By Grainger Editorial Staff 7/29/19
Food processing equipment can get dirty during production, and even the tiniest splatter of spilled ingredients can leave a biofilm that pathogens will love to colonize. For machines on the production floor that are too large to move, you’ll need to do a washdown in place.
Washdown procedures help sanitize food equipment by removing organic matter residue that can harbor dangerous bacteria. In order for the washdown program to be effective, however, it must be thoughtfully designed.
From selecting production components to coordinating sanitation schedules, every element of your washdown procedure needs to be carefully considered. When developing a washdown procedure, start with the basics and have a plan to avoid the common pitfalls.
The Food Safety Modernization Act requires a proactive approach to controlling contamination hazards before they become an issue, so a washdown procedure needs to be part of your facility’s Food Safety Plan. Your washdown protocol needs to be in place—complete with thorough documentation and lab-based verification—before a contamination hazard arises.
The washdown process should be both routinely scheduled and triggered by unexpected events. Your plan should include a calendar for regular washdowns, and a washdown should automatically follow events that leave machinery unusually dirty, such as ingredient spills or equipment malfunctions.
Like every element of your Food Safety Plan, washdown procedures will ultimately fall under the authority of the facility’s Qualified Individual. The QI will need to put together a sanitation team with the expertise to make sure the job’s done right: you’ll want workers with a background in sanitation and safety, but you’ll also need crew members who understand the maintenance needs of the machinery, as well as teammates watching for quality control issues. The sanitation team will require annual training, with supplementary education any time the line machinery is updated.
Well-designed equipment can make the washdown process go smoothly. Hygienically designed production equipment built to the 3A, EHEDG, or AMI specifications will be designed for easy cleaning, with an absolute minimum of crevices where biofilms can hide and mirror-smooth surfaces that are hard for bacteria to colonize.
The materials matter too: 316 stainless steel is the gold standard for sanitation—it has a far smoother finish than copper, and cleaning agents won’t oxidize it like aluminium. For components that can’t be made from stainless steel, synthetic polymers offer a strong combination of corrosion-resistance and impermeability.
The IP ratings of electrical components will tell you the switch or sensor’s water resistance. IP 67-rated components are waterproof, but an IP 69K rating indicates the component will stand up to high-pressure, high-temperature sprays. Remember, your machinery is only as durable as the weakest component—so if your washdown relies on streams of scalding hot water, make sure you select components that are similarly rated to withstand it.
The washdown procedure can be broken down into six basic stages:
Improper washdown procedures can actually create new contamination hazards. When planning your washdown, watch out for the following pitfalls:
Carefully consider every element of your washdown procedure. If you start with the basics and stick to a plan, you can avoid the common pitfalls.
The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.