Superheated steam technology for sanitation of dry food manufacturing plants
Environmental cross-contamination – the spread of foodborne pathogens, spoilage microbes, microbes or allergenic residues from equipment to food product in dry food manufacturing environment– has been recognized as one of the greatest contributing factors associated with outbreaks, recalls, and market withdrawals. Dry sanitation programs are inherently limited by the exclusion of water from the production environment. Although water serves an important function in sanitation, particularly in allergen removal, introduction of any moisture into these facilities greatly enhances microbial harborage and growth in environmental niches. Therefore, development of novel technologies to effectively clean and sanitize production surfaces in dry food manufacturing environments, without the introduction of moisture, would significantly enhance control over food safety and quality
To address this issue, we are conducting research on superheated steam. Superheated steam is an emerging sanitation technology for treatment of food plant surfaces that offers minimal water and chemical utilization while providing enhanced efficacy against biofilms and penetration into environmental niches compared to other dry sanitation technologies. Since superheated steam to act more as a gas, enable it to diffuse and penetrate bacterial biofilm more effectively than liquid solution. Thermal energy from the superheated steam contributes to the inactivation of bacteria. Super-heated steam denatures the proteins and enzymes of the bacteria and kills the bacteria without the acquisition of any potential chemical resistance or chemical residue left behind. We are currently investigating the inactivation kinetics of in various microorganisms suspended in model food residues and contaminations as a function of superheated temperatures and water activity (aw). Lessons learnt from the study will be used in scaling up this technology as dry food plant sanitation technology.