma requires.

Basic surface cleansing of floors is done with detergent, IPA-based cleaners, benzalkonium chloride. Hand cleaning requires antiseptic and antibacterial liquid sanitizers to handle microbial environments and procedures. Rotation-based use of different cleansers is very important to avoid any microbial resistance building in the premises. Large ancillaries are also cleaned with caustic-based solutions and formulation depends on the type of microbial load and infection the area is prone too.

“Dedicated aircon systems for different zones together with pressure differential regime can prevent air borne cross contamination. Similar strategy is important with floor, surface & wall cleaning devices. Cleaning equipment used in one zone should not be used in another. If not practical, a rigorous and validated cleaning system should be in place for the cleaning equipment. An often neglected area of cleaning is AHU internals which can result in contamination. Dust and condensate water in AHU drain pans result in fungus formation. Proper fungicides may be required. Similarly, duct cleaning with appropriate devices at regular intervals will result a hygienic environment,” informs Baliga.

Risk Levels 

In case of changeover in food industry, the probability of contamination is high but risk to health is very low. On contrary, in the pharma sector, the risk levels are quite high, as active ingredients pertaining to specific action may cause irreversible losses to the consumer.

Risk levels of cross contamination in multiproduct pharma manufacturing lines are quite high as therapeutic activity of two formulations may be entirely different and could be a case of serious health issues. For instance, a cancer drug and a CVD medicine. Whereas, in same class of drugs, the risk level is low, still cross contamination exists. For example, two different forms of antacids.

Investments on cleaning & maintenance

There are no set standards for investments on cleaning and maintenance and it differs from sector to sector and product to product. Basically, in a pharmaceutical setup the major investment is on the laboratory setup which is required to maintain the quality and purity of a drug formulation. For instance, cost of procuring a Class 10,000 and Class 100,000 cleanroom differs significantly in a pharma laboratory.

Speaking on the time spent for cleaning measures in a typical pharma unit, Nagre says, “Normally, if a production plant runs for a week or so, then at least one complete day is required to clean the equipment and ancillaries to avoid any cross contamination from previous batch. This occupancy roughly accounts for around 10-15% of the entire production time to the manufacturer.”

In the food processing industry, the cost varies in proportion to the product’s shelf life. If the product is perishable, the higher the percentage of revenue will be invested to retain the freshness and quality. Hence, the nonperishable commodity would require less investment to retain its quality. Roughly around 2.5-3% of the total revenue is invested on maintaining housekeeping and hygiene in food & pharma manufacturing plants.

Comparing the current practice of housekeeping and hygiene in both the sectors, Ashwin Bhadri, CEO, Equinox Labs, informs, “The new age food processing facilities are no longer inferior to pharmaceutical facilities. They actually use the same technologies – the same air lock system, level of hygiene and level of detailing that a pharma requires. Food processing facilities have grown to the extent that many of them have consultants from the pharma background designing their facilities. Pharma products are consumed once in a month or lesser, whereas food products are consumed on a daily basis by people of all ages irrespective of whether they are sick or not. Hence, today the quality of food and the quality of pharma are equally important. Thus, infrastructure and processes-wise, food and pharma industries are now almost at the same level.”

The entire process of cleaning & hygiene practices begins with recognizing the areas susceptible to contamination and taking necessary steps to maintain them. The areas with high human intervention and exposure to outer environments are considered as high contamination areas. Manufacturing facilities are a high-risk source for contamination from metal, metal oxides, building materials, ceramics, dust, personnel, process air, air filtration systems and machines.Cleaning & hygiene practices vary with the nature of production in both the Pharma and Food Processing segments. Being prone to contamination at all stages of processing, these two sectors depend on high level of…

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