Research – Condensation removal practices and its potential for contributing to environmental pathogen contamination in food processing facilities

Journal of Food Protection

listeria

Food manufacturers often use squeegees as a tool to remove condensation from overhead surfaces. This practice is done to reduce the likelihood of environmental pathogen contamination by eliminating condensed water droplets that could fall from overhead surfaces during production. However, this practice may actually spread environmental pathogens across these surfaces, defeating its purpose and further increasing the risk for contamination in the processing area. To understand the risk associated with this common practice, test pipes inoculated with Listeria innocua ATCC 33090 were exposed to steam to produce condensation, which was then removed by squeegees. The pipe surfaces, droplets, and squeegees were subsequently analysed for Listeria to determine the distance the organism spread across the pipe, and how many organisms were transferred to the droplets and the squeegees. Results showed that Listeria travelled as far as 16 inches across the surface of the pipe, and bacterial transfer to the droplets decreased as the squeegee travelled further away from the contaminated area. Sanitisers alone were able to remove about 1 – 2 log CFU/in 2 of Listeria from the squeegee blades. Among the cleaning protocol evaluated, an extensive cleaning regimen was able to remove 3 – 4 log CFU/in 2 , which would be recommended to reduce the risk associated with environmental pathogens transfer. This study provides evidence that supports recommendations for minimising the cross-contamination risk associated with condensation management practices.

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