Reducing the risk of foreign bodies from cleaning equipment and utensils:
Do choose cleaning equipment and utensils that,
- are made of good quality, solid materials that are durable and resistant to your production environment challenges, e.g. temperature, chemicals, light, food and surface types etc.
- are of a contrasting colour to the food product, to enable any foreign bodies to be seen more easily (either by eye or by an automated visual recognition system).
- are free of fastenings, and
- are mechanically stable.
Don’t use cleaning equipment and utensils that are,
- made of wood or foamed plastic. Both have known durability limitations, which could present an increased risk of foreign bodies.
- painted or coated.
- damaged or badly worn.
- poorly constructed or repaired.
- clean and inspect equipment prior to use,
- conduct regular inspections, repairs and replacement of equipment, as part of a preventative maintenance program
- store equipment appropriately, e.g., on wall brackets or shadow boards, to minimise damage and minimise the risk of foreign body cross-contamination.
Control of brush bristles as foreign bodies
With regard to food industry cleaning equipment one of the most commonly cited sources of foreign bodies is brushware, where the bristles can snap, be cut, or be pulled from the brush head, and then enter the food product.
Unfortunately, the risk of product contamination by bristles will always be present. Most food industry brush bristles are made of plastic (usually a polyester like polybutylene terephthalate, PBT; polypropylene, PP; or nylon), ranging in diameter from 0.15mm – 0.60mm. Regardless of the quality of the plastic used, or the brush construction, when these bristles are used on equipment where they can get trapped, they will snap or be pulled from the brush block when pulled. They will also be cut or damaged on the sharp surfaces of equipment, leading to bristle fragment loss.
Metal detectable plastic bristled brushware
Brushes with metal detectable plastic bristles are available to the food industry and are suggested as a way of preventing bristle contaminated product reaching the consumer. A number of studies6,7 have been conducted to investigate the metal detectability, durability, functionality and cleanability of these bristles.
In short, the studies showed that the metal detectable brush bristle were:
- not detectable in the presence of food and packaging
- 68% weaker and only half as elastic as standard plastic bristles (polyester (PBT)
- No more or less efficient at cleaning than the standard plastic bristles
- more difficult to clean
The use of metal detectable plastic bristled brushes may in fact increase the risk of bristle contamination of food, due to their reduced strength and elasticity, and a perception that any metal detectable bristles will be controlled via the metal detector.
You can read the full whitepaper on the studies conducted on Metal detectable plastics here or read the summary paper on metal detectable brush bristles here.