Bactoforce: Real-time detection of organic residue ensures safe processes, 13 Oct

Insufficient cleaning, often leading to biofilm formation, in equipment (pasteurizers, heat exchangers, pipes) is a real issue for food manufacturers. Bactoforce has developed a new method for real-time detection of these problems in closed flow systems. Visitors to the Food Valley Expo, on 13 October, are welcome to attend a demonstration at the company’s booth. They can also try Rope Access, an application developed for inspection of high-sided silo tanks and spray-drying rooms.

Bactoforce’s real-time detection technology makes troubleshooting and optimizing CIP settings simple. It saves time and reduces the use of chemicals, water and energy.

Processing machinery versus cars
“In the food industry, regular inspection of tanks, pipes, heat exchangers and spray dryers is comparable to a vehicle inspection for cars,” says Marcel Wilmink, Bactoforce’s general manager for Northwest Europe. “Timely detection of mechanical defects such as cracks and corrosion and identifying hygiene failures prevents more-serious problems and keeps equipment in optimum condition.”

Bactoforce is a Danish company that inspects dairy, beverage and general food-processing equipment. Their analyses are accompanied by a meticulous inspection report. The company also offers customers the option of online monitoring of their systems. Bactoforce has offices in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and the UK.

“In food processing equipment, mechanical defects and corrosion are not the only problems. Biofilm formation is equally if not more hazardous,” says Wilmink. Biofilms are very difficult to remove and usually results from ineffective cleaning. They consist of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, phosphates and a buildup of micro-organisms, frequently embedded in a layer of slime. This layer often contains many spoilage-inducing and pathogenic micro-organisms that then release during production, contaminating food products.

As it is so difficult to remove existing biofilms from a production line, it is better to prevent them via regular examination. Inspecting open systems and surfaces is relatively simple. Closed systems are far more difficult: heat exchangers, pasteurizers, evaporators, membrane filters and pipes.

Closed systems
Bactoforce has developed an innovative inspection method, for validating cleaning in closed systems, based on the presence of organic residues. “We’ve conducted more than 100 commercial inspections using this new method over the past year,” says Wilmink. “They show that we can very accurately indicate the presence or absence of organic residues. Moreover the metrics indicate whether this residue consists of biofilms or contamination.”

The new inspection method is based on determination of the Total Organic Carbon (TOC) in a closed system. Using a mobile pump, the closed processing system is turned into a water-circulation system to which an oxidative substance is added. This substance reacts with the carbon compounds in the system. A series of samples from the circulating water is analyzed in a mobile unit. First, a strong acid is used to remove the inorganic carbon. Next, the organic compounds are oxidized into carbon dioxide. Then the amount of CO2 from organic compounds is analyzed. This gauges the amount of organic residue, contamination and/or biofilm.

Cleaning in Place
Wilmink explains the subsequent steps. “In some cases, when organic residues are detected, they can be eliminated instantly by modifying the water circulation into CIP-clean. CIP stands for Cleaning in Place. So, we temporarily reverse the pump and pump a mixture of water and chemicals through the system. Residues detach more easily that way. Immediately afterwards, we can run another organic-residue inspection to analyze whether the system is free of residues.”

Organic residue inspections in closed systems are a part of troubleshooting inspections aimed at localizing acute problems. Wilmink says there is growing interest in the Bactoforce inspection method for other purposes. “We’re seeing a growing number of companies who use it to fine-tune their CIP cleaning programs, either to validate new programs for specific contaminations or for improving existing programs. That makes sense: a well-designed CIP program guarantees product safety and can save a lot of money in terms of time, energy, water and cleaning agents.”

Meet us @ Food Valley Expo
Meet the Bactoforce team at the Food Valley Expo Floor, 13 October. There will be a demonstration of the real-time detection method and visitors can try rope-access – specially developed for the inspection of high silo tanks and spray-drying rooms. After appropriate instruction they can – under guidance – take a ride to the ceiling with a special motorized winch, and get a bird’s-eye view of the Expo.