Biocides in Cleaning and Disinfection

This guidance focuses on the responsible and effective use of biocides in cleaning and disinfection especially of food equipment and other food contact surfaces.

Cleaning and disinfection is carried out primarily to control pathogens.


The Pennington Reports (1997 and 2009) highlighted the importance of providing clear information on cleaning and disinfection to food businesses:
• At the Fatal Accident Enquiry of the Lanarkshire incident, Sheriff Cox drew attention to the fact that the butcher involved thought that a biodegradable detergent was in fact a bactericide and this ignorance led him to contaminate the whole of his premises and many cooked products with E.coli O157. (1997 report)
• The FSA should remove the confusion that exists among food business operators about what solution(s) should be used to prevent cross-contamination from surfaces and equipment. [Recommendation 6, 2009 report]


Two fatal outbreaks of E coli O157 were the foci of the Pennington Reports. However, Listeria monocytogenes causes the greatest number of deaths from foodborne disease in the UK, EU and USA.

Cleaning and disinfection regimes for L. monocytogenes will also control other foodborne vegetative pathogens as it is particularly challenging because when it persists in food processing environments it is often in the form of a biofilm (Tomkin, 2002).

Listeria monocytogenes biofilms are difficult to eradicate as the biofilm protects the organism from environmental stresses. Although the majority of L. monocytogenes are attached to the biofilm, the cells in the upper layer can move around and were observed to transfer from the biofilms onto smoked or fresh salmon on contact (Truelstrup et al, 2011).

Routine cleaning and sanitation can be effective in preventing the establishment of biofilms (Aarnisalo, 2006). However, some studies suggest that effective cleaning and sanitation may not always be achieved for all surfaces (Salvat et al, 1995).


Download the Biocides - Cleaning and Disinfection Working Document


Thanks to Kaarin Goodburn MBE and The Chilled Food Association
for sharing this document with us.

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