Cleaning and Sanitation in Craft Beer Brewing

[B]rewing is 90 percent cleaning and 10 percent paperwork” according to experts at Craft Brewing Business. This statement is no surprise to the thousands of craft brewers across the country who depend on clean brewing systems to produce high quality beers. If their beer tastes bad, they go out of business. But a clean brewing system means more than just good tasting beer. Keeping contaminated beer away from the consumer is also a public health issue.

The Federal Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) signed into law in 2011, now gives the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jurisdiction in breweries. In the interest of protecting the public, the FDA will come and inspect your brewery for cleanliness and adherence to federal food production regulations.

To assist craft brewery operators with FSMA compliance, the FDA requires brewers to have an active Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) plan in place. GMPs include standard operating procedures (SOPs) for cleaning equipment, checklists for labeling, processes for laboratory testing and recordkeeping, etc…. In addition to just being a good practice for maintaining the structure of brewing processes, GMP’s represent a brewery’s road map for FDA and FSMA compliance.

Because FDA inspectors also know that brewing is 90 percent cleaning, expect an FDA audit to have a heavy focus on your procedures for cleaning and sanitizing equipment. Having established GMPs and SOPs shows the inspector you are serious about food safety. The Master Brewers Association of America’s newsletter The New Brewer has a good article entitled “FDA Brewery Inspections” to help brewers prepare for an FDA audit.

When the inspector arrives at your brewery, they will likely use FDA form 2966: “Food GMP Inspection Report.” The form covers lots of areas of the facility, but inspection questions #4 and #26 are especially important.

Item #4 asks “Are floors, walls and ceilings constructed of easily cleanable materials and kept clean and in good repair?” and #26 notes “Are all utensils and equipment cleaned and sanitized at intervals frequently enough to avoid contamination of food products?”

These questions cover general cleanliness of the facilities as well as the sanitization of the equipment. Note that there is an important distinction between “cleaning” and “sanitizing”. “Cleaning” doesn’t necessarily remove bacteria or germs from a surface. Cleaning in this sense is just “cleaning up” like sweeping up debris or wiping off spills.

A good industrial vacuum like Goodway’s VAC-EX-120-25SS allows brewery employees to perform routine cleaning around the facility. In grain storage areas, the fans and other equipment usually have explosion proof motors because of the spark risk from grain dust floating in the air. The VAC-EX-120-25SS also has an explosion proof motor making it safe to use in grain storage rooms. In areas that do not need a spark-proof motor, a portable wet-dry unit like the Goodway AV-1200-30 is a good fit.

With FDA audit question #26, the inspector is looking at both cleaning and sanitizing practices of items in contact with food. “Sanitizing” is the next step after cleaning and kills most of the living organisms on an object including bacteria and germs that make people sick. When equipment is not cleaned after long periods of use, organic material can build up and create a slimy substance called a biofilm. The Master Brewers Association of American article “Control of biofilms in breweries through cleaning and sanitizing” explains how the use of biocides can remove biofilms that have developed on equipment. Goodway’s surface sanitation systems including the BIOSPRAY-20 portable sanitation dispenser with Biospray D2 sanitizer is an excellent sanitation system that can be applied to the outside of tanks, pipes, fermenters, and conveyor belts. The sanitizing chemical Biospray D2 is an EPA registered food-contact and non-food contact surface sanitizer that does not affect food quality or taste, while killing 99.999% of detectable pathogens. Brewers can spray the biocide without needing to wipe it off food-contact surfaces and be confident their product will not be affected.

Around more sensitive areas like filling and bottling stations, brewers may wish to use steam to clean away residual dirt, oils, or food residue.  Dry steam provides all the cleaning and sanitation benefits of steam, but at around 5% moisture levels, which leaves surfaces dry and reduces wasted water. Goodway’s GVC-18000 is a portable dry steam unit that produces steam at 290F steam to clean surfaces and kill almost every microorganism living on the components being treated. Depending on the object being cleaned, operators can attach color coded brushes with different sizes to make big jobs go faster and to prevent accidentally cross contaminating objects.

The craft beer industry in the United States continues to grow and gain popularity. With that growth has come greater scrutiny by the FDA and brewers should prepare their facilities for FDA audits. Preparations include having the required GMPs in place that put food safety at the forefront of the operation. Excellent cleaning and sanitation are the cornerstones of good beer production and food safety. Using Goodway’s vacuums, surface sanitation systems, and steam cleaners, brew masters have all the necessary tools to create beer that tastes good and complies with the latest FDA requirements.

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