How to validate and verify your cleaning process

An effective cleaning process is essential in every food business to help prevent food hazards. It may also be a legal requirement and a certification requirement to be able to verify and validate your cleaning process. Welcome to the HACCP Mentor series on Food Safety HACCP Compliance 101: How do I comply with that? In session 14, we take a look at how to verify and validate your cleaning process.

Components of a cleaning program

We all know that cleaning within a food business is imperative to the health and safety of both your food products and of your customer. The majority of food standards or food regulations around the world will always have a provision that the place, the food premises, equipment utensils are required to be clean. But how do we validate and verify our cleaning?

Understanding verification and validation

Before we jump into examples, it is good to refresh on what the key differences are between verification and validation. When looking at Validation a good question to ask is – is what we do, going to work? Is it going to achieve the outcome that we desire and require?

Verification is best defined as being ‘the things we do to see if we are actually doing what we say we are going to do. If I have managed to confuse you even more, try remember it like this:

  • Validation = science (BEFORE)
  • Verification = checking (AFTER)

Validating your cleaning process

Based on our definition above, validation is the science. The key thing that we need to understand and know is “Will our cleaning methods actually remove bacteria, dirt, grime, dust etc?” The key components we need to validate include any cleaning chemicals used, the use of hot / cold water and the method of implementation.

You can collect validation information from chemicals suppliers for the chemicals and method that you are using. Get the supplier to provide you with the science that the chemicals they are selling you will work as advertised. They can also instruct the method in which the cleaning is to take place. Good cleaning chemical suppliers will provide you with written cleaning procedures. Validation can also be based on the components of the actual chemical.

The required temperatures for water used during the cleaning process can be sourced from relevant food safety legislation. If the legislation states something like “if you use water during the cleaning process it must be at x temperature”.

If you are unable to find any theoretical information to validate your process, you can undertake your own process validation. This is where you develop your own procedures and then test all of your assumptions. If you decide to opt for this method, just make sure that your data is extensive and covers all possible operating conditions.

If you want to read more about Validation of Cleaning processes check out this article published by the US FDA.

Verifying the cleaning process

With any type of cleaning there needs to be some type of verification process in place. What this means is you need to:

  • Check that the cleaning has been completed
  • Check that the cleaning has been effective

A visual inspection is a common method to check that the cleaning has been completed. I use the inspection rule of “you shouldn’t be able to see it, smell it or feel any type of dust, grime, dirt, matter”.  You can also check that chemicals have been used at the required doses and contact time, hot water is at the correct temperature and food handlers have been adequately trained in cleaning procedures.

To verify that the cleaning has been effective involves a little more work and expense. The most common methods used are undertaking microbiological swabbing, allergen swabbing or finished product testing for key hazards.

Training Food Handlers

Like any process, training forms the basis of effective implementation. This is no different for your cleaning program. All people responsible for cleaning within your food business needs to have adequate training in this area.

Share the Love

Have you got a great validation or verification method that you have used for your cleaning programs? Share the love and let the HACCP Mentor community know by leaving a comment below this post.

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