In recent years, there has been a general increase in interest in minimally processed products, although mostly vegetables and salads, fruits already have their own space on the fresh-cut shelves. The need to eat better has meant a clear advance in the consumption of these products, and it has been proven that fruit consumption increases by more than 40% when it is served clean, chopped and ready to eat.
The absence of specific legislation at this time has led to the emergence of many opportunists who want to get a piece of this appetizing but complicated business. At present, there are many guides on “good production practices for prepared or minimally processed fruits and vegetables”, as well as countless articles in the sector’s bibliography that show the different types of packaging, available atmospheres, and even treatments to ensure that these products retain their sensory, nutritional and microbiological characteristics for a longer period of time. But do we know where all these products are processed? Despite constant recommendations, the lack of mandatory compliance with specific safety measures for the processing of fresh-cut fruits and vegetables allows many companies to process and pack food in spaces, in most cases, not suitable for this purpose.
The place of processing is a determinant of the commercial shelf life of the products, in addition to the associated microbiological risk for the final consumer. For this reason, from Vicente Peris we want to illustrate our clean room, an ideal space for processing and packaging of products IV and V range, processes also certified under the IFS FOOD quality standard, which guarantees the final consumer food safety in all our references.
Vicente Peris SA has a state-of-the-art clean room. A clean room is defined as a room specifically designed to obtain low levels of contamination. What are the safety measures that enable these low contamination levels to be achieved?
POSITIVE PRESSURE: our clean room has a differential pressure with the outside of 10 Pa, in terms of positive pressure. This overpressure prevents outside air currents from entering the room, which can carry contaminated particles.
AIR FILTERS: the air treatment unit, which manages both air volume and air quality, has a series of filters that reliably retain 99.95 % of all particles larger than 0.3 µm in size.
HYGIENIC DESIGN: walls, floors and ceilings are designed for maximum ease of cleaning. Impermeable surfaces and drainage network to prevent water accumulation. All room entrances/exits are equipped with double doors to prevent the massive entry of contaminated external air. Raw materials, auxiliary materials, waste and finished products have specific entry/exit points that prevent their crossing and possible cross-contamination.
EXCLUSIVE PERSONNEL ACCESS: All personnel accessing the handling area do so through an anteroom, equipped with a sanitary ford to sanitize feet and hands before entering the room.
SPECIFIC PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT: Handling personnel have specific clean room protective equipment with a protocol for its use, in order to avoid possible contamination by handlers.
CONTROLLED TEMPERATURE: we have a constant temperature during the processing of fruits and vegetables, and during the rest of the process of elaboration of fresh-cut products. This temperature has been validated, using this limit in our commercial shelf life tests for all our references.
RAW MATERIAL HYGIENIZATION: Before entering the clean room, all raw material is sanitized by washing with water and disinfectant, in order to eliminate dust, foreign bodies and most of the microbiological load present.
For all these reasons, our Clean Room has been certified according to ISO 14644 as class ISO7.
As you can see, there are many factors that influence and ensure the safety of our food, but only by monitoring all of them is it possible to ensure proper food processing and packaging, guaranteeing food safety.
This could be the starting point for any food operator of fresh-cut products, and the basis on which to legislate processing procedures for fresh-cut and pre-prepared convenience fruit and vegetables.