Food processing can be a complex process, requiring the use of a wide range of machinery to manufacture the food that reaches households across the country. Just as important as maintaining this equipment on a daily basis is cleaning it properly. After all, there are a wide range of contaminants that can get into food processing equipment, from grease and oil to dirt and algae.
Unfortunately, many manufacturers find themselves unsure how to clean food processing equipment without the use of chemicals -- and in a time when these chemicals have come under increasing scrutiny for how they can potentially harm human health, this is a serious problem.
Thankfully, there are multiple methods available to help companies clean their food processing equipment in an effective manner that won’t result in any chemical-related issues. Here are some of the most commonly used non-chemical methods for cleaning food processing equipment.
Steam Pressure Cleaning
Steam pressure cleaning is likely the most common non-chemical cleaning method used by food processors. These systems essentially function like a high powered pressure washer. Depending on the type of system being used, the water that is used to clean food processing equipment may range anywhere from 140 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
The high temperature water is then sprayed on the food processing equipment, where listeria, E. Coli and other bacteria are often present. The heat instantly kills any dangerous microbes that might be lurking on the food processing equipment, while the intense water pressure (usually between 1,000 and 3,000 psi) has more than enough power to knock away any grime, protein, or other debris from the system. Better yet, steam pressure cleaning is highly water efficient -- some machines use as little as 1.5 gallons of water per minute.
Processors of cheese, meat, vegetables, and seafood are among the top users of steam pressure cleaning systems.
While dry steam cleaning systems also make use of superheated water to clean food processing equipment, they operate quite differently from a standard steam pressure cleaner. Special industrial equipment uses a boiler to heat water to temperatures exceeding 350 degrees Fahrenheit before releasing steam at approximately 265 degrees Fahrenheit and at an adjustable psi.
As with steam pressure cleaning, the extremely hot vapor is able to effectively kill salmonella, listeria, and other bacteria that often develops on food processing equipment. The noteworthy difference, however, is that the vapor has a much lower moisture content, making it better suited for treating sensitive areas and for sanitizing small places that are often out of reach with other equipment.
Dry steam systems are frequently used to clean refrigeration systems, scales, conveyors, gaskets, and more, and have received much use in bakeries, confectionaries, and meat processors.
A lesser-known cleaning option that has gained some traction in recent years is ozone. Ozone is created using oxygen molecules (O2) and unstable O1 atoms -- nothing more, nothing less. Ozone treatment has been used for a wide range of food processing applications, from disinfecting water to cleaning conveyors and other equipment. In addition to being a powerful disinfectant, ozone has also been used to eliminate odor emissions from food processing facilities.
Ozone acts much more rapidly and cleans more thoroughly than chlorine, without the risk of chemical contamination. As a result, ozone generators are becoming an especially common cleaning and deodorizing solution for processors of poultry, meat, and seafood.
As these examples illustrate, there are several options available that allow food processors to clean their facility and equipment without worrying about whether the use of a particular chemical could endanger their customers and staff. With the right tools to help your team clean effectively, maintaining a sanitary food processing facility will never be easier or safer.