Microbial Filtration for Critical Control Point
Microbial filtration is a Critical Control Point that can reduce biological hazards such as spoilage microorganisms. Therefore, it is a priority to the Food & Beverage manufacturer to incorporate to its process a filtration installation capable of protecting the end consumer's health and the quality of the products they buy. But while microbial and bacterial filtration is an essential Critical Control Point, it is also a challenging processing step which can be:
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|Filter Robustness: A common point for damage and failure are junction points in the filter. These are the areas where materials and components that make up a cartridge filter are joined together. As such, when selecting a filter, it is important to select one that through efficient design, minimizes the number of junction points. In addition, because of the rigorous process conditions typical of Food and Beverage operations, it is important to select a filter with materials of construction that can withstand high temperatures, pressure spikes and handling, as well as materials that have broad chemical compatibility with the product or process chemicals the filter will be in contact with.||Optimized Design: Microbial Filters can come in different shapes or forms. So it is important to select a filter that was designed for the specific needs of the Food & Beverage industry, such as high throughputs. A filter that optimizes its effective filtration area, is always desirable. This allows to reduce the amount of filter cartdriges needed for the same installation without sacrificing performance. That means less filters to worry about, or to pay for. Effective filtration area and throughput performance can be improved with the right filter geometry, membrane structure and membrane pleat type. Always compare throughput performance and installation sizes, in your decision making process.||Processing Flexibility: Because Microbial filtration is one of the last steps in manufacturing, if it stops due to scheduled maintenance, integrity failure or for cleaning; it will also stop the whole processing line. If idle time extends over long periods of time it can affect production capacity or can result in expensive delays. That is why it is important to select a filtration installation that is flexible and designed to minimize disruptions and maximze line uptime. Systems that are modular, that can be partially by-passed, and that can be configured with parallel or duplex filtration housings can achieve this.||Food Contact Compliance: It is very important to select filters that meet all Food Contact Compliance regulations relevant to the market and region where products are sold and distributed. Always consider filters that are designed exclusively for the Food and Beverage industry, and that have declarations of Compliance stating which regulations the product meets or exceeds.|
|Integrity Testable: Integrity Testable filters allow the manufacturer to inmediately and in-situ, evaluate if the filter is integral, and therefore capable of retaining spoilage microorganisms as expected. Filter manufacturers qualify their filter products by correlating the integrity test values of a range of filters to a direct liquid bacterial challenge. This provides an integrity test limit, above which the filter is said to be non-integral or unfit for purpose in the application. In larger industrial filter installations (Those using multiple filter modules); Integrity Test results can be unreliable and may create false pass results if the Integrity Tests are not performed on each filter cartdridge used in the installation. For that reason, it is not only important to select a filter that is Integrity Testable but also one that allows the user to Integrity Test each and all of the Filters that make up the installation.||Lifetime of the filter: A good way to reduce the cost of filtration without sacrificing performance, is by selecting filters that are regenerable, as opposed to disposable ones. It is important that such filters have broad chemical compatibility and thermal resistance so that they can withstand sanitization, sterilization and regeneration protocols. Being able to reuse your filter cartdriges over extended periods of time, means that you can reduce your operating costs. Pairing a regenerable filter with an Integrity Testing protocol is the perfect way to monitor the filter's performance. This way a filter is neither replaced prematurely, nor past its acceptable performance specifications.||Modular and Adaptable: A modular filtration installation also allows for gradual expansion that adapts to the capacity of the manufacturing line. If filtration capacity is to be expanded, it is always easier and more cost effective to add "modules" than it is to buy a brand new and larger installation, to just replace the existing one. There are Microbial Filters in the market that allow configurable and modular explansion to efficienly utilize existing hardware.|
|Market Specific Microbial Reduction Claims: The filtration product that is selected, must meet the specific microbial retention requirements that really matter to the Food and Beverage producer, depending on the Food product they manufacture. The microorganisms present in a liquid, (whether is Wine, Beer, Bottle Water or other) will vary depending on the product. As such the filter that is selected for Microbial Retention, should be tested for retention of spoiler and indicator organisms which are directly relevant to the production of beer, wine and bottled water. Such claims are usually validated in Technical Reports provided by the filter manufacturer.|
|Hygienic Housing Design: To reduce the risk of product contamination to the end user, it is important to choose housing designs that meet hygienic engineering and design standards. This is imperative to eliminate areas that are otherwise hard to clean and sanitize, where bio-film and particulate can accumulate.|
To summarize, an effetive Microbial and Bacterial Filter for the Food and Beverage Industry must:
- Be robust and reusable to reduce the total cost of ownership of the filter.
- Be Integrity Testable and validated (by the filter manufacturer) against product specific microorganisms, to reduce the risk of contamination
- Have a design that allows installation flexibility and modularity, to either scale up with production capacity, or to not stop the entire production line when scheduled for maintenance or sanitization
- Must be food contact compliant in all regions where the finished products are being sold or distributed.