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What to do with continued high APC counts on a Zone 1?

sanitizer environmental monitoring sanitation hygienic zoning aerobic plate count PAA sodium hypochlorites hygiene resistance biofilm

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#1 onascaleofonetobotulism

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 07:50 PM

Hi all,

 

I've been tracking limited environmental monitoring (I have funding limits, per management) within a small but significant area of Zone 1 equipment surfaces, and have been unable to break out of a high Aerobic Plate Count trend--sometimes it'll drop off to the double digits (60 cfu/mL, 90 cfu/mL, etc.), and then it'll start spiking upwards (about 200-1000). 

 

I have taken to rotating sanitizers within budget constraints--we primarily use a sodium hypochlorite-based sanitizer, but I switch it up 1 to 2 times a week with a PAA (peroxyacetic acid). 

 

I have taken a couple samples of the rinse water, and can probably rule out it being a potential source of post-sanitizing contamination.

 

I will say that the equipment that is being tested every week is a fine stainless steel mesh and a steel surface with several hyper-thin grooves--so yes, I am concerned that we simply have an inaccessibility issue which is inhibiting our cleaning and sanitizing. We are as thorough as we can be (no way to break the equipment down further), and there are no visible signs of growth or anything "funky".

 

Any way for me to make sense of these readings, or recommendations for better sanitizer rotation? We were given recommended APC maximums by an outside consultant some time ago, to which I've tried my best to adhere. We've never yet used an iodine or ammonium based sanitizer; would either of those be potentially useful?



#2 Scampi

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 08:19 PM

I wouldn't rotate sanitizers at all. At first glance, my suggestion is that either:

 

A) concentration of CLEANER is not correct and/or contact time is insufficient

 

B) concentration of chlorine or PAA isn't sufficient

 

C) you have biofilm  (and I really hope it's not that)

 

What cleaning chemical are you using?


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#3 Charles.C

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 08:29 PM

Hi all,

 

I've been tracking limited environmental monitoring (I have funding limits, per management) within a small but significant area of Zone 1 equipment surfaces, and have been unable to break out of a high Aerobic Plate Count trend--sometimes it'll drop off to the double digits (60 cfu/mL, 90 cfu/mL, etc.), and then it'll start spiking upwards (about 200-1000). 

 

I have taken to rotating sanitizers within budget constraints--we primarily use a sodium hypochlorite-based sanitizer, but I switch it up 1 to 2 times a week with a PAA (peroxyacetic acid). 

 

I have taken a couple samples of the rinse water, and can probably rule out it being a potential source of post-sanitizing contamination.

 

I will say that the equipment that is being tested every week is a fine stainless steel mesh and a steel surface with several hyper-thin grooves--so yes, I am concerned that we simply have an inaccessibility issue which is inhibiting our cleaning and sanitizing. We are as thorough as we can be (no way to break the equipment down further), and there are no visible signs of growth or anything "funky".

 

Any way for me to make sense of these readings, or recommendations for better sanitizer rotation? We were given recommended APC maximums by an outside consultant some time ago, to which I've tried my best to adhere. We've never yet used an iodine or ammonium based sanitizer; would either of those be potentially useful?

 

Hi on a scale,

 

Please clarify -

 

(1) cfu is usually per cm2, not per ml?. Unable to compare to typical standards.

(2) How measured ? after cleaning/sanitising ? area swabbed ? no.samples per datum ?

(3) What kind of process ? eg what is contacting the surfaces measured ? RTE area ?

(4) How about data Coliform ? E.coli ? Enterobacteriaceae ?


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#4 onascaleofonetobotulism

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 08:36 PM

The regular sanitizer is XY12 from EcoLab. It's a Sodium Hypochlorite. I titrate it from time to time--I try to keep the Chlorine at around 200-300ppm (we rinse with water), but when APC's spike, I first try to "spike" the chlorine in response, say to 400, then 500, etc. Contact time for this sanitizer is about 20 minutes tops, honestly.

 

If that doesn't work after a couple tries, I mix up a batch of the PAA w/ water. The PAA is made by Spartan, and the labeling says to mix 1.5oz/5 gallons. Thus, I typically use about 700 mL mixed in with 80 gallons of (~90 degree F) water. The water heat we have access to for cleaning may be one of our issues, I know. Contact time if I use PAA is sometimes an hour if it's on a non-Production day, less if it's on Production schedule.



#5 Scampi

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 08:38 PM

Please correct me if i'm wrong here, you are rinsing the sanitizer?


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#6 onascaleofonetobotulism

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 08:44 PM

Charles-

 

1. The cm to mL thing bothered me when I first started, but the lab we use and our consultant at the time (who was SQF certified, though we declined to pursue that level of certification) both assured me that they were generally equivalent.

 

2. After sanitizing and rinsing (if needed). Standard "spongesicle" sponge-like swab thing. Surface area of 6x6 inches or so. Usually only one swab at a time (again--funding).

 

3. Process is for a liquid RTE that does not go through a kill step, and once packaged, is ALWAYS refrigerated; as advised by the original consultant, our HACCP relies on verifying effective sanitation with ATP, backed up by routine environmental monitoring. Process is a slow steeping of ingredients in water; the Zone 1 item in question is a mesh basket filter that separates those ingredients from the resulting liquid product prior to tasting, dilution, and packaging.

 

4. I've included a few dozen E. coli/ Total coli. tests simultaneous with the APC tests for samples, and a dozen or so Entero tests. Nothing ever really spiked--almost always a consistent 10 or fewer cfu/mL. I even got paranoid and swabbed for Listeria and Salmonella directly, once. Both were negative.



#7 onascaleofonetobotulism

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 08:47 PM

Scampi-

 

We used to do No-Rinse, and I simply maintained the Sani under the 200ppm chlorine requirement.

 

Once the micro started spiking, I started raising the sani levels, and now, the tube fittings (constrictors?) won't even let me go under 200 again without diving all the way down to about 50 ppm, which is comically low.

 

So, yes, now it's always 200+, and we always rinse.



#8 Charles.C

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Posted 11 June 2018 - 09:14 PM

Charles-

 

1. The cm to mL thing bothered me when I first started, but the lab we use and our consultant at the time (who was SQF certified, though we declined to pursue that level of certification) both assured me that they were generally equivalent.

I speculate that the quoted cfu/ml value, say "c"  is related to 1ml of the total volume of liquid from swab, say Vml. If so you need to know V. Then can calculate cfu/cm2 from Vc/A where A = ~225cm2 (assumes a continuous solid surface)

One sample is like russian roulette I'm afraid. From 3. below sounds like "A" may need a little thought. swab is 6x6 in of mesh ?

 

2. After sanitizing and rinsing (if needed). Standard "spongesicle" sponge-like swab thing. Surface area of 6x6 inches or so. Usually only one swab at a time (again--funding).

OK but what about cleaning ? how is the surface visually before/after sanitising ? equally satisfactorily clean looking ?

 

3. Process is for a liquid RTE that does not go through a kill step, and once packaged, is ALWAYS refrigerated; as advised by the original consultant, our HACCP relies on verifying effective sanitation with ATP, backed up by routine environmental monitoring. Process is a slow steeping of ingredients in water; the Zone 1 item in question is a mesh basket filter that separates those ingredients from the resulting liquid product prior to tasting, dilution, and packaging.

 

 

4. I've included a few dozen E. coli/ Total coli. tests simultaneous with the APC tests for samples, and a dozen or so Entero tests. Nothing ever really spiked--almost always a consistent 10 or fewer cfu/mL. I even got paranoid and swabbed for Listeria and Salmonella directly, once. Both were negative.

I hope you don't often get coliform/E.coli values of 10cfu/gm after (C) /S(cleaning/sanitising), should probably be undetectable unless the original surface condition was "loaded" so  (C) /S simply not adequate??.

 

 

Do you know what the APC etc values are like for the liquid passing the mesh basket ?

What are the ATP results like before/after (C) /S ?

 

PS - maybe no need to titrate for Cl2. The paper strip method may be accurate enough for  50-500 range. And a lot faster.


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#9 Scampi

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 01:56 PM

The reason I was asking about the rinsing is that it was my understanding that chlorine is/was approved up to 200 ppm without a rinse required, you just need to ensure enough dry time prior to using the equipment.

Factors affecting chlorine efficacy

Certain factors can affect the sanitizing power of chlorine compounds. They include the presence of organic material, pH, temperature, concentration, and contact time. When using chlorine as a sanitizer, note the following:  

  1. Presence of organic material. Organic material such as food residues decreases the effect of chlorine. For proper disinfection, use chlorine on cleaned surfaces only. Make sure you remove all organic material residue including fat and protein, before you apply chlorine as a sanitizer.
  2. The pH of a chlorine solution. The level affects the antimicrobial activity. Use chlorine solutions with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.0 for optimum antimicrobial activity. At pH values near 4.0, hypochlorite solutions are most effective, but very unstable. At high pH values, the efficacy of chlorine is reduced.  If you are using a highly alkaline cleaner to remove protein and fat residues, rinse the surfaces thoroughly before applying chlorine solution because high pH residues will reduce the chlorine activity.
  3. Temperature. Generally, chlorine antimicrobial activity increases with warmer temperatures. However, at high temperatures, chlorine compounds may release chlorine gas which is toxic. The potential of corrosion also increases as temperatures go up.
  4. Concentration. Higher concentration of chlorine increases the effectiveness of killing micro organisms. However, high concentrations of chlorine are not recommended because they can cause corrosion, explosions, and adversely affect the health of workers. A chlorine concentration of 50 to 200 parts per million (ppm) is recommended to disinfect food contact surfaces including utensils, equipment, and tables.
  5. Contact time. The bactericidal activity increases with longer exposure time. If the chlorine solution you are using does not exceed 200 ppm, no rinsing of the surface is required. If using a solution stronger than 200 ppm, rinse the surface with clean water after a few minutes of application. Do not let the chlorine solution stay in contact with equipment for more than 30 minutes or it could corrode.

 

I also wonder if your dosatron is actually working all the time and actually giving you accurate dosages consistently. You mentioned that it will not let you adjust properly-----perhaps what you're seeing is actually a technical issue and it's causing the spikes?  I would investigate that further before sourcing other chemicals.


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#10 RoundEggs

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Posted 26 July 2018 - 03:33 PM

The reason I was asking about the rinsing is that it was my understanding that chlorine is/was approved up to 200 ppm without a rinse required, you just need to ensure enough dry time prior to using the equipment.

Factors affecting chlorine efficacy

Certain factors can affect the sanitizing power of chlorine compounds. They include the presence of organic material, pH, temperature, concentration, and contact time. When using chlorine as a sanitizer, note the following:  

  1. Presence of organic material. Organic material such as food residues decreases the effect of chlorine. For proper disinfection, use chlorine on cleaned surfaces only. Make sure you remove all organic material residue including fat and protein, before you apply chlorine as a sanitizer.
  2. The pH of a chlorine solution. The level affects the antimicrobial activity. Use chlorine solutions with a pH range of 6.5 to 7.0 for optimum antimicrobial activity. At pH values near 4.0, hypochlorite solutions are most effective, but very unstable. At high pH values, the efficacy of chlorine is reduced.  If you are using a highly alkaline cleaner to remove protein and fat residues, rinse the surfaces thoroughly before applying chlorine solution because high pH residues will reduce the chlorine activity.
  3. Temperature. Generally, chlorine antimicrobial activity increases with warmer temperatures. However, at high temperatures, chlorine compounds may release chlorine gas which is toxic. The potential of corrosion also increases as temperatures go up.
  4. Concentration. Higher concentration of chlorine increases the effectiveness of killing micro organisms. However, high concentrations of chlorine are not recommended because they can cause corrosion, explosions, and adversely affect the health of workers. A chlorine concentration of 50 to 200 parts per million (ppm) is recommended to disinfect food contact surfaces including utensils, equipment, and tables.
  5. Contact time. The bactericidal activity increases with longer exposure time. If the chlorine solution you are using does not exceed 200 ppm, no rinsing of the surface is required. If using a solution stronger than 200 ppm, rinse the surface with clean water after a few minutes of application. Do not let the chlorine solution stay in contact with equipment for more than 30 minutes or it could corrode.

 

I also wonder if your dosatron is actually working all the time and actually giving you accurate dosages consistently. You mentioned that it will not let you adjust properly-----perhaps what you're seeing is actually a technical issue and it's causing the spikes?  I would investigate that further before sourcing other chemicals.

 

I agree - you may be having some issues with the dosage. You probably want to get a hold of your chemical rep to have a look and make sure it is working correctly or maintenance - whomever would repair it. Once you know that it is correct then you can eliminate it as an issue. 

 

I also think that if you are having to constantly increase sanitizer and you do not have an issue with proper dosage then the problem is that the equipment is not being effectively cleaned in the first place. 

Spend sometime observing sanitation - maybe they are cross contaminating something or they are not following proper procedures or the procedure is just  not effective. 

If the equipment is difficult to take a part then maybe you need to have it taken apart on a weekly or monthly basis to get more of a thorough clean and to ensure that you aren't getting an areas of buildup. 

Some of our equipment is also really difficult to access on a daily basis and we have had to take it apart as much as possible at the end of the week and use a pressure washer to eliminate buildup as well as apply acid to some areas that can get a lot of build up ( then foam , rinse, sanitize)

 

 

Talk to your chemical rep and ask if they have any suggestions for you. 


Edited by RoundEggs, 26 July 2018 - 03:37 PM.


#11 Charles.C

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Posted 26 July 2018 - 05:41 PM

It's also possible for various reasons that the "high" referred APC values are actually not particularly "high".

 

Regardless, thanks for the input.


Kind Regards,

 

Charles.C


#12 012117

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Posted 27 July 2018 - 02:03 AM

Hi, Onescaleofone......

 

First of, what is the APC limit for your finished product and what is your criteria for "clean'?

 

If I have this recurring incidences of AMC spiking up, I might observe my process in detail (and take samples when deemed necessary) in order to have a better picture.

 

I would observe my cleaning to check if they are compliant with the procedures or the procedure really cover in details on how to clean my machine properly. Do I have the correct concentration of cleaning chemicals or are my cleaning implement cleaned or managed to prevent to be the source of contamination.

 

After cleaning I check everything especially those that are "hard to reach places" and possible "sources of contamination". I'll take samples as necessary.

 

I then check how do I prepare my sanitizer and I have the right tools to apply it in my line. Is the sanitizer just splashed around the equipment? More, is my sanitizer fresh or if not fresh, do I have analysis that it will still be the same concentration over time (as normally PAA decreases concentration over a period of time). I then take samples as necessary. Also, do you sample immediately after sanitizing or do you allow the sufficient contact time.

 

If my equipment is with hard to clean, I'll recommend that you have frequency that you totally dismantle. In addition to what mentioned by Scampii for the effect of high chlorine concentration, please be careful of increasing chlorine level as this may effect sensory characteristic of your product especially if you are having liquid RTE. First product out may have "bitter" taste.







Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: sanitizer, environmental monitoring, sanitation, hygienic zoning, aerobic plate count, PAA, sodium hypochlorites, hygiene, resistance, biofilm

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