Disinfectants and its Application in Food Industry

Disinfectants should be effective and rapidly acting in killing microorganisms . It should be noted that disinfectants do not sterilize the surfaces treated, absolute germ-free surfaces cannot be achieved, but disinfectants should kill all pathogens. The chemical composition of disinfectants vary depending on the specific target (slaughterhouse, meat processing, easily accessible open processing lines or closed food pipeline systems) and on chemical formulations by the individual disinfectant manufacturer.

Modern disinfectants are mostly  mixtures of different chemical substances. Combinations of disinfection chemicals achieve a synergistic effect and result in the elimination of a broader spectrum of microorganisms. The exact compositions are sometimes not fully revealed by the manufacturers. In principle the following groups of substances are used:

A. Chlorine containing compounds
a) Na – or Ca-hypochlorite (Na/Ca O Cl)
b) Gaseous chlorine (Cl2) (Hypochlorous acid is the effective substance used preferably for disinfection of water)

Application: Effective against a wide range of bacteria, penetrates cell walls, but has a corroding effect on equipment.

B. Aldehydes (used in animal production, e.g. Formaldehyde)
Phenoles / Kresols (used in medicine, households
Alcohols (used in medicine, e.g. skin)
Alkalines (pH 10 or higher) (e.g. NaOH, used in
animal production)
Acids (some organic acids used in food industries)

Application:Destruction of microorganisms, may be corrosive.

C. Quaternary ammonium compounds (QUATS)
(used in food industries, as not corrosive)
Low efficiency on spores

Application:Effect on cell walls, not corrosive, odorless, additional cleaning properties (surfactant)

D. Oxygen releasing substances
Peroxide compounds (H2O2)
Per-acetic acid
(use in food industries)

Application: Penetrate into cells, good effect on all microorganisms including spores and virus, odorless, may be corrosive in concentrations >1%

Gunter Heinz & Peter Hautzinger – Meat Processing Technology


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