How Are Allergens Cleaned Up Allergens By Food Processors in their Facilities
One of the most dreaded problems in food production is allergen contamination. There are many consumers who take a bite or take a sip of the wrong product and have serious, even fatal, consequences.
Federal statistics show that food allergies account for 30,000 emergency room visits annually and up to 200 deaths. The stakes are even higher, effective January 1, adding sesame seeds to the FDA's list of allergens that must appear on labels. Cross-contamination becomes a major problem when factories process products that contain allergens, which vary from product to product (some have and some don't), cross-contamination becomes a major problem. Even trace amounts of allergens can trigger reactions, taking cleaning and hygiene concerns to new levels. A moment's neglect of cleaning can lead to invisible, deadly contamination.
The most obvious precaution is to have dedicated processing and packaging lines for products containing individual allergens. However, this is not always practical. In addition, cross-contamination can also occur between dedicated lines, mainly due to minor loose contaminations such as sesame seeds.
If allergen contamination is an issue, developing a cleaning plan for the area is essential. The first step is to assess what is going wrong.
What allergens are present, when and how to use, how to store, etc.? If possible, they should be stored separately in a closed area. Specific tools, including household items such as brooms and brushes, should ideally be color-coded and strictly allergen-free. The type of allergen should also be considered. Liquids or sticky substances like peanut butter pose risks and require different procedures than solid particles like sesame seeds.
Bret Zaher, manager of AIB International, said cleaning procedures should be documented and made available to the cleaning staff. As with most cleaning procedures, all visible deposits and residue must be removed before deep cleaning begins. This should be done by flushing lines where wet cleaning is acceptable and brushing/vacuuming for dry cleaning.
Beware of hotspots
Most modern food processing equipment is designed to be relatively easy to clean. However, older or poorly designed equipment may have cracks, pits, protrusions, or other elements where dirt, including allergenic residues, can accumulate.
"The first thing to do is look at where a quick fix is needed," Evan Reyes, his sales manager for Goodway Technologies' plumbing division, said at a food processing webinar. “Are there hard-to-reach places? Perhaps guide rails under the conveyor belt or cavities in the frame? Can these be eliminated? Can I make a slanted face instead of a flat one? Can I weld some of this stainless steel to eliminate the cracks? I'm just trying to eliminate as many points of contamination as possible. ”
Certain basics should be incorporated into any cleaning plan. “Whether onsite or offsite, cleaning requirements vary by floor, equipment, and operation, but the basic elements of proper Time, Behavior, Chemicals, and Temperature (TACT) are essential. Marketing at Cinematic Time and temperature is self-explanatory. Chemical refers to the selection of cleaning agents. Action is meant to differ depending on the residue removal type. It may refer to simple hand scrubbing or pressure and turbulence in an automatically applied cleaning solution.
What do you use to clean it?
The choice of cleaning agent depends on the type of allergen to be removed. “Most allergens are proteins, so cleaning agents that target proteins are most effective at removing allergens,” said Jeremy Adler, his Senior Program Lead for Food Safety at Ecolab. This means it must usually contain an oxidizing agent such as sodium hypochlorite or hydrogen peroxide. (The latter can also be used for pretreatment.)
Even simple cleaning tools need attention. “We often forget cleaning supplies during the cleaning process,” says Zaher. “Often, the cleaning process involves reusable brushes, scrapers, and tools, but there is no follow-up to ensure that this cleaning equipment is cleaned afterward. and cleaning-in-place (COP) tanks.”
Easy access to these tools is essential. It doesn't matter how clean it is if you don't use it often enough.
“If all tools are organized, accessible, and functional, an operator is much more likely to be able to use them throughout his day,” Reyes said at the webinar. "If it's in the corner of the facility that's hard to reach, it might not be used much."
CIP is not a panacea
Many food utensils have a clean-in-place feature. CIP is a great way to keep equipment clean with minimal daily effort, but processors should not view CIP as a panacea for all cross-contamination problems.
"Cleaning in place does not guarantee that allergens will be removed," says Mitch Fay, his director of technicals at Hydrite. “Processing equipment that is not regularly disassembled or inspected creates a difficult situation.” Certain equipment or components, such as heat exchangers, separators, evaporators, manifolds, and gaskets, are particularly problematic for CIP systems. there is.
A big potential problem is that the CIP components are poorly maintained or not suited to the application. “The CIP system is designed to deliver cleaning fluid, but it is the job of the cleaning equipment in the tank to deliver cleaning fluid properly,” says Downer of his at Sani-Matic. “We regularly see equipment with inadequate or inadequate cleaning equipment installed, resulting in cleaning problems or longer cleaning times.”
Clogged spray balls and inline screens, pump leaks, and other maintenance issues can reduce the effectiveness of your CIP. This situation is often exacerbated by the fact that components in inaccessible locations, such as spray balls in tanks, are inspected only a few times a year.
How to remove allergens?
Allergen removal is a particular challenge for completely dry processing facilities such as powder mixing. Flushing the equipment with copious amounts of water is not an option for such operations. You cannot risk traces of moisture migrating into your product.
"Dry products have traditionally been dry-cleaned due to potential problems associated with the presence of water," says Downer. "However, because allergens are chemical contaminants rather than biological contaminants, dry cleaning cannot always remove them."
Dry cleaning is usually done with brushes and vacuum cleaners. If cross-contamination must be avoided, the cleaned surface should be hand-scrubbed dry. This process is time-consuming, especially if the mixer blades and inner surfaces are covered with powder.
I have a device that can speed it up. Tetra Pak offers some dry mixers an air jet cleaning system. An internal nozzle blows compressed air into the hopper to remove powder residue. Powder residue can be collected and reworked (as opposed to removing residue with a handheld vacuum cleaner).
Allergen is a real challenge!
Cleaning to remove allergen cross-contamination requires extra effort to recognize what is at risk. Prevent what could be a disaster for vulnerable consumers.
AIB's Zaher said: "When it comes to validating allergen cleaning, it's always best to go beyond simple visual cleaning to validate the program."
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