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Choosing the right disinfectant

Choosing the right disinfectant

By Lawrence Staniforth - 14 February 2013


When choosing the right disinfectant to use in a food manufacturing or similar area, there are several considerations to bear in mind - by following a logical thought process and getting expert advice as to which types of product suit your purpose, it is possible to come to the right decision.


The first questions are Where? What? and Why? are you disinfecting.


This information will help you form risk assessments which will guide you in selecting the types of disinfectant you require.


The answers to the above will probably be determined by the likely level of contamination, and the areas that are being cleaned (e.g. cleaning in place (CIP) or open plant, wet areas or dry areas, high care or low care etc.).


For production areas of ready-to-eat products FSA guidance on the control of cross contamination E.coli O157 is that when used disinfectants must meet EN1276 and/or EN13697 test criteria and be used as recommended by the manufacturer after surfaces have been cleaned.


Many people ask themselves: do I need a sanitizer or a disinfectant? Basically; sanitisers combine cleaning and disinfecting activities, although their disinfecting capabilities are not usually as good as 'pure' disinfectants. If the decision is that a disinfectant is required, is it going to be applied post-cleaning (e.g. after the application of cleaning detergents), or is there no cleaning step involved? And will the disinfectant be left after application, or will it be rinsed off?


This then leads to more specific questions about the composition and chemical nature of the disinfectant - what active agents are included - does it need to be an oxidiser or a non–oxidiser? This will be determined by the spectrum of activity and efficacy levels needed, which in turn will be dependent upon the level and type of contamination, as well as on the temperature of the environment.


As well as the practicalities of what disinfectant will do the job from the point of view of the contamination that you are faced with, there are non-microbial issues to consider, such as stability, safety implications for users and environment and compatibility with surface materials, other cleaning products and chlorinated water. You should also consider any potential taint problems (we carry out taint tests for direct and non direct food contact).


Having decided on the type of product you need from a chemical point of view, there is how it is applied? – the choice of liquid as soak tanks or sprays, foams, gels, wet wipes or as gas/vapour/mist will be determined by the type of area being disinfected and why.


These decisions are not 'once and for always' decisions; tolerance /resistance concerns may mean alternating disinfection regimes, and you will need to monitor both the cost to disinfect and the effectiveness of your procedures.


Find out more about our food hygiene activities.