Allowed Detergents and Sanitizers for Food Contact Surfaces and Equipment in Organic Operations

Allowed Detergents and Sanitizers for Food Contact Surfaces and Equipment in Organic Operations

The National Organic Program’s (NOP) Organic Standards require that an organic handling operation take measures to prevent the commingling of organic and nonorganic products and protect organic products from contact with prohibited substances. (USDA organic regulations 7 CFR 205.272).
Cleaning and sanitizing is an important part of an organic system plan. The purpose of this document is to provide a brief overview of the typical cleaning/sanitizing process in an organic handling operation and what cleaners and sanitizers may be used. This document answers common questions about cleaning food contact surfaces and equipment.


This is an overview only, providing general guidance for organic food handlers as it relates the use of allowed and prohibited substances in the process of cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces and equipment in an organic handling facility. The organic handler must be in compliance with all other food, health, and safety standards (federal, state, local) as required by law.
The typical process for cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces and equipment is a liquid process and follows this sequence of steps: clean, rinse, sanitize. For purposes of this document, we are considering liquid cleaning processes, but note that effective cleaning does not necessarily require liquid processes to comply with the organic standards or food safety standards. The organic standards simply require a process that prevents organic food from commingling with non-organic food and contamination from prohibited substances.

1. CLEAN: Cleaning agents, such as dish soap made from synthetic detergents, are used to remove dirt, germs, objects or impurities from food contact surfaces and equipment. The cleaning agent itself is not required to be organic. Any cleaner or detergent may be used provided that the cleaning agent is disclosed in the handler’s organic system plan and also meets the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) requirements. Unlike sanitizers (discussed below), cleaners and detergents are designed to be rinsed off, and a subsequent rinse step is sufficient to prevent
contamination of organic foods from synthetic cleaner residues.

2. RINSE: A rinse with potable water removes the cleaning agents. Potable water is simply water deemed safe for drinking and food preparation.


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