Sanitizing for Safe Food Production
All food production involves procedures for cleaning and disinfecting to avoid contamination, and prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses. Measures to prevent pathogen contamination of products intended for human consumption involve good sanitation protocols as well as materials for disinfecting. Likewise, food handling and processing demand adherence to sanitation procedures, many involving sanitizers and disinfectants, with the goal being the production of finished products that are safe to eat.
We are providing this guidance document to provide producers with our latest understanding of selecting and using disinfectant materials in organic food production.
Chlorine Materials: Calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, sodium hypochlorite
American households were introduced to a less concentrated version of liquid bleach by the Clorox Chemical Company way back in 1917. Clorox bleach and its kin remain popular and effective sanitizers, still killing microbes after all these years. Bleach is by far the most common sanitizer agent we see on farms and in small processing facilities in Maine. The National Organic Program has issued guidelines for the use of chlorine materials in organic production and handling. These new guidelines help clear up questions about the initial concentrations of chlorine in solutions for various sanitizing applications. The following is a summary of the NOP guidance that is available at http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/NOPProgramHandbook.
• For food handling facilities and equipment, APPROVED chlorine materials may be used up to maximum-labeled rates for disinfecting and sanitizing food contact surfaces. Rinsing is not required unless mandated by the label. Water used as an ingredient must be potable (4ppm or less chlorine).
•Water used in direct food contact is permitted to contain chlorine at levels approved by the FDA or EPA, however, rinsing with potable water (4ppm or les chlorine) must follow this step. Regular household bleach contains surfactants and/or fragrances that are not allowed in organic production. We do allow Ultra Clorox Germicidal Bleach (EPA Reg. No. 67619-8), which comes recommended by food safety experts at the University of Maine. It does not have these additional ingredients and it is labeled for a variety of commercial disinfecting uses.
Peroxyacetic Acid or Peroxy Acid Compounds or Peracetic Acid
Like chlorine-based sanitizers, peracetic acid’s mode of microbe-killing action is through oxidation. It is a relatively new sanitizer in the US. Peracetic acid leaves no residues and readily breaks down into water, oxygen and acetic acid. There are peracetic acid formulations that include surfactants, making them unsuitable for organic producers.
Sources of Sanitizers
Ultra Clorox Germicidal Bleach:
Home Depot, Staples, Sam’s Club. If not in stores, check online. ULINE.com
Test Strips for Chlorine:
Use these inexpensive papers to check the initial concentration of your chlorine solutions (for example, a “restaurant test strip” with a 0-200 ppm total chlorine range.)
Where to buy:
SanitationTools.com, Indigo.com, Restaurant Supply Stores
Johnny’s Selected Seed sells SaniDate 5 Liquid Sanitizer Ecolab.com sells Tsunami 100 OxoniaActive, contact Ecolab Check OMRI.org and type in ‘peracetic acid” for more product options.