I am often asked about the requirements for food grade approvals when using cleaners and disinfectants in the bottling plant, and elsewhere.
The regulations concerning the washing of polycarbonate bottles and other indirect food contact materials are paraphrased as follows: Detergent compositions may be used for washing surfaces that afterwards come into contact with food or beverage, provided there is a thorough rinse with potable water after the washing process. Washing compositions with components such as alkalis, water softening agents and small amounts of anionic, non-ionic or amphoteric detergents, may be employed for this purpose.
Peracetic acid is a terminal disinfectant (or sanitizer in American English) and regulations are somewhat stricter. The material is usually supplied as either a 5% or 15% peracetic acid composition, which is generic and well-known in the bottled water industry. Federal Regulations of the FDA describe peracetic acid and confirm its allowed use in food and beverage applications.
Disinfectant/sanitising products containing a single quaternary ammonium (cationic) compound, on the other hand, should not be used on surfaces which come into contact with potable water. This is because cationics are fairly tenacious in sticking to surfaces, and while the residual effect can be beneficial for non-water-contact surfaces, such as floors and walls, retention of small amounts on water-contact surfaces can lead to bacterial acclimatisation. If cationics are your preferred disinfectant (and there are several advantages), it is better to use a product containing a mixture of cationic types, which will offset the acclimatisation and often provide a synergistic disinfectant effect.
Always read the label or safety data sheet.
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