Here’s a classic conundrum: Production is in full swing when you’re suddenly informed that your water is no longer potable.
Well, before making any rash decisions, you’ll first need to identify the actual nature of the problem. You’ll also want to know how long it will be before things are expected to return to normal.
Chances are production will need to come to grinding halt, and you’ll probably have to make a few on-the-spot decisions about how to manage the food that has already been produced. Will it be safe to consume? In other words, can it be salvaged or will it have to be destroyed?
Once these products have been removed from the production areas and properly identified and isolated from other foods, the premises should be thoroughly cleaned as soon as possible. Equipment and surfaces will have to be sanitized with a conventional sanitizer at the highest no-rinse concentration allowed.
Ideally, all traces of nutrients should be removed from surfaces to prevent possible site-wide contamination – even if the cleaning solutions you use may contain certain contaminants themselves.
All cleaning and sanitizing operations must be performed according to CFIA guidelines and your current certification standards (GFSI, HACCP, etc.).
Once the nature of the problem has been identified and things return to normal, it’s also recommended that you do the following:
1. Ensure dilution equipment, distribution lines and application systems are not contaminated by non-potable water and that all traces of contamination have been entirely eliminated.
2. What you do next will depend on the nature of the contamination.
- If the contamination is of a chemical nature (suspended particles, chemical agent, etc.), you should thoroughly rinse all surfaces and initiate cleaning and sanitation operations before resuming production. If in doubt, check with your supplier to make sure your cleaning method will adequately remove the chemical contaminants that caused the problem.
- If the contamination is of a microbiological nature, you have a few options. You can re-clean the surfaces, if necessary, or simply sanitize the surfaces once again before resuming production. In this case, we strongly recommend using a much higher concentration of sanitizer than usual, even if it has to be rinsed post-treatment. If possible, increase its contact time as well.
- Also make sure your sanitizer is effective against the contaminant identified. Some sanitizers have a broader spectrum of efficacy than others. If the contamination is of a microbiological nature, powerful antimicrobial agents should ideally be used.
3. Regardless of the nature of the contamination, always do a strict quality control (ATP measure, swabs, close visual inspection, BioDetect, etc.) before resuming production to verify that surfaces are indeed ready for safe food production.
4. Finally, make sure your quality control techniques are adequate for handling this particular type of situation. When in doubt, consult the experts so that you can make the right decisions.