DEFINING "CLEAN ENOUGH"
Cleanliness and sanitation are of the utmost importance in maintaining wine quality and preventing spoilage. But given that cleaning contributes to wastewater loading and requires costly inputs (labor, energy, water, chemicals), is it possible to ‘over-clean’?
Most cleanliness validation procedures are not designed to minimize the use of inputs; they simply confirm that equipment is sufficiently clean or sanitized. What if your validation procedures were instead designed to achieve ‘clean’ through the least possible use of inputs and labor?
The guiding questions on this page can help your winery develop cleaning procedures and validation techniques that optimize input usage while ensuring each part of the winery is kept ‘clean enough’. As always, be sure your facility is in compliance with applicable food safety standards.
Have you established cleaning Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)?
SOPs are a key way to standardize cleaning activities in the winery, and the first step in optimizing inputs.
Do you periodically adjust cleaning SOPs and re-evaluate to confirm they are working?
This is good practice to ensure cleaning standards continue to be met, but also to provide the opportunity for iteration. Consider trialing new, lower-input approaches to your SOPs to see if they are also sufficiently effective for your purposes.
For example, some wineries find that lowering the temperature of hot water used to clean (thereby saving water and energy) does not negatively impact their sanitation outcomes. Similarly, it may be possible to lower cleaning chemical concentrations while still achieving satisfactory cleanliness results. Less frequent, but more targeted or aggressive, cleanings may save on labor and inputs. Recent research suggests that “worker diligence in manually addressing and cleaning…sensitive areas” such as “critical control points in the shadow of spray balls or mechanical agitation” may be more effective than “increasing contact time several fold”.
How do you validate the effectiveness of your SOPs?
Consistent SOP validation procedures help ensure that cleanings are effective, and can also help you optimize procedures as described above. Sampling procedures (including handheld ATP testing tools or PCR techniques, including the Scorpion assay) are a matter of preference to the winery and should be chosen to meet your specific needs and budget. Consult an expert to identify the best approach for your purposes.
Have you determined what is ‘clean enough’ for each activity area in the winery?
Not all areas of the winery necessarily need to be cleaned to the same standard. If you use the more stringent standards of sanitization or sterilization for a certain piece or equipment or activity area, be sure you understand why that is the goal. For example, some wineries implement progressively cleaner standards as activities move closer to bottling—crushing and pressing equipment are cleaned to pass a basic visual/smell test, including an inspection of nooks and crannies, while activities closest to bottling are validated with periodic ATP testing and more aggressive cleaning and sanitization efforts.