jueves 25 enero, 2018
The Industry of Disinfectant Chemicals
In the food industry, chemicals are routinely used to sanitize and disinfect product contact surfaces. These chemicals provide a necessary and required step to ensure that the foods produced and consumed are as free as possible from microorganisms that can cause foodborne illness. Prevention is the name of the game. What are these chemicals, how do they function and how are they used?
Disinfecting Versus Sanitizing
Before discussing the chemicals, the differences between sanitizers and disinfectants as used in the food industry must be understood. To disinfect means to destroy or irreversibly inactivate specified infectious fungi and bacteria, but not necessarily the spores, on hard surfaces. To sanitize means to reduce microorganisms of public health importance to levels considered safe, based on established parameters, without adversely affecting either the quality of the product or its safety. While disinfection measures may be employed in food processing and preparation, it is much more common to utilize sanitization methods to reduce microbial presence.
To achieve the required level of sanitization or disinfection, the chemical in question must be applied at a certain concentration for a specified amount of time. These parameters are described on the product label and must be followed to achieve the desired microbial control. In most cases, these products are registered for use as pesticides with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Once applied, the allowable residues and the monitoring thereof in food processing and preparation are the responsibility of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Facilities operating under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Department of Agriculture must additionally use products approved by that agency. Of course, the task of ensuring the chemicals are prepared and applied properly to avoid inappropriate residues rests with the food processor and foodservice operator.
The efficacy of a chemical used for sanitizing or disinfection rests upon its ability to reduce the contamination level. The sanitization standard for contamination reduction of food contact surfaces is generally accepted as 99.999% (a 5-log reduction) achieved in 30 seconds (Official Detergent Sanitizer Test). The sanitization standard for nonfood contact surfaces is accepted as a reduction of 99.9% (3 logs) within 30 seconds. Disinfection, in contrast, must destroy or irreversibly inactivate all specified organisms within a certain time, usually 10 minutes. Some chemicals may function as both sanitizers and disinfectants.
The process of sanitization depends upon the preparation of the surfaces in question. Most sanitizers must be applied to surfaces that are free of organic matter and cleaner residues. The generally accepted order of events is rinse, clean, rinse and sanitize. The cleaner utilized in the cleaning step needs to be oriented and appropriate for the soil present. For example, alkaline detergents more efficiently remove fat- and protein-based soils, while mineral-based soils require acid cleaners. Thankfully, modern cleaning agents are mixtures of chemical components that can address various cleaning scenarios.