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CHLORINE DIOXIDE IN THE FOOD INDUSTRY IS IMPORTANT FOR MANY CRITICAL PROCESSES
Chlorine dioxide is often used for microbial decontamination on food processing equipment as well as for entire food processing plants. Many food processors utilize a chlorine dioxide treatment after new construction to reset the microbial environment and assure a clean start-up. Other uses in the food industry include specific applications for fruit and vegetable, cheese & milk products, bakery and meat processing as a disinfectant spray, for packaging and container disinfection, a-septic filler disinfection, piping disinfection, ductwork disinfection, clean in place applications (CIP), disinfection treatments for the recycling of process water, treatment of source water, carcass wash, and flume disinfection.
The food industry relies heavily on chlorine dioxide for many treatment applications. Approved by the EPA for potable water applications and by the FDA for use as a disinfectant in the processing of foods and beverages, chlorine dioxide is the perfect solution to many of the disinfection challenges food and beverage companies encounter in their plants. The USDA has deemed chlorine dioxide as certified for organic use in crop production, as an algicide, disinfectant, and sanitizer.
The unique properties of chlorine dioxide that enable it to be extremely effective at microbial disinfection without affecting taste are just a couple reasons that chlorine dioxide is the preferred choice for multiple applications in the food processing industry. PureLine makes chlorine dioxide an even better choice with their NSF certified and patented generators, products and services that deliver a 99.5% pure, pH neutral solution with no reaction by-products passed through to your systems.
CHEMICAL AND PHYSICAL PROPERTIES
At 124 picometers (0.000124 micrometers), a chlorine dioxide gas molecule is much smaller than any microorganism. Chlorine dioxide is a real gas and by definition expands and conforms to the shape of the area in which it is held and acquires a uniform density inside that area, even in the presence of gravity and also regardless of the amount of equipment in the area. This property of chlorine dioxide gas allows it to easily penetrate and disinfect locations where other fumigant applications such as dry fog is not able to effectively reach.
Chlorine dioxide is a visible yellow-green gas with a swimming pool-like odor allowing it to be detected well below its 8-hour human habitation ‘safety’ level of 0.1 parts-per-million. Chlorine dioxide is a strong, yet selective oxidizing agent that does not produce harmful or environmentally hazardous by-products. When reacting with other substances, chlorine dioxide is selective, allowing it to be a more efficient and effective sterilizer than many other options. Chlorine dioxide is not a carcinogen nor is it a poisonous gas. Furthermore, chlorine dioxide does not leave any residues and there is no need for post-application clean up prior to resuming plant operations. Once the gas has dissipated to a safe level of < 0.1 ppm, typically within 60 minutes of cessation of gas generation, personnel may enter the area and plant operations can resume normal processing immediately.
Antimicrobial Properties – Sanitation, Disinfection and Sterilization
In microbiology the probability that an object that has been subjected to a sterilization process may nevertheless remain nonsterile is called the sterility assurance level (SAL). The SAL is used to measure the probability of microorganism survival and measured in orders of magnitude reduction, also called a “log” reduction.
The sanitization standard for contamination reduction of non-food contact surfaces is generally accepted as 99.9% (3-log reduction) and for food contact surfaces, as 99.999% (a 5-log reduction). For sterilization, the standard is generally accepted as 99.9999% (a 6-log reduction).
Chlorine dioxide, when applied correctly, provides for sterilization (6-log reduction). Chlorine dioxide is therefore defined as a chemical sterilant and is a selective oxidant that effectively destroys several components of microbial cells. It destroys the DNA in cells and, therefore microorganisms such as bacteria, virus and mold are unable to build up a resistance. Because chlorine dioxide is selective, the oxidizing action is retained longer than other fumigation agents such as peracetic acid or hydrogen peroxide, therefore allowing for maximum kill.
Bacterial spores (available from several scientific sources) have long been considered the gold standard for proving an effective sterilization process. Spores are extremely difficult to kill and therefore a sterilizing agent must be able to destroy spores and therefore considered as the most rigorous decontamination method. Although a 99.999% (5-log reduction) sanitation standard is accepted in the food industry, chlorine dioxide is classified as a sterilant and therefore much more powerful in the fight against presumptive or persistent pathogen problems.
Sterilization versus Disinfection
Sterilization is defined as the process of all microbial life being eliminated, which may be accomplished by chemical or physical means. A chemical sterilant must completely eliminate and inactivate spores, and therefore is verified to mean that it can eliminate and destroy all microbial life. A 6-log reduction (99.9999%) is defined as the level required to achieve sterilization. Sterilization is meant to convey an absolute, however; sometimes various commercial documents may make references to a ‘partial sterilizing’ agent. To be clear, and based upon the definition of sterilization, a chemical or other decontamination method cannot ‘partially sterilize’ and can only be classified as a sterilant if it is proven to destroy spores and thus eliminate all microbial life.
Disinfection is defined as the process of many or all pathogenic microorganisms being eliminated, except bacterial spores. In the food plant setting, floors and equipment are often routinely washed and cleaned by hand with various chemicals, with the goal of sanitizing food contact surfaces to eliminate pathogen contamination and meet the 5-log reduction (99.999%) sanitation standard for food contact surfaces and the 3-log (99.9%) standard for non-food contact surfaces, however; these methods seldom reach the level of disinfection.
Many factors influence the efficacy of disinfection and sterilization methods. These include the frequency of routine equipment cleaning; organic load or inorganic load on surfaces; the type of microbial contaminants present; biofilm presence; temperature; ambient light, relative humidity and the level to which equipment has been designed and installed to meet accepted sanitary design standards.
Unlike sterilization, disinfection may sometimes, but does not always kill spores. A ‘high-level’ disinfectant is defined as the ability to kill all microorganisms except large numbers of bacterial spores. Intermediate-level disinfectants kill most vegetative bacteria, most viruses, and most fungi but are unlikely to kill bacterial spores. Low-level disinfectants can kill most vegetative bacteria, some fungi, and some viruses, but will not kill spores.
Effective in Water
Chlorine dioxide is used in many public drinking water supplies and in water supplies used for industrial settings such as water purification in pharmaceutical companies and oil well drilling. Chlorine dioxide does not react with water and therefore retains its sterilization capabilities when dissolved in water. A 5-ppm chlorine dioxide solution is effective as a sanitizer (5-log or 99.999% reduction) with a contact time of at least 1 minute. Further, disinfection is achieved with 100 ppm using a contact time of 10 minutes. (Pfunter, 2011). Pureline Solutions offers a unique chlorine dioxide floor wash service, that is often combined with a chlorine dioxide gas treatment to initially disinfect floors and drains and subsequently offering a complete sterilization process.
Safe for the Environment
Chlorine dioxide is an ideal choice to minimize impact on our environment. It is often the preferred alternative to other options such as ozone, chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide and peracetic acid. Compared to these other options, a chlorine dioxide application is far less corrosive. While many people may confuse the use of chlorine with chlorine dioxide, they are very different. As an example, when chlorine reacts with organic matter, undesirable pollutants such as dioxins and bio-accumulative toxic substances are produced. Chlorine dioxide eliminates the production of these pollutants and does not chlorinate organic material, eliminating the formation of trihalomethanes (THMs), halo acetic acids (HAAs) and other chlorinated organic compounds.
The Many Uses of Chlorine Dioxide
Chlorine dioxide is a widely used antimicrobial in drinking water, process water, swimming pools, and mouthwash preparations. It is frequently used to treat fruit and vegetables and to decontaminate equipment for the food and beverage processing industry and is widely used in pharmaceuticals and life science research laboratories. The health care industry uses chlorine dioxide to decontaminate rooms and for equipment and component sterilization. For years, chlorine dioxide has been used extensively in the paper-pulp, flour, leather, fats & oils, and textile sectors.