Editors’ note: This is part 1 of a three-part series on environmental monitoring. Parts 2 and 3 will publish in the October/November and December/January issues of FQ&S.
It’s business as usual in the sanitation department during routine operations. Procedures change when there are out-of-specification (OOS) results from environmental sponge tests—or do they?
Reclean, resanitize, and retrain are three common approaches for corrective actions. During this time, it could be argued that the same sanitation procedures may be conducted, regardless of the circumstances—just more often.
This will be a three-part series. Part 1 will explore the first steps involved in implementing a cleaning/sanitation process: the selection of chemicals and developing a master sanitation plan. Part 2 will discuss differences in cleaning/sanitation procedures when normal conditions are not occurring, such as when there is an OOS, maintenance, or construction event. In Part 3, we’ll cover procedures for use during extenuating circumstances such as complex maintenance procedures, construction, and pathogen investigations.
During the recent coronavirus outbreak, food companies have augmented sanitation activities, focusing on the well-being of employees. While dealing with these unprecedented times, manufacturers should not lose sight of the sanitation procedures important to the maintenance of sanitary conditions in the production of products.
A solid program starts with the development of two main components: sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs), based on four cleaning dynamics, and a master sanitation schedule outlining what is cleaned or sanitized, and how often.
Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures
The goal is to define the activities encompassing cleaning and sanitation. This is a multi-stage process, and the documents will evolve over time. First, consider developing general cleaning instructions to efficiently capture company policies. Second, identify soil components for detergent selection,
General cleaning instructions. For efficiency, combine common/recurring SSOP practices (training, storage, responsible parties, chemicals and concentration, and personal protective equipment [PPE]) into general cleaning instructions that are performed prior to or during all circumstances (routine operations, OOS, extenuating circumstances) where cleaning and sanitizing occur.
Identify soil components. Detergent selection is driven by functionality, which is driven by the physical attributes of the soil (products/ingredients) and water. Specifically, identifying the pH, mineral content, and type of organic soil will lead to the identification of the best detergent for their removal.
The pH of water is typically between 7 and 8, which usually does not negatively affect the detergent activity, but it could affect sanitizer selection. The greater deviation of pH from neutrality (pH 7), the greater the potential exists for detrimental chemical effects. Product pH will have similar repercussions. Acid soils, such as citrus, will react with alkaline chemical products, reducing their effectiveness, and vice versa.
Water chemistry should be taken into consideration at the facility. Water hardness may affect the ability of the chemistry to perform by reducing detergent foam formation or forming scale in clean-in-place (CIP) systems. Sometimes, minerals are embedded in a complex matrix of minerals, fats, and proteins and are termed milkstone, beerstone, and waterstone.
A film on a piece of equipment can be identified as mineral by applying an acid to the surface. If the film is removed, the soil is a mineral. Mineral deposits and film can usually be prevented using alkaline detergents that contain sequestering or chelating agents, or an agent that binds to the mineral, keeping it in solution so it is easily washed away during a rinse step. Alternatively, mineral deposits may also be removed by periodic applications of an acid, if the water does not have a high silica content. When hot water is used, if the water is hard (>4 grains per gram of calcium carbonate), there is a greater opportunity for it to precipitate (fall out) from the water and adhere to surfaces, causing a film. This film can serve as a base onto which bacteria can adhere and act as a protectant. This increases the difficulty of their removal and shields them from sanitizers.