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Cylinders, tubes, and pipes are all prone to become clogged up, especially when used to store or transport viscous materials such as pureed foods. Because these objects come in all manner of sizes, the same must apply to the various tube and pipe cleaners used to rid them of those stubborn residues that water and detergent alone are incapable of shifting. They range from the slender wires, traditionally entwined with chenille, and used by smokers to remove the mix of tar and saliva that accumulates in their wooden briars, to the bulky, autonomous machines known as pigs whose task is to travel through the interior of oil and gas pipelines and to clean them along the way.

In between these two extremes, however, there are those devices whose purpose is to help to maintain the level of hygiene necessary to ensure the integrity and safety of processed food during its manufacture. As such, these particular pipe cleaners are not only important to smokers or to those in the oil and gas industry, but to everyone who buys their food from a supermarket rather than a farm stall.

Though perhaps not widely known, pipes are commonly used by food-processing plants to transport and to dispense nutrient liquids, emulsions, and slurries. The process is one that, inevitably, results in traces of food residue, which even disinfectants cannot completely penetrate, remaining trapped within them, once a process is complete. Unless such residues are removed completely between operations, there is a serious risk that subsequent batches could become contaminated. While flushing is a good start, the abrasive action of pipe cleaners will be required to remove every last trace of food residue.

Where the cleansing process used may be inadequate, the potential risks are twofold. The first and most obvious is that the combination of warmth, moisture, and nutrients provide the perfect conditions for bacterial growth. This is precisely how processed foods have become responsible for outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses due to organisms such as salmonella, listeria and E.coli. Such outbreaks can be costly to both consumers and producers.

Cross-contamination is the second and equally serious threat. Unless food conduits are thoroughly cleaned with pipe cleaners, even after steaming, there is a danger that allergens such as nuts, crustaceans, and egg could find their way into a product that is claimed to be free of these. For an allergic individual, the consequences could be fatal.

If they are to be fully effective, pipe cleaners must be well-designed and made from materials that are easy to clean. Since these tools can also be a source of contamination, they must also be able to withstand steam sterilisation. To meet these criteria, Vikan, a world-leading manufacturer of cleaning and hygiene products for the food industry, employs only materials that have been approved for this purpose by the FDA. In this case, one requirement is that the handles, bodies, and bristles of these devices are able to tolerate temperatures of between -20 °C and +121 °C – the autoclave temperature required to ensure all bacteria and bacterial spores are killed.

Vikan pipe cleaners and the Danish manufacturer’s full range of world-class hygiene equipment are supplied and supported in South Africa by Pescatech.

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