By Brian March, Sani Marc
One of the biggest challenges for a food processor to switch from foam to gel sanitizing chemicals for production equipment including conveyors is the “that’s-the-way-we-have-always-done-it-for-years” attitude.
Foam is the industry standard for cleaning and sanitation. It works, is highly visible so you can see where you have applied it, has an acceptable contact time, is cheap, and it can even be fun to apply. However, for the well informed processor, gel chemistry presents a compelling case for change.
Gel sanitizing chemicals are not new. The products have been around the industry for many years. What is new is a recent upsurge in interest. Food plants face increasing challenges to balance food safety with sustainability and cost competitiveness. Recent advances in the development and marketing of gel sanitizing chemicals are already helping some processors successfully meet those challenges, thus generating hubbub in the marketplace. So it appears that something old is new again.
The most persuasive reason is a dramatic reduction in the volume of chemicals used – a reported 40% to 75% decrease in annual usage. With this comes a significant reduction in chemical cost, as high as 50%, depending upon the price paid for the foam and the gel products. And the savings don’t stop there.
A quality gel program will require less water to apply the product and to later rinse it off. Studies are currently underway to quantify what savings could be expected, but anecdotal evidence indicates that these savings are substantial. Additionally, new uses for gel sanitizing chemicals, such as for equipment historically cleaned by circulation or immersion cleaning, both of which can use high volumes of water, are being discovered. Processors pay a lot of money for potable water and pay again to treat it before it is sent to the waste stream. Gel chemistry can contribute to a reduction in those costs which helps the bottom line, and the environment.