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Food Processing – Understanding Hygiene & Sanitation Challenges

Jose Felix Martelino, Sales Manager, ALMADION International, talks about disinfection in food processing 

Mass production

Food is one of the four primary needs (air, water, food, shelter) for human survival. The food we eat mainly comes from the landfarmers till or harvested from the waters by fishermen. In the old days, food supplies were harvested and stored in kitchens and barns. Often times they were dried or smoked to keep from spoiling. It is very different nowadays. Today food is processed to be stored for much longer in bottles, jars or cans through more modern ways of packing such as vacuum packs, tetra packs, aluminum packs, etc., routed into the food chain.

As human population grew, the need for food also multiplied exponentially; thereby, fruits, cereals, and vegetables are now farmed in hundreds, even thousands of hectares in massive quantities. Modern poultry, cattle, sheep and other meat supplies are now grown in complex, selfsufficient agricultural farms. As a matter of course, large state-of-the-art food processing plants for vegetables, fruits, poultry, beef, and other processed meats produce hundreds, even thousands of tons of food to meet ever growing world requirement.

Challenges in food mass production

With these technological developments the world seems assured of food supply. But let us take a look at these food processing plants. Like almost everything, they, too, face a host of challenges in their existence. One of these is the problem in maintaining hygiene and sanitation in the workplace before, during, and post operations. Food is always susceptible to bacterial contamination.

Food processing plants are manpower intensive. People coming and going expose the workplace to possible contamination from communityacquired disease-causing viruses. The ever-present threat of contamination is a hard reality in food processing plants. How many times have we heard of food poisoning caused by ingesting contaminated food products? There are hosts of various water-borne, air-borne, human-to-human transferred viruses such as influenza, Hepatitis B and C, BVDV, Herpes etc.; bacteria such Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli, and Legionaella; and Fungal infections: Aspergillus niger, Candida albicans etc. Disinfection is required from the time raw products arrive and stored. Raw materials arriving from different sources and places may be infected with pathogens. The contaminants can rapidly multiply inside the store room.Workers can be carriers of viruses, bacteria and other contaminants. Workers handle and contaminate equipment, machines and the food item itself. It will take less than 8 hours to spread the contamination inside the plant.

Disinfection options

Most food processing plants put in place cleaning procedures, hygiene and sanitation protocols. Some thorough, some not. Various types of cleaning detergents and disinfectants and procedures are employed. There are several things to consider when implementing hygiene and sanitation processes in a food processing environment: the disinfectant must be food grade, effectiveness and efficiency to eradicate pathogens, no adverse effect to humans during and after applications, manner and time required in applying, operation down time, effect on machine and equipment, adverse residual effect to man and machine if any, and most of all how long the disinfectant stays active and potent. Several disinfection solutions available in the market today can eradicate most viral and bacterial threats. Some are safe to use but contain corrosive agents that are detrimental to the equipment and machines. Some require reconstitution, which may result in errors in the preparation of the disinfection solution. Others are presented in wipes that could limit the application and use. Most disinfectants available in the market today can eradicate 90-99 per cent of pathogenic contamination. The problem is that they stay active and potent for a short time, no more than 15 minutes at times. This in effect reduces the amount of time that it is effective. The threat of viral and bacterial contamination is always present 24/7. What happens when the disinfection solution dries up? It becomes useless as it no longer has the power to combat contaminants.

In the UAE

Excellent food hygiene standards are mandatory in the Emirates to ensure that food is handled safely throughout the food chain. Food safety initiatives and training supported by the Dubai Municipality and the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority monitor food safety standards and conduct inspections throughout the Emirates in order to prevent food related problems. Eliminating microbiological hazards and cross contamination through proper cleaning and disinfection methods is essential for areas of food handling and preparation. Theses build strong reputation for providing safe customer experiences in a land where food businesses are key contributors to the economy.

Best solution

There is good news! An effective long-lasting disinfection solution is now available. Formulated using innovative nano-technology to make it last longer than most disinfection solutions. It has been tested in laboratory conditions to last for 10 days with still 98 per cent potency. It is called BACOBAN – a water-based solution highly recommended for use in Islamic countries. Thanks to “nano-technology” formulation, Bacoban leaves a nano-coat sponge layer that remains active and potent over a period of time, waiting and ready to destroy viruses, bacteria, fungi upon contact. While other disinfection solutions stop working after a few minutes or an hour, Bacoban keeps working overtime preventing re-contamination. • Cleans and disinfects in accordance with Directive 93/42/EEC • Advanced protection tested to ASTM E 2180 standard • Disinfection protection against cross contamination • Effective against a wide range of airborne viruses including Norovirus, SARS, Ebola, Hepatitis A& E; and bacteria like E-coli and Salmonella, Legionaella This is the kind of disinfection solution that is highly recommended for food processing plants. Food processing plants require a contamination-free environment while in operation. The need for continuous disinfection cannot be overlooked. Bacoban answers well to this need – it is food grade and safe to use. With its Class 2-A classification as a medical device it provides more than adequate protection in the food processing plant environment.Its easy-to-use anti-pathogen formula has been certified according to EU directives for Food Stuffs, Consumer Goods and the Animal Feed Code to provide effective disinfection of surfaces across a wide range of food preparation facilities and is suitable in any type of food business that needs high level hygienic performance.