Definitions

Disinfection originally referred to the destruction of the germs of disease. In modern use, a disinfectant is an agent capable of destroying a wide range of microorganisms, but not necessarily bacterial spores. Sterilization is the process of destroying all forms of life, including bacterial spores. Sanitation is a more general term referring to those factors that improve the general cleanliness of our living environment and aid in the preservation of health. A sanitizer is a chemical substance that reduces numbers of microorganisms to an acceptable level. This term is widely used in the United States and it is virtually synonymous with the term disinfectant. In the food industry, sanitation and sanitizers are used to refer to processes and agents, respectively, for cleaning inanimate (work) surfaces. The term hygiene (from Hygieia, the Greek goddess of health) is frequently used to refer to personal cleanliness, hence hand hygiene. A soil is an organic or inorganic residue on equipment and other work surfaces. A soiled surface is cleaned by washing with a detergent. Detergency does not imply anything more than assisting in cleaning a surface; microorganisms are reduced only to the extent that they are physically removed from the surface (1).

Disinfectants may be characterized on the basis of their mode and range of antimicrobial action. A biocide is a disinfectant that kills all forms of life, whereas a biostat is a disinfectant that inhibits the growth of all forms of life. Many biocides are biostats at low concentrations. Bactericides and bacteriostats are agents active against bacteria. The prefixes fungi-, spori-, and viru- indicate action against fungi, spores, and viruses, respectively. The term germicide is sometimes used to describe disinfectants that destroy disease-causing organisms.

A sanitation program refers to the schedule and procedures for cleaning and sanitizing a food-processing plant or food-handling facility, as well as requirements for personal hygiene. Procedures for sanitation of inanimate surfaces and equipment involve a two- or three-step process. In each case the initial step is removal of gross soil. In a three-step process, the initial rinse is followed by a deter gent wash, rinse, and sanitizing. In a two-step process a combined detergent-sanitizing agent is used, followed by a rinse.

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