Food Soils

Debris will build up on surfaces throughout the production period; this will require subsequent removal by cleaning. This debris may be the result of normal production, spillages, line jams, maintenance, packaging, or general dust and dirt. Such undesirable material, which may include food residues, microorganisms, and foreign matter, is referred to as soil. In practical terms, a soil is anything in the wrong place at the wrong time; peas on a conveyor during production are product but after production or on the floor are soil.

Product soils are usually easy to visualize and are characterized primarily by the product type eg, protein, fat or carbohydrate. The process however is also important as a given product may present a variety of cleaning problems, depending on whether it is dry, wet, heat treated, frozen or the length of time it is left prior to cleaning.

Microbial soils cannot generally be observed by the eye but require microscopic examination. Bacterial attachment to surfaces is well documented (7-9), and the influence of bacterial growth on surfaces, termed biofilms, in the food industry has been discussed (10,11). Examination of stainless steel coupons attached to production lines, by epifluorescent microscopy, has been used to assess microbial levels in a range of food soils (12). An example of a heavy biofilm buildup over 16 h is shown in Figure 1 for a baked bean soil. After 12 h or so, this biofilm appeared to be of a brown vegetable appearance, but the photographs show clearly that it is bacterial in nature. A thorough understanding of a soil's characteristics is therefore required to ensure a successful and economic sanitation program.

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