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What makes a cleaning chemical food-safe?

Bhavesh Parsana, MD, Satol Chemicals Pvt. Ltd

One of the most important aspects in food safety is cleaning & hygiene standards maintained at food processing facilities right from the manufacturing to consumption levels. Bhavesh Parsana, MD, Satol Chemicals Pvt. Ltd, delves on some essential points in determining the choice of cleaning chemicals required in a food processing facility.

Improper cleaning and sanitation practises generally lead to contamination, resulting in low product quality and decreased shelf life. Ineffectively maintained food processing facilities become source of contamination (bacteria, yeasts, moulds and viruses) which result in spoilage of food manufactured and foodborne diseases. Food spoilage microorganisms make the food unsuitable for human consumption by causing changes in taste, smell or colour. On the other hand, pathogenic microorganisms which lead to foodborne diseases, do not cause any visible changes to food. Food contamination at food processing facilities occur due to cross-contamination.

Cleaning & hygiene practices that take care of cross-contamination could be broadly divided into equipment, infrastructural and personal hygiene.

The selection of cleaning and sanitation chemicals used for equipment and infrastructure is mainly based on the type of residual soiling (organic or inorganic) on the surface, area/type of surface to be cleaned and cleaning application/method. Equipment and infrastructural cleaning applications further get generally divided into Cleaning-In-Place (CIP), Cleaning-Out-of-Place (COP) and Open-Plant-Cleaning (OPC) methods.

The type of residual soil depends on the nature of food being processed at these facilities and this may vary with the type of product manufactured — dairy, beverage, brewery and meat or fast-moving snacks industry. Further characterisation of these residual soils could be done as fats, oils, protein, sugar and starch. Alkaline detergents are generally used to remove organic soils and acidic detergents take care of inorganic soils.

Type of surface influences the selection and effectiveness of different cleaning and sanitation chemicals. Most commonly found surfaces in food processing facilities includes stainless steel, plastic, nylon, aluminium, rubber, mild steel and copper. Care should be taken while selection of chemicals based on the material of construction.

Use of acidic detergents on nylon surface must be avoided. Soft metals such aluminium surface should be treated with moderate alkaline cleaners, as use of acidic, highly alkaline cleaners will deteriorate the surface.

Personal hygiene practises are mainly aimed at stopping any contamination into product and equipment/infrastructure that may get introduced by persons working in food processing facilities. This is achieved by use of proper personal care hygiene chemicals and personal protective equipment.

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