ing required temperature and/or hold
time), for example, could lead to adverse
microbiological and/or food safety
problems downstream. The equipment
must also be suitably maintained and
regularly inspected. Effective cleaning
and sanitation of dairy processing equipment remains an ongoing challenge.
Ensuring all liquid contact surfaces in
the equipment and associated pipework
are exposed to the cleaning agents at
the recommended concentration, temperature, and hold time will minimize
any microbiological and/or food safety
risks. In addition, achieving turbulent
flow of the cleaning solution through
the equipment, much of which has a
number of moving parts, thin channels,
and crevices, will maximize the cleaning result. If a complete clean is not
achieved, bacteria can gain a foothold in
these channels/crevices and “liquid dead
points,” potentially leading to bacterial
outbreaks and biofilms that are difficult
5 Detection, evaluation, and
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control of these biofilms should be part of any modern food safety plan.
The liquid contact material used in modern processing equipment is food-grade
stainless steel, and while this material is durable and can be cleaned and made sanitary with suitable chemical agents (e.g., NaOH, hypochlorite), it is not inert. Acid
and salt solutions (e.g., conditions found in some dairy whey streams and in cleaning agents) can cause pitting of the stainless steel over time and the pitted surface
can become a haven for bacterial growth and create a challenge for cleaning. Regular
inspection of the equipment is critical.
Membrane processing technologies, including reverse osmosis, nanofiltration,
ultrafiltration, and microfiltration, have transformed the dairy industry over the past
7 While these techniques have allowed for the processing of huge volumes
of whey and the manufacture of valuable ingredients and products, including whey
powder, they pose unique challenges in cleaning and sanitation. Many of the membranes used in dairy processing are organic in nature (e.g., polysulfone, polyether-sulfone) and not chemically inert.
7 Thus, care must be taken when cleaning these
membranes to ensure both sanitation and retention of functional performance.
It’s critical for the dairy processor to ensure cleanliness of the membranes, thereby
minimizing any food safety risk associated with their use but also maximizing the
functional life span of the membranes that represent a large capital investment.
Strict adherence to the recommendations of both the membrane manufacturer and
the cleaning agent supplier is critical.
A challenging technology to keep clean
Industrial-scale membrane processing of large volumes of dairy fluids, includ-
ing whey, is usually undertaken in cross-flow configuration whereby the fluid being