Keep it clean

Most companies involved in the food sector have a team of individuals closely evaluating machinery and production line operations, design and performance to assess all food safety risks and establish all critical control points.

There are regulatory requirements for food processing equipment to be bacteria-free at the start of each process cycle. Clean-In-Place (CIP) systems are widely used to satisfy this requirement efficiently. These systems have effectively become an integral part of the manufacturing process and run after each cycle to clean and sanitize equipment. The developments with CIP have reinforced the increased integration of food processing and process control as well as increased investment in software and automation in processing machinery.

Currently, FSMA does not have a mandatory validation requirement for CIP sanitation, but many consumer-packaged goods companies are taking this proactive approach to address food safety measures. The OpX Leadership Network recently released “CIP for C.P.G.s” outlining generic definitions, equipment considerations and best practices for CIP that can be leveraged across multiple process lines. The newly released companion checklist provides assistance to operators and their teams in organizing, developing and validating a documented CIP plan for processing equipment.

First, the design of processing systems must include cleaning methods. It is important to remember that only correctly designed, installed and maintained systems can efficiently and consistently clean in place.

It is imperative for the safety of personnel, products and longevity of equipment to assure the entire team (operators, sanitation, maintenance, etc.) are all properly trained and aligned with the operational protocols and objectives of CIP.

According to “CIP for C.P.G.s”, for a system to truly be cleanable in place it must abide by five rules:

1. The unit operations and equipment components used in the system have been designed for CIP and have been verified to clean in place by 3-A-SSI, EHEDG, or an acceptable alternative method.

2. Installation of the system must maintain its clean in place integrity. This includes not only the materials and craftsmanship but also the proper fluid dynamics for the CIP solution supply and return to the process equipment. (3A-SSI accepted practice 605 is a good guideline.)

3. The process piping and equipment must be able to receive the prescribed flow, temperature, time, chemical concentration and pressure of cleaning solution required by the manufacturer or process design engineer. Often the process lines are not capable of delivering the CIP flow required by the equipment and additional design considerations are necessary. Active monitoring and adjustment of these critical process parameters throughout the cleaning cycle are important.

4. Once a CIP process has been validated, proper change control procedures should be in place to maintain an accurate record of the critical process parameters (e.g., time, temp, flow, pressure, and conductivity/ concentration). Routine visual inspection, chemical residual verification on final rinses and microbial verification are common safeguards to ensure system performance is consistently achieving proper cleaning. The validation plan is developed and maintained by the facility along with the chemical and equipment manufacturers.

5. A preventative maintenance and instrument calibration program must be in place to ensure the equipment and process are maintained as designed. Periodic inspection of in-line filters and magnetic traps is required to mitigate potential threats from foreign materials. (Worn elastomers, leaking seals, corrosion of stainless steel and mechanical damage to equipment can all create concerns for cleaning).

CIP data can be electronically stored and provide producers with critical information to optimize processes. Many companies have benefitted from implementing automated systems, tightening CIP control parameters, which minimizes cycle time and reduces chemical, water and energy usage.

Additionally, companies can easily electronically verify cycles and retrieve information in the event of a sanitation issue. CIP supports the demand throughout the industry for improved information on where products have been and how they have been treated from source material to consumer.