“Verifying sanitizer efficacy is a key process in managing a rigorous cleaning and sanitizing program,” he says. “Verification can be accomplished through various means, but when done correctly, it can help companies keep their sanitation systems under control.”
Federal, state, and local health regulations require companies to verify the concentration of chemical solutions through sanitizer test kits.
Through the efforts of companies like Micro Essential Laboratory (Hydrion) and other sanitizer kit suppliers, test strips have largely become the verification method of choice among chemical sanitizer manufacturers and users. Micro Essential supplies pH test papers, sanitizer test papers, and pH buffer standards to the global market.
Test strip kits, which are not interchangeable, contain detailed instructions (i.e., proper water temperature, contact time, correct level of sanitizer in solution) and color charts to determine accurate concentration measurements based on the type of chemical used. Generally, chemical manufacturers determine the concentration for effective sanitization.
When placed in the chemical solution, test strips produce a color change based on the amount of active chemical in the solution. Each color on the chart represents a different sanitizer concentration in ppm.
Pouring sanitizer solution into sinks and buckets can create foam. Usually, foam has a higher concentration of sanitizer and must be allowed to dissipate prior to testing unless a clear area in the solution can be found. Once the foam is gone, the test strip should be dipped directly into the solution and held still—without swirling or moving—for the correct amount of time based on the type of sanitizer being used. The test strip should then be immediately compared to the color chart located on the test strip dispenser to determine the concentration of the sanitizer.
Throughout the day, results should be documented, analyzed, and tracked as part of sanitation standard operating procedures.
For all types of sanitizers used in the food environment, the frequency of testing should be performed as needed to keep the water clean, to ensure effective sanitizer concentration, and aid in the entry of safe food into the consumer marketplace. Test kits have a maximum shelf life and should be discarded in accordance with expiration dates.
The strategic placement of technical information sheets and instructional posters in the workplace has been shown to be beneficial in reminding employees of the importance of following cleaning and sanitizing procedures. In a related vein, some chemical suppliers offer on-site training to assist operations with their sanitation efforts.
Sanitation programs must operate on all cylinders to protect the integrity of food from a diverse gamut of spoilage microorganisms. It has been said that proper sanitization is often the final—and definitive—step to ensure that safe food reaches consumers. This daunting maxim significantly raises the ante on food safety stakeholders to ensure their chemical sanitizers are performing at peak efficiency.
Williams is a food writer, editor, and marketer whose articles have appeared in numerous food industry publications. He previously served as communications manager (North America) at Mérieux NutriSciences. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.