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Controlling chemical hazards in food production
05 April 2018
Cleaning and disinfection chemicals are required to be stored, transferred, dosed, applied and rinsed from surfaces. Holchem looks at the four elements that form the core of most cleaning and disinfection processes in food production environments and the risk assessment that has to take place so that any hazards can be identified and controlled
As soon as a delivery of chemicals to a site occurs, provisions should be in place to ensure that they are not only stored in a safe and secure environment but they are also located where the risk of cross contamination from external sources is eliminated or reduced and controlled. An example of where chemical containers and packaging can become contaminated is where they are stored in uncovered external areas and are thus exposed to the elements. These chemical containers and packaging could then be transferred into production areas without undergoing a decontamination procedure, thus exposing food products to an avoidable hazard.
The ideal storage solution for chemicals is in a bunded bulk tank that is external to factory areas and well away from production processes and personnel contact. Other external storage solutions include designated areas that are locked, covered, cool, ventilated and not exposed to the elements.
Internal cleaning chemical stores should be entirely separate from food and packaging stores.
Transfer of chemicals from the storage area to the dosing point can be completed via the use of specialist pumps and stainless steel pipework, use of trolleys or usually, by manual handling.
The most hygienic option is for the storage of chemicals outside the food manufacturing area and the transfer of diluted product directly to the point of use. All other options require chemical containers to be taken into food processing areas, and thus require decontamination procedures for the outer surfaces of the container, particularly into high hygiene zones. The handling of only diluted chemicals by the cleaning operatives also has health and safety benefits.
Chemical dosing and chemical application
Effective and accurate dosing of chemicals is vital for ensuring that a cleaning and disinfection process delivers the desired result. The use of reliable dosing equipment helps to ensure that these processes are consistent, chemicals are used safely and effectively and costs are controlled. The concept of hazard analysis and hygienic design is relatively new for cleaning equipment manufacturers to consider.
Rinse guns are vital tools as they ensure quick removal of debris and chemical residues from surfaces and can access areas that manual methods cannot.
Whilst still used in the low risk food manufacturing sector, such as in abattoirs, cutting & boning plants and poultry factories the use of high pressure rinse guns in the food industry has been virtually eliminated in high risk / high care food processing sectors in the UK due to the significantly increased risk of cross contamination occurring.
Hose management continues to be a challenge in all food and beverage processing environments. The risk of cross contamination to operative or processing equipment is high. The placing of centralised or decentralised chemical satellite stations and the installation of hose reels, together with the hose length leading from such points, should be carefully chosen to minimise the chance of hoses having to be led over production lines to clean adjacent lines. One of the best options is to not utilise reels, hangers or trollies but after each use store the hoses in a designated container holding a disinfectant solution. This ensures that any microbial contamination is significantly reduced before the next use.