Journal: Journal of Food Protection, vol. 76, p. 1401–1407, 2013
International Standard Numbers:
Open Access: none
Cleaning of conveyor belts in the food industry is imperative for preventing the buildup of microorganisms that can contaminate food. New technologies for decreasing water and energy consumption of cleaning systems are desired. Ultrasound can be used for cleaning a wide range of materials. Most commonly, baths containing fairly large amounts of water are used. One possibility to reduce water consumption is to use ultrasonic cavitation in a thin water film on a flat surface, like a conveyor belt. In order to test this possibility, a model system was set up, consisting of an ultrasound transducer/probe with a 70-mm-diameter flat bottom, operating at 19.8 kHz, and contaminated conveyor belt materials in the form of coupons covered with a thin layer of water or water with detergent. Ultrasound was then applied on the water surface at different power levels (from 46 to 260 W), exposure times (10 and 20 s), and distances (2 to 20 mm). The model was used to test two different belt materials with various contamination types, such as biofilms formed by bacteria in carbohydrate- or protein-fat–based soils, dried microorganisms (bacteria, yeasts, and mold spores), and allergens. Ultrasound treatment increased the reduction of bacteria and yeast by 1 to 2 log CFU under the most favorable conditions compared with water or water-detergent controls. The effect was dependent on the type of belt material, the power applied, the exposure time, and the distance between the probe and the belt coupon. Generally, dried microorganisms were more easily removed than biofilms. The effect on mold spores was variable and appeared to be species and material dependent. Spiked allergens were also efficiently removed by using ultrasound. The results in this study pave the way for new cleaning designs for flat conveyor belts, with possibilities for savings of water, detergent, and energy consumption.