Tip of the Week: Stopping Hidden Danger In Its Tracks: Prevention Series

We're kicking off a new Tip of the Week series this week. Each product segment in the food industry faces unique risks and hazards related to the processes and equipment they use. We're highlighting some of these segment-specific hidden dangers and recommending preventive measures to stop them in their tracks. This week we'll turn our attention to dairy facilities.

Chocolate baths

In the ice cream making process, chocolate bars are dipped in a chocolate bath for coating and enrobing. The chocolate bath is continuously maintained at 35 °C (95 °F) and can be used for long runs. New chocolate paste is continuously added to maintain the level of the bath. Milk residues can get mixed in this chocolate bath and the microbiology of this chocolate bath gets disturbed. 

Prevention Tip: Determine a way to break the rework cycle of the chocolate bath to prevent hidden microbial issues.

Thermoduric and Thermophilic Organisms in Homogenization

For dairy products, the homogenizer typically operates between 55-60 °C (130-140 °F). Thermoduric organisms grow in temperatures around 60 °C but can survive through pasteurization temperatures. Thermophilic organisms, often described as heat lovers, can sustain life and grow in high temperatures. Due to their preferred environment, these organisms pose a risk to post-pasteurized product. 

Prevention Tip: The best way to control these organisms is by thoroughly and effectively cleaning utensils and equipment prior to pasteurization and homogenization.

Mold Growth in Cold Rooms

Cold rooms and IQFs may have mold growth behind the gaskets of the door due to frequent opening and closing. Higher temperatures on the perimeter of the cold room can create areas where mold growth is possible, but this is a place often missed on cleaning schedules creating a hidden harborage area.

Prevention Tip: It is very important to include these areas on cleaning schedules.  

Biofilm Formation in Spray Driers

The big cyclone of a spray drier may pose a risk for biofilm formation. The process uses a very high temperature to dry the milk. Proteins of milk actually form a protective layer in these environments, allowing biofilm formation. 

Prevention Tip: Regular cleaning schedules and validation of the cleaning procedure for the cyclone is critical for prevention.

Gasket Deterioration in Cheese Making Vats

In cheese making vats, which see a high degree of stress from CIP chemicals and hot water, the gaskets wear over time causing them to deteriorate. Pieces of gaskets can get lodged into spray balls and even possibly into product, creating a foreign material concern. Additionally, the areas on the gasket that are damaged can create niche areas for bacterial growth and biofilms. Some companies argue the merits of metal detectable gaskets versus non-metal detectable. 

Prevention Tip: A comprehensive preventive maintenance program which enforces replacing the gaskets on a defined frequency can mitigate this risk, which can be easily missed due to the closed nature of the system.

Milk Sample Ports

In dairy production, often sample ports are used to draw milk for composition and microbiological testing. These ports are another area often missed in routine cleaning, which can create a hidden niche area for bacteria to grow and possibly contaminate samples.

Prevention Tip: Make sure that sample ports are included on the cleaning schedule.

Stay tuned next week as we explore hidden dangers related to beverage facilities.