Prove to me that your pipes are clean!

Following on from our last post on “Pro-Active Verification”, this post will introduce an exciting new “tool” for quality, technical and production personnel, which has never been available in this part of the world before.

In 2017, Hygiene Technologies will be launching to the NZ market a new chemical product known as “Smart CIP”. This is an alkaline cleaner which can be used in all CIP situations, but which has a very important difference – thanks to the patented Persulphate Technology it is based on, it will verify the hygienic status of all the surfaces it contacts inside your circuit in real-time, as it circulates!

This is achieved by Smart CIP’s mode of action which oxidises anything of organic origin into its mineral form, and in doing so, changes the colour of the solution (which starts out as purple) in an exact correlation to the amount of organic material present. Once the solution has stopped changing colour, your equipment is verifiably free of anything of organic origin.

This colour change can be monitored visually, or measured with far more accuracy by specific instruments and apps.

If the potential usefulness of this is not immediately obvious to you, then take a step back for a moment and consider how CIP has evolved. Until the 1950’s all pipework etc used in a circuit was disassembled and manually cleaned every time it was needed. When the CIP concept was introduced, it was a major step forward for processors in efficiency, safety and repeatability.

This gave rise to using best practice methods based around the “four factors” of CIP – known under various different names, but basically which are flow rate, time, temperature and chemical concentration. The most efficient combination of each of these factors was built up from long experience and trial and error for each different type of circuit and the product being processed in that circuit, and how effective the clean was, was monitored by the presence/absence of micros in the rinse water and ultimately the shelf life of the product processed.

Based on these generally accepted best-practice methods, a number of ways of measuring these parameters inline were introduced, such as pH meters, conductivity meters, flow-meters and so on. This was so that factory control systems could monitor them automatically to help ensure repeatability of an accepted method, raise alarms if something didn’t meet a set-point, and to provide historical data for auditors that showed that a certain clean on a certain day after a particular product run, meet all the set-points and was therefore deemed “effective”.

The problem with all of these parameters being measured is that they are all cleaning “inputs” – e.g – they are all factors that are introduced into the CIP operation, (such as temperature, alkalinity, higher flow rate) on the basis that they will hopefully influence the outcome. But if the outcome that is wanted is complete removal of anything organic from the system, then you really have to measure the “output” from this activity, which is the level of effectiveness of your cleaning program.

If you are relying only on a record of your cleaning inputs to prove that your outcomes are acceptable, then you are only getting half of the picture. And if you are relying on sampling methods that only test a very small representation of your circuit to prove that the outcome was effective, you are also leaving a lot to chance.

Admittedly, this is what industry has done for decades, because there has been no better way of doing it, but in reality, it is akin to looking at a very foggy mirror – you are getting a fairly good idea of what’s looking back at you, a general outline, but the fine details which are important, are not clear. It is a representation, but not the full picture.

And the day is coming when providing a record of inputs as evidence of an effective output will no longer be acceptable to your customers. The fact that the last time you ran this product for Company X a few months back, and the rinse water micro’s came back clear, and you haven’t changed the CIP settings, is no guarantee that it will be the same this time.

What if you run allergen and non-allergen product through the same equipment? Kosher and non-Kosher? Halal and non-Halal? How can you prove that if no inputs are changed, your current CIP is effective at removing all organic substances from your equipment?

Micro sampling the rinse water does not prove it – in reality, this is only saying that a tiny proportion or representation of this circuit did or didn’t grow bacteria. What about that allergen? What about that stubborn organic fouling?

ATP sampling the rinse water does not prove it – once again this is only saying that a small representation of the circuit volume contains xxx amount of a type of organic matter, and importantly, this is only representing soil that rinse water alone can remove, and that is not adhered to a surface.

While definitely an advance on traditional methods, in-line real-time measurement tools such as Laser Induced Fluorescence to report on bio-burden, or Total Organic Carbon analysers, they still have the same drawback as ATP, in that they are only testing for free-floating residue in the rinse water, and cannot report on adhered substances.

There is a new type of sensor that is permanently fitted inside the circuit and transmits real-time data about the level of fouling it detects on the interior surface. While definitely useful for optimising CIP and potentially reducing cycle times, this can in no way be used as verification that the entire circuit is clean or free of organic substances, as it is only giving feedback on one small part of it. While practically this can be considered representative of the entire circuit, it cannot report on that slow-flow area that is 20 mtrs back from the sensor, or on the biofilm growing on the worn gasket 2 mtrs after the sensor.

So what makes Smart CIP different to all these methods, and why is it the best method available today for verifying the effectiveness of your CIP?

– It “samples” and “reports on” every single square millimetre of area inside your circuit in real time, through its colour change technology. No representative samples or guesswork involved.

– Far from just analysing what rinse water can dislodge and carry, it reports on what a strongly alkaline, oxidising cleaner can react with and dislodge, which is far more meaningful if you want to know if there is any stubborn residual soiling or biofilms left in your circuit that your normal CIP program cannot move.

– Smart CIP will not stop changing colour until every last bit of organic-origin matter it has come in contact with has been reduced to its mineralised state (at which point it is no longer an issue). So once no more colour change is occurring, you can be absolutely confident that your entire system is free of all organic substances.

Smart CIP is coming and it will be an incredibly helpful tool for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical industry in NZ! If you want to know more, email glen@hygienetech.co.nz