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    Sterilization in Food and Pharmaceutical applications

    Sterility of products 
    This is a hot topic in the food and pharmaceutical industry. Prevention of infection by microorganisms like bacteria and viruses is important and requires a lot of attention for companies providing food and pharmaceutical products.
     
    In the past Louis Pasteur discovered that the level of microorganisms can be reduced by heat treatment and was as such the founder of a currently broadly spread technology used for this purpose.
    For some products, like parenterals, the level of microorganisms need to be reduced further than what is possible by pasteurization. If we need to reduce the level by a factor of more than 1 million we talk about sterilization.
     
    Food products can be sterilized by different methods:
    • Thermal processes
    • Chemical processes
    • Irradiation
     
    The best technology is chosen based on a number of aspects such as product characteristics, operational processes or commercial considerations. Here we have to remark that chemical treatment can cause product deterioration and irradiated products still have a lack of consumer confidence.
     
    Hosokawa Micron has delivered multiple systems for sterilization of products based on heat treatment. Especially for sterilization of herbs and spices a steam sterilization process was developed. 
    Products are treated by dry heat of 121° C to 134° C for a defined period of time. Depending on moisture level and the necessity to maintain the moisture in the product the heat treatment is executed under atmospheric or under pressurized conditions. These processes are used to sterilize products.
     
    Sterilization of equipment 
    Another issue of importance in order to avoid contamination of products with microbiologic organisms. Equipment can be sterilized by heating it up to 121° C during 20 to 30 minutes with steam. Special attention is given to avoid any cold spots. Valves, seals and instrumentation need careful attention. Seals need to be heated at the front as well as on the back side to avoid growth of organisms in the voids and entering the product zone again. The same applies to valves. Instrumentation need to be selected for sterilization processes. Further the selected components need to be designed to withstand the heat treatment.
    The connected media supply systems require special attention since not only the vessel and agitator need to be sterilized but also the adjacent systems may be the cause of contamination. 
    A prerequisite for sterilization of equipment is that the equipment is perfectly clean. Cleanliness of equipment is first of all an issue of basic design and execution aimed at reducing contamination during normal operation. The product remaining in the vessel after discharge needs to be cleaned which can be executed by a CIP (cleaning in place) system. 
     
    Hosokawa Micron has the expertise for the development and the production of mixing and drying equipment suitable for SIP (sterilization in place) as well as a range of equipment for sterilization of products. Since all equipment is configured and tailor made for its specific application we welcome further discussions about actual projects.
     
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