Cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are all necessary steps to ensure food processing equipment and facilities are safe to produce food for consumers. It is important to understand the difference between the three to achieve optimal food safety and quality.
Cleaning is the physical process of removing visible food soils. Some microorganisms are removed from the surfaces during the cleaning step as well. This is an important first step in the process to increase sanitizing effectiveness. Sanitizing should only be performed on previously cleaned surfaces.
Sanitizing is designed to reduce the number of microorganisms to a safe level and is to be performed after cleaning. Sanitizing is performed using EPA-registered products. In a food processing environment, sanitizers used on food contact surfaces must reduce the bacteria count by 99.999% (5 logs) in 30 seconds and for non-food contact surfaces by 99.9% (3 logs) within 5 minutes.
Disinfecting destroys or irreversibly inactivates many or all pathogenic microorganisms, except spores, and must have a 99.9999% kill rate. Disinfectants achieve a higher level of microbial kill.
Many products can be used to both sanitize and disinfect with an adjustment to the concentration and time of application. Understanding the differences in each process is essential to ensure proper application and intended results. For example, most sanitizers are approved to be left on food contact surfaces as the FDA has determined the concentration will not present any food safety issues for consumers. Disinfectants use higher concentration levels and are not safe to be left on food-contact surfaces and must be rinsed. They also must clear a higher bar for effectiveness compared to sanitizers.
There are limits to what chemical products can be used with no-rinse on food contact surfaces, so it’s beneficial to work with a partner who understands your specific usage and food safety goals. PSSI has expertise in all areas of food safety and will guide customers on product selection, the correct concentration, and daily documentation to provide accurate, real-time metrics that ensure sanitation and disinfectant services achieve maximum protection.