Cleanliness is fundamental in any food processing facility. When any incidence of contamination can prompt product recall, factory closure, and ultimately reputational damage and potential litigation, maintaining food safety in your operations is paramount. A clean-in-place (CIP) system is the first line of defense, helping to drive operational efficiency, ensure that processing equipment is clean, and protect your bottom line.
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However, in a sector that demands robust hygiene, traditional CIP systems have evolved while remaining defined by outdated metrics that are overly reliant on historical statistical parameters. If you measure standard factors, such as the flow in the system, conductivity, and temperature, they will show you that the cleaning cycle has fulfilled these parameters. Crucially, this will not, however, indicate the level of clean that the system has achieved.
Where cleaning is based on historical averages, CIP cycle times are in many cases too long, which in turn negatively impacts product safety and operational efficiency. The traditional cleaning sequence is based on historical and empirical sampling without gathering any automated data. Fortunately, new CIP technology exists to reduce over cleaning, preserve resources, and ensure accurate insights.
Pathogenic microorganisms such as Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli pose a significant risk to the food and beverage processing industry. These bacteria, can build up on processing equipment. This can create the potential for cross-contamination and result in serious problems for manufacturers. Knowledge of common problem microorganisms and the risks they pose is crucial to avoid a food safety breach.
In 2016, Listeria was discovered at the Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams manufacturing facility in Columbus, Ohio. Further analysis revealed it was the same strain of Listeria found the year before at both the Columbus facility and in a finished product sample of ice cream. According to a warning letter from the FDA, the “sanitation procedures have historically been inadequate to control, reduce, or eliminate this pathogenic organism” at the facility.
After the initial 2015 discovery, the company halted production, recalled all products, and embarked on a thorough cleaning, sanitizing, and reconfiguring of its production kitchen that reportedly cost $200,000. Jeni’s was also forced to destroy 265 tons of ice cream—worth more than $2.5 million. To protect customers, brand image, product stock, and bottom line, the importance of sanitary maintenance in processing facilities cannot be overstated.
How CIP Can Help
CIP systems are often implemented in food manufacturing operations to effectively clean assembled equipment, pipework, and other hard-to-reach areas where the survival of pathogens and other bacteria is more likely. Because CIP is conducted without disassembling equipment, it cuts down on labor such as manual scrubbing, reassembly, and final sanitizing steps. Less easy to quantify is the peace of mind that an effective CIP system provides to industry professionals regarding their facility’s level of sanitation.
Implementing a CIP system into an operation bolsters sanitation processes to improve product safety, making it an invaluable component of a business. As the food and beverage processing industry moves to place a greater value on sanitary design, CIP serves as a vital component of quality assurance. Particularly in larger production facilities, the automation of a CIP system is invaluable to reduce cleaning time and labor costs.
Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Over Cleaning
Retroactive correction is commonplace. For example, in a plant where overconsumption prevails due to a “better safe than sorry” approach, identifying contamination often leads to a determination to build a more robust program. The process becomes exponentially longer, and the concentration of cleaning chemicals soars to increase safety margins. As a result, as revealed by Diversey data, the majority of CIP systems are over cleaning by up to 50 percent, even though this over cleaning is carried out with the best of intentions.