What is the best method for produce wash water: the considerations
There are several ways to measure chemical concentrations in produce wash water but how do you know which method is right for you? In this article we have outlined the various factors you should consider when choosing the best test method.
Why do we need to test produce wash water?
Food and beverage products go through a series of cleaning and sanitisation processes. Chlorine, Chlorine Dioxide and Peracetic Acid (PAA) are commonly used sanitisers in the food and beverage industry. It is important that the correct concentration of sanitiser is used to ensure the successful operation of the system.
Tests are performed on wash water to verify that the correct amount of sanitiser is present. Without regular testing you may be overdosing or underdosing your sanitiser which both present problems. Underdosing can compromise cleanliness and safety, and overdosing can affect product quality and increase chemical costs.
Consideration 1: Accuracy and precision of test result
When testing disinfection levels, the most important factor is always the reliability of your results so you can make informed decisions about your disinfection process. With reliable information, operators are able to take the right action, using their chemical efficiently and ensuring produce quality. However, whilst test methods may claim to be reliable, we should look at the accuracy and precision of the result to ensure we are truly getting the best results.
When dealing with narrow margins about what is a safe and acceptable level of sanitizer, an accurate result is required. Inaccurate or variable results means that operators are not able to confirm whether their wash water is safe and conforming to the correct standards. Accurate results can be achieved through the quality of method, resilience to errors in the method, simplicity and objectivity of the test. In addition the ability to automatically capture data ensures that test results which show as outside the required range, cannot be edited or deleted.
Palintest paired up with CEBAS CSIC in Spain, Campden BRI in the UK, and SGS in China to get external validation of the sensor products against laboratory methods. Palintest’s sensor technology was found to produce measurements with a similar degree of accuracy and precision to the laboratory methods. To find out more about this, read our supporting article here.
Consideration 2: Traceability of test method
Traceability is a key factor in produce washing, as producers are required to keep comprehensive records of their process and results. This is then subject to regular audits by customers and regulatory bodies to ensure the safety and conformance of the produce. Paper records can become lost, damaged or subject to administrative errors which can record incorrect results. Integrated data logs which are saved and cannot be changed can create a fully trusted auditable data trail.
Kemio technology provides fully traceable results; automatically storing up to 10000 results to provide a traceable, auditable dataset. Find out more about Kemio here.
Consideration 3: Ease of use
Simple, quick and easy tests require less skill, training, and time, creating cost efficiencies for producers in a cost-sensitive market. Technologies which are quicker and easier to operate are known to reduce headcount and can be a huge cost saver for a business.
Consideration 4: Cost
Cost is a key driver for producers as they are increasingly pushed to reduce operating costs. However, when considering the cost of the test method, it is important to also factor in costs associated with testing labour, chemicals, time efficiency and wastage caused by incorrect results. In addition, costs associated with line shutdowns or product recalls can be avoided by ensuring you are using effective testing throughout the line.
Test methods must be suitable for the operating environment and the application’s unique water matrix, what is a suitable method for one application may be ineffective in another.
Some methods lend themselves better to cleaner or clearer waters with different interferences. Produce wash water is turbid, coloured, full of bubbles and suspended solids. These factors can impact some test methods.
Similarly, the test method must employ materials that are suitable for the application environment; equipment or consumables that are unfit for purpose impact the practicality of the test method. Examples of this could be the use of glassware in a food production facility.