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Food grade sanitisers of utmost importance to food and beverage industry
Monday, 01 February, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Laltu Sinha
Keeping an area clean and free of germs and bacteria that can cause disease, is extremely important for all businesses, but the food industry has to follow strict standard due to regulations imposed by federal and state agencies. These agencies include the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Health, and other agencies that regulate everything from the quality of the food to the cleanliness and safety of the environment where the food is cooked and served.

Sanitisers are a chemical mixture that is capable of destroying microorganisms including bacteria, fungi, and germs that can cause food poisoning and other health-related diseases. When used according to the regulations, they can reduce surface contamination by bacteria to a safe level.

But what does sanitising means? To sanitise means to remove microorganisms and bacteria which are harmful to people's health to a level marked safe, based on traditional parameters, without adversely affecting either the safety or the quality of the product.

To achieve the required level of sanitisation or disinfection, the sanitisers must be applied at a certain concentration for a specified period. These parameters are mentioned on the product label and must be followed as mentioned to achieve the desired microbial control.

99.99% achieved in 30 seconds is generally accepted for contamination reduction of food contact surfaces according to the sanitisation standard.
Food grade sanitisers remarkably reduce the number of bacteria and microorganisms that are present on hard and nonporous surfaces of the food to keep the bacteria and germs from spreading. They are approved by FDA for food contact and help stop the transportation of foodborne illnesses related to health issues. The sanitisers are applied after cleaning the surface, and they are generally used in restaurants, food-processing facilities, and other areas where food is handled or prepared.

Unfortunately, in the restaurant business, they assume that cleaners and sanitisers with harsh chemicals are the best option for meeting the utmost requirements for keeping the restaurant and food outlets clean, sanitised, and disinfected. This is not only inaccurate but it can also be a potentially hazardous assumption. Many commercial food-grade sanitisers that are used for sanitising, cleaning, and disinfecting raw materials and products can be harmful to the consumers as well. This is because they contain chemicals that are capable of degrading health risks to consumers as well as to the overall environment.

Important factors while choosing a sanitiser for food contact surfaces include ease of application, cost, effectiveness at reducing microbial contamination, penetrating, non-corrosive, compatibility with other chemicals used at the station, need for rinsing, stability, not adversely affected by organic matter, toxic/irritating properties, and compatibility with locally available water.

Chemicals Used in Manufacturing of Food-Based Sanitisers
Aqueous Chlorine- Aqueous Chlorine is a bleaching agent used widely in the business of all kinds especially in the food-related sector like restaurants, food processing units, kitchens, and others. Chlorine kills bacteria it acts as both disinfectant and sanitiser depending on the concentration of it present. It is used to treat drinking water. It is also used to make hundreds of consumer products from paper to paints, and from textiles to insecticides. 20 per cent of chlorine is used to produce PVC.

Hypochlorite- It is an ion composed of chlorine and oxygen with the chemical formula ClO. It is unstable in the pure form, hypochlorite is most commonly used for bleaching, disinfection. It is capable of removing fungi, viruses, and penetrating pores. Rinse concentration is 50-500 ppm. Hypochlorite are very reactive in nature, their useful properties are negatively impacted by factors such as high temperatures, suspended solids, water impurities suspended solids, high temperatures, light, and improper pH levels. In routine use, surfaces must be as free as possible of organic materials, and the pH must be maintained between 5 to 7 to ensure that the greatest amount of hypochlorous acid is available.

Mixtures of Peroxide and Peroxyacid- peroxide are chemical compounds in which two oxygen are linked together by a covalent bond. Peroxy acid is generally used as an oxidising agent in the mixture, it adds oxygen to the alkene. They are generally used as a bleaching agent in the industry. They are present in both organic and inorganic forms. They are capable of removing fungi and viruses. They are capable of removing biofilm and can penetrate through pores. They are generally used at 50ppm – 350ppm. They are generally environment-friendly sanitisers as compounds break down into oxygen, acetic acid, and water. They are also less corrosive to food processing equipment as compared to other sanitisers present in the market.

Hydrogen peroxide (H202) – Hydrogen peroxide is a chemical compound made by a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen. It is used as a bleaching agent and an oxidizer. It is unstable and readily decomposing to oxygen. Hydrogen Peroxide is capable of removing bacteria, viruses, fungi, Legionella, E. coli, Influenza A and B, Pseudomonas, Campylobacter, Salmonella, MRSA, VRE. It can penetrate through pores but is not effective in the removal of biofilm.

Advantages of Food Grade Sanitizers
•    Improve food quality and shelf life
•    Superior microbial control
•    Minimise spoilage
•    Effective to a broad Ph range of 4 TO 11
•    Effective on wide temperature cold 5OC to hot 80OC
•    Non-carcinogenic
•    Eradicates biofilm
•    Effective on cold and hot temperatures
•    No by-products such as free chlorine, chlorite, and chlorates, etc.
•    Oxidises iron, manganese, and other metallic, phenols, trichlorophenols, hydrogen sulphides, and sulphides

Disadvantages of Food Grade Sanitisers on Human Health
•    Skin and respiratory irritant especially to the old age and children
•    Burning pain
•    Inflammation in the eyes
•    Blisters
•    Skin burns
•    Not environmental friendly
•    They are corrosive to metals and can cause health-related issues
•    When flushed in sewage can cause water pollution causing issues

(The author is research director, Blue Weave Consulting. He can be contacted at
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