Q: What are the main talking points for food manufacturers in the cleaning materials field right now?
A: One of the most challenging concerns is cleaning and disinfecting food contact surfaces after processing meats or meat-containing products and before processing possibly vegetarian products. This is in reference to cross-contamination of meat from one product to another.
There's interest in a wide range of issues, from environmental impact/fate and sustainability, including methods of reducing water usage to new maximum residual limits on foods of quaternary ammonium compound disinfectants.
Q: What are the latest materials being discussed in the field of 'all-natural' cleaning agents? Are they really just ‘greenwash’, only good for PR?
A: What is natural? I often see requests for cleaning and disinfection systems that 'DO NOT CONTAIN CHEMICALS' and references to lemon/citrus (Citric acid) or vinegar (Acetic acid) use as potential 'natural' cleaning agents. There are also products marketed as containing 'natural ingredients', but at concentrations thousands of times greater than you would find naturally.
Should we not be more concerned with what is sustainable, effective and safe to use for the operator and the enviroment? There are a growing number of products produced and marketed on these values and an increasing number of suppliers that while still selling 'chemicals' are producing products in a sustainable manner and with environmental fate or impact in mind.
When selecting cleaning and disinfectant agents, my primary concerns are that products are effective and safe to use (conform to regulations such as REACH or the Biocidal Product Directive). The fact that they are eco-friendly is a marketing differentiator, but if product A is half as expensive as product B but you need twice as much, you have not saved anything.
Q: What place can coatings have in preventing the build up of dirt and germs?
This is an exciting piece of research that Campden BRI is working on. I believe there are two technologies here. These are: surfaces that cause water to bead and drain of surfaces quickly thus having an almost self-cleaning effect and antimicrobial surfaces which kill bacteria that come into contact with them, for example silver- or copper-containing surfaces.
There are still a lot of questions to be answered, such as how effective are they when used in real life? At the moment, most tests for antimicrobial surfaces are what I would describe as proof of principle, but do not simulate in-use conditions. For how long are these surfaces effective? How do they interact with routine and cleaning and disinfection processes?
Campden BRI has a three-year research programme looking into these questions and is actively involved in efforts to develop methods that test these surfaces under realistic conditions.
Both are barrier technologies that will help keep areas clean, but should not replace recognized cleaning and disinfection procedures. They are complementary, not replacements.
Q: What are the major barriers to effective procedure when it comes to hygiene and cleaning and what are the common pitfalls? How can companies ensure these are overcome?
A: Time is often critical. In today’s high paced production environment the necessary time for correct cleaning and disinfection can sometimes be pressured either because of a lack of resources or time between production runs. Incorrect use of disinfectants and cleaning agents is also an issue.
To overcome these pitfalls, understanding the importance of hygiene, cleaning and disinfection practices to producing safe foods and their prioritization by management is vital. Use of best practice and effective cleaning and disinfection agents under the appropriate conditions along with effective training of those involved, from senior management to operatives, will all improve the situation and hopefully avoid mistakes.
- Campden BRI is running a cleaning and disinfection course and seminar in October 2013. Its HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) prerequisites course also contains information on cleaning and disinfection practices.