12 december 2016

Minimizing microbial risk

Minimizing microbial risk in the beverage industry through hygienic design

When producing any food or drink it is important to make every effort to minimize microbial risk, and make products for human consumption as safe as possible. Any microbial contamination is taken extremely seriously, and can result in costly product recalls in response to fears for human health. In addition to the serious health risks from certain bacterial species, contamination with less harmful bacteria can result in the spoilage of beverages, altering their quality and flavor. Manufacturers must therefore address the possibility of contamination, which may originate from the air supply, water supply, raw materials and process equipment.
Water in the beverage industry
The source of the drinking water used in production can influence the taste, appearance and overall quality of the final product. Hard water contains an increased presence of calcium and magnesium salts, which are particularly detrimental to soft drink production as they can cause alterations to pH, and affect microbiological stability and taste. Soft water is therefore recommended for use in soft drinks, and techniques exist that can remove water hardness and therefore the effects of these ions. The most widely used of these is reverse osmosis (RO), which is often the first step of a detailed water treatment programme for soft drink production. Another important stage of the  water treatment process is the removal of chlorine residues, which is achieved using a carbon filter. It is vital that chlorine be removed during water treatment as it can cause flavor defects. However, once it is removed, there should be extra considerations with regard to microbial contamination, as chlorine is often used as a disinfectant. Water involved in the production of beverages also undergoes various filtration steps to remove any particulates and residual impurities.
Importantly, the equipment used to carry out this water treatment must also play a role in minimizing microbial risk. Manufacturers should consider adopting hygienically designed water treatment systems. These systems can be easily cleaned, maintained and monitored to ensure that high water quality is sustained throughout the manufacturing process. With hygienic design, the different filters (e.g. media and carbon filters, RO and ultrafiltration systems) are optimized to prevent external impurities from entering the system, and to offer reliable cleaning and disinfection while allowing continuous monitoring. Hygienic design principles range from cleaning in place and sterilisation in place (CIP/SIP) technologies to optimized water flow that avoids stagnant water and dead-legs, which are those areas within piping that have poor flow and are difficult to clean. In addition, these systems provide maximum system availability due to longer cleaning intervals as well as economical operation, while still ensuring the highest product quality and safety. With the adoption of such hygienically designed water treatment systems, manufacturers can future-proof their plants for upcoming legislation.
Disinfectants are used across the beverage industry to help minimize contamination by microorganisms. Making use of hygienically designed water systems helps to minimize the use of disinfectants, as well as provide extra protection against microbial contamination. Another important issue with the use of disinfectants is the presence of disinfection by-products. Some of these are classified as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s), which can interfere with the endocrine system and cause cancerous tumors and abnormal development.
To combat some of the problems associated with disinfection, while still minimizing microbial risk.
  • Optimum product quality and product safety by minimizing microbiological risks
  • Maximum system availability thanks to longer cleaning intervals and maintenance cycles
  • Economical operation based on high system efficiency and decreased need of cleaning supplies
  • Low maintenance and service costs due to fewer components which are easily accessible
  • Lower OPEX due to chemical, water and energy savings
  • Sustainability: Longer lifetime and lower lifecycle costs (low TCO)