Food Safety and Environmental Services

Food Equipment Cleaning and Sanitizing

Since cleaning and sanitizing may be the most important aspect of a sanitation program, sufficient time should be given to outline proper procedures, and parameters. Detailed procedures must be developed for all food-product contact surfaces (equipment, utensils, etc.) as well as for non-product surfaces such as: non-product portions of equipment, overhead structures, shield, walls, ceilings, lighting devices, refrigeration units, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, and anything else which could impact food safety.

Cleaning frequency must be clearly defined for each process line (i.e. daily, after production runs, or more often, if necessary). The type of cleaning required must also be identified.

The objective of cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces is to remove food (nutrients) which bacteria need to grow, and to kill those bacteria which are present. It is important that the clean, sanitized equipment and surfaces drain dry and are stored dry so as to prevent bacteria growth. Necessary equipment (brushes, etc.) must also be clean and stored in a clean, sanitary manner.

Cleaning/sanitizing procedures must be evaluated for adequacy through evaluation and inspection procedures. Adherence to prescribed written procedures (inspection, swab testing, direct observation of personnel) should be continuously monitored, and records maintained to evaluate long-term compliance.

The correct order of events for cleaning/ sanitizing of food product contact surfaces is:

  • Rinse
  • Clean
  • Rinse
  • Sanitize



Cleaning is the complete removal of food soil using appropriate detergent chemicals under recommended conditions. It is important that personnel involved have a working understanding of the nature of the different types of food soil and the chemistry of its removal.

Cleaning Methods

Equipment can be categorized with regard to cleaning method as follows:

  • Mechanical Cleaning. Often referred to as clean-in-place (CIP). Require no disassembly or partial disassembly.
  • Clean-out-of-Place (COP). Can be partially disassembled and cleaned in specialized COP pressure tanks.
  • Manual Cleaning. Requires total disassembly for cleaning and inspection.

It is important to differentiate and define certain terminology:

  • Sterilize refers to the statistical destruction and removal of all living organisms.
  • Disinfect refers to inanimate objects and the destruction of all vegetative cells (not spores).
  • Sanitize refers to the reduction of microorganisms to levels considered safe from a public health viewpoint.

Appropriate and approved sanitization procedures are processes and, thus, the duration or time as well as the chemical conditions must be described. The official definition (Association of Official Analytical Chemists) of sanitizing for food product contact surfaces is a process which reduces the contamination level by 99.999% (5 logs) in 30 sec.

The official definition for non-product contact surfaces requires a contamination reduction of 99.9% (3 logs). The standard test organisms used are: Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli.

General types of sanitization include:

  • Thermal Sanitization involves the use of hot water or steam for a specified temperature and contact time.
  • Chemical Sanitization involves the use of an approved chemical sanitizer at a specified concentration and contact time.