Cleaning Conveyor Belts in the Chicken-Cutting Area of a Poultry Processing Plant with 45 degrees C Water
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Conveyor belts are widely used in food handling areas, especially in poultry processing plants. Because they are in direct contact with food and it is a requirement of the Brazilian health authority, conveyor belts are required to be continuously cleaned with hot water under pressure. The use of water in this procedure has been questioned based on the hypothesis that water may further disseminate microorganisms but not effectively reduce the organic material on the surface. Moreover, reducing the use of water in processing may contribute to a reduction in costs and emission of effluents. However, no consistent evidence in support of removing water during conveyor belt cleaning has been reported. Therefore, the objective of the present study was to compare the bacterial counts on conveyor belts that were or were not continuously cleaned with hot water under pressure. Superficial samples from conveyor belts (cleaned or not cleaned) were collected at three different times during operation (T1, after the preoperational cleaning [5 a.m.]; T2, after the first work shift [4 p.m.]; and T3, after the second work shift [1:30 a.m.]) in a poultry meat processing facility, and the samples were subjected to mesophilic and enterobacterial counts. For Enterobacteriaceae, no significant differences were observed between the conveyor belts, independent of the time of sampling or the cleaning process. No significant differences were observed between the counts of mesophilic bacteria at the distinct times of sampling on the conveyor belt that had not been subjected to continuous cleaning with water at 45 degrees C. When comparing similar periods of sampling, no significant differences were observed between the mesophilic counts obtained from the conveyor belts that were or were not subjected to continuous cleaning with water at 45 degrees C. Continuous cleaning with water did not significantly reduce microorganism counts, suggesting the possibility of discarding this procedure in chicken processing.