Henry Randolph on basic sanitation

Sanitation is the most critical process in dairy plant operations. Effective cleaning and sanitizing of equipment and environmental surroundings are essential to ensure compliance with regulatory standards, food safety and consumer quality expectations. It must be a top priority of management and all plant employees to maintain consumer trust and avoid negative publicity from failures (e.g., peanuts, pistachios, tomatoes). Foodborne outbreaks due to Salmonella and Listeria have been extremely costly to industries affected by recent recalls and the spill over has implications to our industry.

Sanitation is not only the first step in dairy processing, but is a continuous process throughout the production day and the last step when production is finished. It is the alpha and omega for quality.

Most dairy plant operations are highly sophisticated and emphasis is on automated clean-in-place systems. However, the success or failure of the sanitation program is often dependent upon “old-fashioned” manual and clean-out-of-place methods. Quality problems are frequently traced to failures in following basic requirements for effective manual and COP cleaning and sanitizing procedures.

Manual cleaning: It is the oldest and simplest type of cleaning, involving  hand-scrubbing (mechanical action) with a brush or pad. Although it is simple and versatile, basic procedures are necessary for success:

• All equipment must be completely disassembled for cleaning on a dedicated wash cart. Proper brushes for the job must be provided.

• Pre-rinse all equipment with warm (100 to 115°F) water before immersing in the cleaning solution.

• Use hot (110 to 120°F) water, never tap or cold water. Use the right cleaner at the proper usage level for the job. Scrub with dedicated brushes or pad. Post-rinse with warm water and store on a clean surface or in sanitizer solution.

• Manual cleaning is labor intensive. Thus, mechanical procedures are used where possible. COP is discussed here while other procedures will be the subject of a future column.

COP cleaning: Many parts that cannot be cleaned effectively by CIP are cleaned in COP tanks. As with manual cleaning, basic procedures are required for success:

• Cleaning solution: Proper cleaner and concentration, temperature of the solution (140 to 160°), time of exposure, and flow or scrubbing action are basic requirements. Document solution concentration, temperature, flow and cleaning time.

• Pre-rinsing is the most important step in cleaning. Equipment must be pre-rinsed with warm water and disassembled prior to putting in the COP tank. All pipes and parts must be completely submerged in the cleaning solution.

• COP systems utilize open tanks with jet-propelled circulation. The tank must be large enough to provide complete immersion of all pipes and parts. There are two fundamental designs for COP tanks. Push-pull models circulate water from the ends and are usually used for cleaning long pipes. Side-circulating models produce a corkscrew flow and are best suited for cleaning various type parts. The turbulent action substitutes for manual scrubbing.

• Post-rinse equipment and flood tank with sanitizer solution.

Remember – equipment is either dirty or clean. Proper cleaning is the first step to sanitary dairy equipment. Dirty equipment cannot be sanitized. Properly trained and dedicated people are essential to an effective sanitation program. 

Join Randolph Associates Inc. in Birmingham, Ala., for the following basic training courses: Dairy Technology Workshop, Sept. 21-24; Sanitation Workshop, Nov. 10-12; and Pasteurization Workshop, Dec. 7-10. For registration and additional information, contact Kristy Clark at 205/595-6455 or kristy.clark@raiconsult.com.