Ozone has so many uses that it can sometimes be hard to know exactly where to start. The following is an easy Step-By-Step approach to breaking down your processing line by Critical Control Point and identifying the best way to achieving reduced microbial load when it comes to food processing.
1. Outline The Full Process The first step is to be able to visualize how the process is currently working so it can be further broken down to develop a strategy. The best way to do this is if you have or can draft a process flow chart showing where the meat, produce, or ingredients first enter your facility all the way to when they are shipped out to distribution centers, retail supermarkets, restaurants, and other clients. Here is an example of what that might look like:
Receiving > Storage >Conveyors >Cutting >Rinsing >Packaging >Shipping
2. Take Pictures of Each Area of Food Contact Providing your company policy allows this, taking pictures of each area of food contact is a great way to document and illustrate your project and gives a clear understanding to other stakeholders within the organization the specific areas of the process you are trying to address. It also helps when we get to the next step of determining what type of approach is needed to apply a solution.
3. Categorize Direct and Indirect Opportunities For Sanitation Create a list of where the product could be treated with ozone directly, for example rinsing it with ozonated water or exposed to gaseous ozone in a chamber along the conveyor lines. Then list where there are opportunities for indirect treatment. An example of indirect treatment could be wash-down of the manufacturing walls, trays, conveyors, or processing machinery for cutting, sorting, or packaging.
4. Conduct Test Pilot Now that we have an idea of the flow of the entire process, the points at which we can intervene, and whether we are directly or indirectly treating the product, we can develop a scope for a test pilot. At this stage it is important to understand the type of bacteria, pathogen or contaminant we are targeting. The type of product you are manufacturing usually has specific risks associated with it. For example, in poultry operations the key targets for reduction are Salmonella, E.Coli, and Campylobacter. Each risk that is being targeted has a different level of resistance to oxidizers like ozone and require different time exposure and oxidizing intensity, also known as ORP or Oxidization Reduction Potential. See our “Industries” pages for examples of most common risks found in the different types of facilities we work in.
When considering test pilot design factors such as whether the product can be exposed to water or not is important. There are 4 main categories of application:
- Ozonated water on contact surface
- Ozonated water on product
- Gaseous ozone on contact surface
- Gaseous ozone on product
Nebula Ozone specializes in tailoring our machine builds specifically to your production line. We can produce a machine diagram and process line drawing of how the treatment will be applied.
The best way to measure your success is to have two identical processing lines that are being fed with the same batches of input product from the same source. One line will act as your control group where it is “business as usual” and no ozone treatment is being applied. The second line will be your test pilot application where the process is modified to include ozone treatment.
Before conducting any test pilot it is important to ensure that it will be in compliance with any regulatory agencies that govern your industry. Most commonly, in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is the body that regulates food production practices. Even though ozone is approved for use in food production by CFIA as well as many other governing bodies, speak with your designated specialist to ensure compliance with all regulations.
Now that we have designed and installed a test pilot application taking all key factors into consideration, the final step is measuring your results. The most common approach is simply to test the product or surface that is being targeted for reduction at the beginning of the process and then again at the end of the process right before packaging. These are the critical measurable results that will tell you whether or not the pilot was a success! Another great test is to store samples of product from the control group and from the test group in isolated environments and compare the shelf life and rate of decay of the product. In many cases the difference between ozone-treated products vs non ozone-treated is a 15-25% extended shelf life.
5. Implement At Scale So you have great results in your test pilot, what’s next? At this point you can start looking to implement it across the rest of the manufacturing lines. If the lines are identical this often as simple as ordering more ozone equipment to be installed, sometimes using a larger centralized ozone generator flowing to multiple lines is most economical. If the process lines are unique then it’s as easy as going back to step 1 of this process and following it through to another proof of concept test pilot project.
Nebula Ozone is passionate about serving the food processing industry with reliable, yet innovative technology solutions and we are happy to support you through the entire project development process. Contact us today to start exploring what options are available to you!