Dairy processing: Evaluation of dairy processing equipment

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The follow information may assist dairy processors in evaluating the array of equipment they use in their establishments. It provides general guidelines applicable to all dairy equipment as well as additional guidelines for specific types of equipment. Dairy processors can use this in conjunction with their maintenance and sanitation control measures to evaluate equipment and components which may affect the safety of dairy products.

General criteria for evaluating dairy processing equipment

There are two major properties of sanitary equipment design:

  1. Cleanable
  2. Protects the food from contamination

To determine if a piece of equipment is cleanable, evaluate the construction material, accessibility of product contact surfaces and equipment design. The possibility of product contamination due to accumulation of food residues, microorganisms and other contaminants is greatly affected by these factors.

Construction material

  • The material can withstand repeated cleaning and sanitizing
    • Rubber and plastics have limited operational life because over time they become brittle and susceptible to cracking
      • Cracks become sites for microbial contamination
    • The porous nature of wood makes it unsuitable for use in dairy establishments
      • Microorganisms and soluble food particles are able to migrate into the wood where they may be protected from normal cleaning processes
  • The material can be effectively cleaned on a repeated basis
    • Product contact surfaces are:
      • Stainless steel or corrosion resistant
      • Inert, non-toxic, non-absorbent
      • Easily cleaned and disinfected, impervious, smooth, free of imperfections
    • Non product contact surfaces are:
      • Corrosion resistant or painted
      • Non-absorbent, durable, cleanable
      • Smooth surfaces

Equipment design

The effectiveness of cleaning is dependent on the design. Inadequately rounded corners, sharp angles and dead ends are impediments to good cleaning. Other design features that have the potential for creating spots where food residues can accumulate are the locations of monitoring, control and recording devices. These include thermometer wells, pH probes and sampling ports.

  1. Facilitate cleaning, sanitizing and maintenance.
    • Ensure that the equipment is easily dismantled to allow access to the product contact surfaces for manual cleaning and subsequent inspection
    • Clean enclosed equipment that can't be dismantled by clean-in-place (CIP) methods
      • The use of CIP techniques may reduce the potential for human error that can be associated with manual cleaning.
    • Ensure product contact surfaces:
      • Are self-draining
      • Have no dead ends
      • Are free of impediments to product flow and sites where contamination may build up
      • Are in contact with circulating cleaning solutions
      • Are visible for inspection when assembled or readily disassembled
      • Allows CIP where possible
      • Has adequate space within and around equipment
  2. The piece of equipment protects the food from contamination from outside or within the food equipment.

    Throughout the processing steps, it is necessary to protect the product from environmental and other contaminants. For example, condensate from overhead pipes may drip into an open vat. Covers are installed over tanks, hoppers, flumes, conveyors, and other open equipment to prevent debris from entering the system. Closed systems are best but points where the food enters and exits the system are still vulnerable.

    • Ensure covers are close fitting and have a downward lip
    • Have protection from draining or dripping
    • Ensure there are no open gratings or stairs over processing equipment
  3. Specific areas of interest:
    • Seams and joints have permanent welds; are smooth; flush; resistant to stress
    • Seals and gaskets are removable or bonded; non-toxic; non-absorbent; non-extruding
    • CIP spray balls are designed to allow inspection and removal of debris
    • Conveyor belt is endless; no metal stitching or lacing


  • Has no residues; product, cleaners or others
  • Has no leaking lubricants
  • Is free of flaking material (for example paint, rust)
  • Is sanitized prior to start-up

Specific criteria for evaluating dairy processing equipment

For specific dairy processing equipment, there are additional criteria in addition to the general criteria.

Butter equipment


Conventional churns:

  • Examine the door gasket, buttermilk valve, vent, cream inlet fitting
  • Look for deep pitting or corrosion on interior of churn, cracks

Continuous churns:

  • Examine the cream inlet and fittings, hollow interior of beater, screens used for buttermilk removal, buttermilk outlet, couplings of working augers, dosing ports for injection of salt slurry
  • Look for dead ends, open seams, exposed threads or bolted joints on beaters, product accumulation in-between working and header plates, butter residue in chamber

Large continuous churns have product contact components of such size, weight and complexity that complete disassembly is a major undertaking. Therefore, cleaning reliance is placed on CIP procedures which are recommended by the churn manufacturer.

  • Verify the cleanliness of the equipment by checking areas that may be difficult to clean and that may cause contamination

Buttermilk equipment

Buttermilk, the by-product of butter churning, may be sold for animal feed or receive further processing and be used for human consumption (for example, buttermilk powder, blending with fluid milk for use in other products).

  • Examine the holding tanks, drain pan, pipelines, loading area
  • Verify the following criteria based on end use of the buttermilk:
    • Human food - sanitary design, either cooled to 4°C or lower or promptly processed (less than 2 hours post churning)
    • Animal feed - equipment does not contribute to unhygienic conditions (odours, cross-contamination, insects)


Butter is wrapped in a continuous process using automatic printer-wrappers. There are various types of printers in use including pound, microprint and 25 kg. The butter is extruded through a die in the proper shape and cut off at the desired length.

  • Examine pistons, augers covers, wrapper handlers/holders, coders, conveyors, belts

Reworker (butter or cheese operations)

A reworker is used to prepare blocks of tempered butter for moulding and packaging in a print operation. Essentially it is an auger conveyor that makes the butter malleable as it travels to the print machine. It is important that the rework operation be carried out at the proper temperature to ensure good textural properties. Poor reworking that disrupts the butter emulsion will result in free water. These water droplets facilitate the activity of microorganisms and consequently the deterioration of butter.

Another example where reworkers are used would be during the processing of pasta filata type cheeses such as mozzarella cheese

  • Examine the indicating thermometer probes, product contact surfaces and framework


When making butter from cream that needs neutralizing, the term "forewarmer" is used to designate a coil type vat for warming the cream for neutralization. The cream is then pumped out to the High Temperature Short Time (HTST) system or vats for batch pasteurization. When cream is neutralized and pasteurized in the same vat, evaluate the forewarmer using the criteria in Batch pasteurization.

  • Examine sanitary seals, vat liner, coils, valves and fittings, centreboard and covers

Cheese equipment

Cheese vats

  • Examine the interior and exterior of vats, outlet valve (sanitary type), spray balls and curd knives

Curd knives

Cutting the cheese into uniform size cubes is important for proper cooking, salting and composition control. The knives used in open vats may be mechanically or manually operated. These knives are subject to a substantial amount of repair work due to their construction; the wires can be quite fragile.

  • Examine the condition of wires, smooth welds (silver solder), quality of the repairs, storage conditions when not in use

Drain tables

Typically the drain table is a long rectangle with a central drain trough, covered by perforated or slotted drain plates. Some drain tables have gasketed, liquid tight end doors. In use, the curd/whey mixture is run from the curd vat into the tank.

  • Examine the gaskets, perforated drain plates and framework

Curd screens and sifters

Curd screens and curd sifters are used to remove curd particles from the whey. Due to the small holes in the screens, they are usually difficult to clean and should be carefully examined.

  • Examine screens, gaskets, outlets and cloths for straining

Agitator carriages

  • Examine:
    • Curd forkers (and nylon tips)
    • Conditions of carriages (enclosed type, free of dust, debris, flaking material)
    • Maintenance and operation of the agitator assembly (during operation examine for oil leaks, flaking material, motor and belt covers in place)

Curd mill

Most curd mills for cheddar cheese are rotary type, but Mozzarella cheese requires a dicer type unit that uses a plunger to force the curd through sturdy knives.

  • Examine the hopper, chamber, plunger and knives
  • Look for no metal to metal rubbing, product accumulations, flaking material on external surfaces, dirt or grease from motor and drive mechanism

Wash water tank and filter

Following the cooking process, the cheese curd is washed.

  • Examine the filters, potable water used, tank and pipelines (free of rust and other foreign material), culinary steam used if water heated by steam

Hoop filler

The hoop filler is used to direct cheese curd into cheese hoops.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition

Cheese hoops and moulds

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition

Hoop and rack washer

Cleaning hoops and racks can be accomplished in a variety of ways, ranging from soaking them in cleaning solutions to automatic washing equipment. This activity produces high moisture conditions which are optimal for microbial growth.

  • Ensure cleaning tasks are carried out in a sanitary manner
  • Conduct cleaning tasks in an area away from manufacturing areas where the product is exposed to the atmosphere

If high pressure washing systems are used, aerosols are likely to form and pose microbiological risks. It is recommended that these systems be located outside of processing areas. If it is not possible to locate these pressure washer systems outside of processing areas, they can still be used to wash hoops and racks provided precautions are taken to ensure control of aerosols and other airborne contaminants.

  • Examine the location of washing areas (precautions taken if not isolated from processing room), adequate exhausting of vapour, maintenance of cleaning equipment and handling of clean hoops
  • For automatic washers, examine the length of cycle, water velocity, wash solution strength and temperature


The press compresses the cheese after it has been placed in the hoops. This aids the expulsion of whey and the development of a compacted cheese. Because the pressing step may be done under a vacuum it also assists in cooling the curd.

  • Examine the drain trough and rails, press head (no oil leaks), outlet of press drippings and framework

Press cloths

Press cloths are used in the pressing operation to aid in the development of a smooth rind. Traditional materials have been replaced with textured synthetic cloths; as well, finely perforated stainless steel moulds have eliminated the need for cloths.

  • Examine the handling procedures for reusable cloths (washed after each use), storage conditions of both wet and dry cloths
    • Use proper containers and solutions for the wet storage of reusable cloths and away from airborne contamination and dust during dry storage

Moisture probes

Moisture probes are used when making cheese in large styles, such as barrels, 640 pound blocks, etc. It uses vacuum probe equipment to withdraw whey from the cheese.

  • Examine the components of the probe system, attachments (metal clamps) of flexible hoses to stainless steel stub ends, whey discharge lines and vessels

Chill tank

Moulded cheese is to be cooled before it is placed in the brine tank. Since chilling is a post pasteurization step, it is important that the water used be potable and the tank be in good condition.

  • Examine the cooling water (potable, microbiologically tested, changed or treated as required), condition of tank

Moulding equipment

The Pasta Filata category of cheeses includes such varieties as Mozzarella and Provolone. The curd produced in the manufacture of these cheeses is allowed to develop into a curd mass. This curd mass (plastic curds) is then kneaded and formed mechanically into moulds or shaped by hand. Although the curds can be manipulated by hand, the kneading process is generally done by machine.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of product contact surfaces and external framework

Vacuum chamber

The pressing time of cheese blocks can be reduced by using vacuum to remove air from the curd and give a more compact cheese. It is important that this process does not contaminate the cheese. In particular, the contamination of the outer surface of the cheese with anything that is liable to modify the development of the surface flora (inhibitors or activators) should be prevented.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of interior surfaces of the vacuum chamber, racks, wooden pallets, etc.

Brine tanks

Brine tanks can be constructed from a variety of materials which include concrete, glazed ceramic, fibreglass (acceptable food contact surface) and plastic. When choosing a brine tank it is important to consider the corrosive effect of salt and its impact on the external surfaces of the tank.

  • Examine the condition of tank (no leaks, cracks or flaking material), cleanliness of exterior and surrounding area

Draining racks

Draining racks are used in the manufacture of specialty cheeses. These racks are considered product contact surfaces.

  • Examine the design and condition of racks so they are not a source of microbial contamination to the surface of the cheese

Cutting equipment

Cutting equipment is used to cut blocks of cheese prior to packaging or for trimming before processing into process cheese.

  • Examine the design (stainless steel or corrosion resistant material), condition and maintenance of equipment (no oil leaks or excessive lubrication), odours, product build up

Waxing tank

Varieties of cheese, such as Gouda, Danbo and Elbo may be coated with wax or plastic resins. Some cheese may be waxed over a bandage. The bandage should be dry so that the wax coat does not peel away. Waxes of different melting points are available. They range from 49°C to 82°C. The wax is to be applied at the correct temperature. If the wax is applied at too high a temperature there is a chance that steam pockets may develop and the wax will not adhere to the cheese. These steam pockets may also negate the mould growth inhibition provided by waxing. If the wax is applied at too low temperatures, the wax will also not adhere to cheese.

  • Examine the waxing procedures (temperature of waxing, cheese well covered with wax), condition and storage of wax (clean, protected from contamination, not burnt), condition and location of tank (clean, covered when not in use)

Cheese smokehouse

Smokehouses are used to impart a wood smoke flavour in the manufacture of cheese. They may be equipped with an indicating thermometer and recording chart.

  • Examine the material used in the construction is not a source of microbial contamination to the cheese surface, proper ventilation, drainage, wood chips not a source of contamination

Dry products equipment

Surge tank

Surge tanks may be located between the evaporator and dryer or a holding tank prior to a fluid milk filling machine. Because the product in the surge tank is pasteurized it is important that re-contamination of the product does not occur.

  • Examine inside surfaces of tank, sanitary inlets, float assembly, cover and discharge pipe

Whey crystallizing tank

Sweet whey contains approximately 5% lactose. In the range of 7-10°C this lactose will crystallize out of the whey. This crystallization process is done prior to drying to reduce the level of hygroscopicity. This minimizes the caking and lumping in the final powder. For successful crystallization agitation and temperature need to be well controlled.

  • Examine the indicating thermometer, agitator, inlet and outlet valve, spray balls and manhole gasket

High pressure pump

The high pressure pump is used to push the concentrated milk at high pressure into the spray dryer.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of the piston, piston seal assemblies, gaskets, dead ends and exterior surfaces and no leaks during operation

Drying chamber

The drying chamber may be used for drying milks and by-products or cheese to make cheese powder.

Cleaning procedures varies depending on the construction of the equipment. Many drying chambers are of the cone or tube type, and they are cleaned daily by dry methods. The frequency of wet cleaning is determined by the condition of the dryer chamber. Clean thoroughly to prevent the build-up of caked powder.

Although the main drying chamber of some dryers is routinely wet cleaned, the collectors, coolers and conveying systems are wet cleaned less frequently. It is important to prevent vapours from penetrating into these dry areas during wet cleaning of the main chamber. This can be achieved with valves, shut off plates on ducts, or making a complete disconnect by using polyethylene liners over openings etc.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of the chamber, product contact surfaces constructed of stainless steel or corrosion resistant material, joints and seams are smooth with no product accumulation, valves and shut off plates on ducts


Collector equipment includes bag type filters, cyclone type collectors, and wet scrubbers.

Collectors are used in the drying systems to separate the powder from the air. There are basically two dry types: bag filters or various modifications of the centrifugal cyclone principle. Bag filters are usually employed as a secondary collector (after the cyclone collector). Inspection is usually done by opening the drying systems inspection port or manhole and the condition of the bags is checked from the outside. It is not necessary to have bags removed for additional inspection. When the dryer is wet cleaned or when it is idle, it is imperative that the bag filters are protected against moisture pick-up.

Inspection ports or manholes on cyclone type collectors should be opened for inspection of interior surfaces. Some cyclone collectors are CIP cleaned. In this case check for proper cleaning of the interior surfaces.

In wet collectors or scrubbers, liquid milk or water scrubs the air from the cyclones by bubbling it through the liquid. The fines are removed from the air and the air is cooled prior to being exhausted. The scrubbing liquid is recirculated and periodically removed. The liquid containing the fines may be redried or disposed of. The conditions in a wet collector are ideal for microbial growth; thermophilic bacteria are a serious problem in the foam. Incorporation of these collected fines into the product going for drying is an acceptable practice if the fines are properly collected and handled.

  • For bag type fillers and cyclone type fillers , examine the condition, cleanliness, design, door/manhole gasket, interior surface and in addition for wet collectors control of foam, water/milk quality is monitored and controlled if re-dried


Redryers are used to further dry partially dried product and for instantizing systems. In these redryers heated air is used so it is important to evaluate the quality of air going into this dryer.

  • Examine the quality of the air going into the dryer (filtered), condition of product contact surfaces, doors, gasket joints and accessories

Powder cooling system

Cooling of dry powder in most systems is accomplished by introducing the hot product into a stream of moving cold air. The mixture is then separated in cyclones and powder is discharged through an air lock device.

The air quality, the cooling equipment and moisture condensation does not pose contamination risk to the dried powders.

Since the cooling system handles only dried product, the related piping, cyclone, and fan usually do not require frequent cleaning. When the rest of the dryer system is wet washed, there should be segregation of the cooling components to protect them from water splashing and humid air.

In order to improve the efficiency of a powder cooling system, sometimes provision is made for water or mechanical refrigeration cooling of the air before the powder pickup point. Air drawn for cooling should be properly filtered. Most of these cooling units are of fin and coil construction and are difficult to clean. The presence of accumulated powder in these units results in unpleasant odours and poor sanitation conditions.

Some dry powders are cooled with jacketed equipment. Ensure that this is properly constructed and operated to prevent moisture condensation on product contact surfaces.

  • Examine the air supply (filtered, no unfiltered air leaks, condition of filters), cooling equipment, moisture condensation on product contact surfaces, unpleasant odours, proper design

Storage bins

Frequent cleaning is usually not necessary if the storage bin is kept closed and in dry condition. Wet cleaning frequency will depend on actual need conditions.

A storage bin is usually equipped with a top vent to allow air escape and entrance during filling and emptying operations. Such vent openings are equipped with a suitable filter. This filter will prevent escape of product dust and filter air entering the bin. Usually the filters are sock type or cartridge units.

  • Examine the construction, cleanliness and condition, gasketed air tight fitting, suitable filter on bins equipped with a vent

Exhaust stack

Exhaust stacks are part of the spray drying systems from where dryer or cyclone air is exhausted to the atmosphere. Some dryers have two or more exhaust stacks. It is important that exhaust stacks have self-closing doors to prevent environmental contamination from entering the drying system.

  • Examine the cleanliness, self-closing covers and access provided to self-closing cover

Cooling tower

Non-potable water is sometimes used in evaporators with open or closed condensers. Such water might be recirculated on cooling towers to cool it. Cooling towers are usually located on the roof and are often the cause of roof deterioration.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of tanks, drains and shutters and area around the cooling tower
  • If non-potable water is used, verify water lines are separate with no cross-connections to potable water lines

Vacuum cleaner

Dry cleaning is applicable in situations in which the soil is dry and relatively fine and where wetting this soil could hydrate it to the point where microbial growth could occur. Dry milk powder establishments use dry cleaning techniques in the drying and packaging areas. Brooms and hand sweepers which can be used for this purpose usually create dust problems and redistribution of the dust material. Vacuum cleaners are the best alternative for this purpose.

  • Verify that there is no risk of contaminating product in the drying or packaging room, daily removal of collection bag, proper disposal of collected material
  • If it is a central vacuum system, ensure the exhaust vent is outside of the establishment away from air intakes and the central collector is outside the processing room

Vibrating sifter and screen

Milk powder is sifted to produce a finished product of the desired granule size. Like other parts of equipment within the drying process, routine dry cleaning (vacuuming) is performed, with wet cleaning when needed. The effectiveness of dry cleaning may be reduced when drying hygroscopic products such as lactose or protein powders.

Stainless steel mesh is most commonly used for screening surfaces; others used include cotton, linen, silk or synthetic fibres.

  • Examine the effectiveness of the dry cleaning, condition, design (prompt discharge of coarse material, proper gasketing) and cleanliness of the screen


Hoppers need to be monitored to ensure they do not retain product for excessive periods of time, creating a risk of microbiological contamination.

  • Examine the condition of product contact surfaces (free from rough welds and seams, no exposed threads) and framework, appropriate gaskets


Agglomeration is the process of sticking smaller particles together to make larger particles so that a dried product is easier to reconstitute. This is also referred to as "instantizing".

  • Examine the condition of the agglomerate (re-drying, cooling and quick removal) to ensure good keeping qualities and control deterioration, condition and cleanliness of product contact surfaces

Sizing rolls

This equipment is used in the instantization process and is usually located after the redryer.

  • Examine the design, cleanliness and condition of the equipment

Shaker table

The Shaker table is used after the redryers in the drying process to remove the "tailings" from the dried product.

  • Examine the design and condition of gaskets, fine-mesh screens, framework and the sanitary handling practices of the "tailings"

Evaporated products equipment


Hotwells are tanks located upstream of the evaporator used for product preheating. Preheating reduces the microbial flora, increases the effectiveness of the evaporation process and stabilizes the proteins.

  • Examine the design (inlet location below milk level or "downpipe" to minimize foaming, enclosed or covered, exhaust ducts)
  • Use culinary steam for direct steam injection


Evaporators may be of different types: for example rising or falling film, or plate type. Evaporators usually have multiple effects; newly designed evaporators have multiple tubular passes instead of multiple effects.

  • Examine the:
    • Design (clean and free of open seams)
    • Cleanliness and condition
    • Tube chests or heating plates (for plate type evaporators)
    • Passages connecting tube chests and evaporating chambers
    • Underside of distributing plates, baffles, vacuum separator devices
    • Vapour ells (clean all the way around to the point where they slope away from the milk zone in the evaporator)
      • Because of their construction, they are best cleaned with spray balls
    • Control valves for regulating product inlet and transfer to subsequent stages
    • Dead ends in piping
    • Air release valves, manhole gaskets and sight glass gaskets
    • Non-product contact surfaces in good condition

Fluid milk products equipment

Case washing room

This area potentially poses a microbiological contamination risk because of the high humidity conditions.

Ensure that returned cases are gathered in an area that is physically separated from the processing area to reduce the risk of contamination of the processing environment.

  • Examine the:
    • Cleanliness and maintenance (including chain lubricant contamination)
    • Location (away from processing area)
    • Dirt and debris accumulation around and under case stacker, conveyor chain and sub floor pits
    • Interior of washer and jets
    • Ventilation (odours and humidity)
    • Cleaning solution (strength, temperature and condition)

Case condition and handling

Plastic cases are used in the transporting of fluid milk and other dairy products.

  • Examine the:
    • Handling of cases prior to washing (washed prior to entering processing room)
    • Location of storage of unwashed cases (not in manufacturing or processing room)
    • Cases not a source of contamination
    • Mechanical condition of the equipment

Frozen products equipment

Liquid sugar tank

  • Examine the:
    • Tank is capable of maintaining the intended storage temperature
    • The air supply is not a source of contamination (using filtered, UV light treated air helps to prevent yeast and mould growth)

Flavour tanks

  • Since flavours are added to a pasteurized mix specific, examine the cleanliness and condition of product contact surfaces, covers, outlet valve and agitator and that the tanks are covered during operation


The freezer includes the barrels (there may be numerous ones in one freezer), blades, pressure dials, air intake freezer pump, and pipes.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of the shaft seal, air intake, blades, barrel(s), pumps and product contact surfaces

Mixing vat

This applies to vats used for mixing previously pasteurized or microbiologically safe components with subsequent hygienic handling.

  • Examine the:
    • Cleanliness, condition and maintenance of sanitary seals, vents, agitator, inlet and outlet fittings, valves (no butterfly valves) and product contact surfaces
    • CIP cleaning does not pose a cross-connection with product (refer to Appendix G: Preventing cross connections)
    • No product accumulations
    • If vats are equipped with an indicating and recording thermometer, evaluate these under Indicating thermometer and Recording thermometer (see Universal equipment)

Fruit feeders

Fruit feeders inject fruit and nuts into the finished ice cream as it is discharged from the freezing chamber and may also be used to add fruit to vat set style yogurts as they are packaged or into the yogurt cup during the filling operation.

  • Examine the connection between freezer discharge and fruit feeder, cleanliness of product contact surfaces, covered during operation and well maintained

Ripple pump and equipment

This includes the ripple tank, positive pump, ripple tube and ripple head.

  • Examine the connection between freezer discharge and ripple pump (food grade tubing, removable stainless steel fittings), cleanliness of product contact surfaces, covered during operation and well maintained

Novelty equipment

Novelty machines form, freeze and package items as a complete process. Due to their design, these machines are inherently difficult to clean properly. Most product contact surfaces (moulds, extrusion nozzles) are designed to be cleaned out of place. Keeping the non product contact surfaces, such as the housing and drive units, clean can be much more difficult. For example, product may seep into the drive unit and the undercarriage as a result of the equipment jamming.

Generally, rotary and line types of equipment are used to make the stick novelties. The moulds of stick novelties are submerged in a refrigerant (brine or glycol) and the product is added in a liquid or semi-liquid state. The sticks are inserted, the product is extracted and coatings, nuts, etc. may then be applied before packaging. Other machine types may have enclosed cooling medium systems.

Extrusion equipment includes a product extruder, cookie dispenser, nut dispenser, enrober (adds coating), wrapper and in some cases a stick inserter. For this type of novelty, cold-air hardening is employed.

  • Examine the:
    • Equipment (product contact surfaces and non product contact surfaces) are maintained and operated in a sanitary manner
    • Brine (safe for use in food such as FCC (Food Chemicals Codex) or equivalent) and microbiological safety and acceptability
    • Condition of the moulds (no cracks or pinholes)
    • Testing of moulds for cracks and pinholes (recommend at least once per year)
    • Monitoring and control of the level between the rim of the moulds and the cooling medium to avoid contamination of the frozen dairy products with the cooling medium. This can happen when splashes occur or when the mould belt sinks too low in the cooling medium. (Monitoring of the level between the cooling medium and the mold rim is advisable after equipment dismantling and/or cleaning.)
    • Air quality (cold air blowers)
    • Hopper filler valves, hose assembly, mould filler nozzles, moulds, wrappers, conveying chute

Process cheese equipment

Grinders / graters

Grinders/graters are used to convert cheeses into small pieces or filaments or even to a fine powder. This ground product may be used as an ingredient in other foods, made into a processed cheese product or sold as a grated cheese. Grating the cheese also facilitates the heating process.

  • Examine the cleanliness of product contact surfaces and the maintenance and operation of the equipment

The grating process increases the exposed surface area of product and thus increases the likelihood of bacterial contamination. Proper maintenance is required to ensure that foreign matter is not incorporated in the grated cheese mass. Ensure that metal detecting devices are incorporated with this equipment.

Weigh tank

This includes the containers or weigh scales used for weighing, measuring or metering liquid products used as ingredients.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of the weigh tanks

Premix equipment

Premix equipment may be used for the incorporation of herbs, nuts and other flavourings with cheese curd prior to moulding and pressing. As well, in process cheese manufacture they are used for the blending of batches of cheese prior to cooking. As ingredients are being added to the vat, it is imperative that extraneous matter is not allowed to get into the tank.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of product contact surfaces, agitator, pumps and pipelines


An extruder is a piece of equipment used to shape products.

  • Since the blended cheese mixture has been pasteurized prior to extrusion, examine the cleanliness of the extruder between uses and the location and installation to protect product from contamination

Vacuum treatment equipment

The vacreation process is used to remove volatile substances that are responsible for unpleasant flavours and odours in milk based products. It is a steam distillation process where pressurized steam is mixed with, for example cream, and the condensed vapour plus volatiles are removed by flash evaporation under partial vacuum.

  • Since the steam has direct contact with the milk product, verify that it is of the culinary type and that the process does not contaminate and adulterate the product (for example boiler feed water chemicals or any other contaminating substance does not become entrained in the product)

Raw receiving equipment

Milk metering system

This includes all major components of the system and includes the deaerator, air eliminator, the meter itself and the filters. Since these systems may be used for payment or claim purpose it is important that the system is mechanically in good condition. Type A or E (depending upon provincial requirements) systems are used for this purpose. The accuracy of the meter is directly related to the physical condition of the impeller (ebonite) and the gasket.

  • Verify that the system is calibrated, is clean, and in good condition
    • Pay particular attention to the impeller (ebonite), gaskets, air vents deaerator and filters

Mechanical sampler

Samples for microbial and composition analysis are taken as the raw milk enters the plant. Sampling devices tend to be made up of small parts and thus may become plugged with milk.

  • Verify proper installation in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions, properly cleaned, and does not cause contamination of the incoming milk


Stainless steel cans and plastic (20 L) pails are sometimes used within the establishment to move products and prepare starter culture.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition (rust, dents, broken seams and broken lids)

Can washer and steamer

In mechanical can washing, the can is usually passed over a succession of jets emitting water, cleaner solution, hot water, steam and air. Temperatures usually used for wash solutions range from 55 - 60oC and for final rinses are 88oC or higher.

  • Verify that the can washer and steamer are in good operating condition (screens, no excessive scale build up, no plugged jet holes, air used for drying cans is filtered) and constructed of a corrosion resistant material

Universal equipment

Indicating thermometer

This covers thermometers used to monitor temperatures in hotwells, etc. For indicating thermometers used in critical processes, refer to the criteria in High temperature short time (HTST), Batch pasteurization, Aseptic processing and packaging systems, Non-thermal processing (starter vats section) and Retorting (canning).

  • Verify that the thermometer is:
    • Clean and in good condition (fittings and probe)
    • Fit for purpose
    • Accurate and reliable
    • Easy to read
    • Calibrated as per the written calibration procedure

Recording thermometer

This is the instrument which automatically records the temperature of the product on a chart thereby providing a record of the process.

  • Verify that the thermometer is:
    • Clean and in good condition (unit and sensing probe)
    • Protected against damage
    • Moisture proof and electrically operated
    • Fit for purpose
    • Accurate and reliable
    • Easy to read
    • Calibrated as per the written calibration procedure

Storage tanks

Storage tanks are used to hold cooled milk that is received at the plant, as well as process milk-based products such as ice cream mix. These tanks may be either horizontal or vertical. The latter, generally large silos, are located at the exterior of the establishment.

The walls of the tanks are insulated. Ideally, the temperature of the product should not increase more than 2°C (4°F) in a 24-hour period. If the product is to be held more than one day, refrigeration on tank walls may be required.

Agitation in storage tanks prevents fat separation and in the case of refrigerated tanks, aids in temperature control. Agitation may be mechanical or by air. Air may be used for agitation.

  • Examine the:
    • Tanks are clean and in good condition (pay particular attention to the inlet and outlet valve)
    • Stored milk temperature is 6°C or less
    • Air intakes
    • Level indicators (minimum - automatic shut off of agitation; maximum - overflow pipe prevents overfilling)
    • Sample cocks
    • Agitator (shaft and seals)
    • Indicating thermometer
    • Spray balls
    • Sight glass
    • Gaskets
    • Product is handled in a sanitary manner (e.g, not leaking; temperature controlled)


Pump design is a critical feature with respect to ease of cleaning. Proper cleaning will aid in the prevention of contamination of milk based products that come in contact with the pump.

  • Examine the design (stainless steel or corrosion resistant material, self draining), cleanliness and condition of the pumps (no pitting, cracks), easy to dismantle, condition of seals, condition of gaskets, not leaking

Pipelines and valves

If they are not kept clean, pipelines and valves pose a contamination risk at product contact surfaces. This includes the interior of the pipes, the junctions between pipes, and certain parts of the valve.

  • Examine:
    • material from which they are made (stainless steel is preferred, glass or food grade flexible hose if hard piping is not possible)
    • condition of the pipes (smooth interiors, no rough seams or dead ends, flush interior joints)
    • connections/fittings (sanitary pipe couplings, such as no exposed threads on food contact surfaces)
    • design and condition of gaskets (food grade)
    • design, condition and cleanliness of valves (close coupled to lines, no leaks, stem and o-rings, disk shaft; no butterfly valves if Clean-in-Place or CIP cleaning is used)
      • Note: Butterfly valves are not suitable to be CIP cleaned. They should be disassembled and cleaned manually or by a clean-out-of-place mechanical process.


The separator/clarifier is a piece of auxiliary equipment that mechanically separates milk into fat and skim milk by centrifugation. Self-cleaning separators also provide a clarifying function by regularly desludging the somatic cells, leucocytes and other inedible materials.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of the bowl, discs and disc cover, inlet and outlet fittings and miscellaneous parts
  • CIP type separators:
    • Verify the cleaning program is operated by an automatic cleaning programmer in accordance with the equipment manufacturer's recommendation
    • Completely disassemble CIP separators for routine inspection
  • Open type separators:
    • Examine the cleanliness and condition (no crevices or rough finishes on soldered joints on inside of top covers)

Refer to High temperature short time (HTST) pasteurization for more information on the use of separator/clarifiers in these types of systems.


  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of the filters, homogenization valve assembly, pistons, piston seal assemblies, intake manifold and strainer, pressure gauges and dead ends

Packaging and sealing equipment

Packaging protects the product from contamination and ensures the integrity of quality factors such as flavour and moisture content. There are two potential risks:

  1. Contamination that can be carried into or onto the food itself by the packaging and sealing process.
  2. Contamination that might occur if the package or seal barrier is broken or compromised in some way.

Packaging and/or sealing may be done by the equipment alone or by means of vacuum, heat, hot water or gas flushing.

  • Examine the design, maintenance and operation of the equipment


Automated fillers are used to full containers with milk or milk products (soft cheeses, ice cream, process cheese, and yogurt).

  • Examine the:
    • Filler nipples, cylinders, pistons, caps, gaskets, valves, carton forming area
    • Protective covers in place
    • Recovery of product from the de-foaming equipment (if it is to be reprocessed)
    • Quality of filtered air used for carton forming


Blenders are used to blend dry ingredients such as milk powders and other dry ingredients to the fluid milk portion of milk-based products (for example starter culture fermentation base). This evaluation covers industrial blenders, blender horn assemblies and tanks used to blend or mix dry ingredients. It also covers similar equipment used to melt and/or texturize the product (for example for processed cheese processing).

  • Examine the:
    • Construction, maintenance and operation of the equipment
    • No build-up of milk powder or product residues
    • Cleanliness of difficult to clean components (needles, augers, texturizing plates, etc.)
    • Use of covers
    • Culinary steam if it is in direct contact with product

Conveying equipment

Conveying equipment is used to move product from one area of the operation to another. Examples of conveyor types include augers, belts, rollers, chains, bucket elevators, pneumatic systems and carts.

The risk of product contamination is dependent on the degree of direct contact with the product and the type of conveying equipment.

  • Examine the:
    • Cleanliness and condition of product contact surfaces, exterior and surrounding area
    • Use of food grade grease; excessive lubrication
    • Odours, excessive product build-up
    • Auger type conveyors: look for product accumulation on swept wall or in "dead" space at end of conveyor, condition of bearings, sanitary shaft seal
    • Belt, roller, chain type conveyors: look for excess lubrication, use of covers where appropriate, cleanliness and condition
    • Bucket elevators: look for accumulation of product in "boot" of elevator
    • Pneumatic conveyors: look for condition and location of air source and condition and design of air supply line
    • Carts: look for cleanliness and condition

Salting equipment

This equipment is used to add salt to butter and cheese (including processed cheese).

There are various salt addition techniques, ranging from simple manual methods to automated equipment.

  • Verify the:
    • Salt handling method does not result in the addition of extraneous matter and other contaminants to the product
    • Condition of the salt container (covered, labelled and raised off the floor)
    • For automated equipment, there is proper agitation to dissolve salt, no salt residue build up and it is clean and well maintained

Supplementary utensils

This covers all the various small tools and equipment used in the establishment.

  • Examine the construction (stainless steel, corrosion resistant material or food grade plastic in the case of product contact surfaces), properly stored, cleanliness and condition (free of flaking material)
  • Stainless steel sponges or similar type sponges, glass utensils, etc. are not used in dairy processing operations

Packaging tables

Packing tables are contamination risk because they are a direct product contact surface.

  • Verify proper design, condition (framework free of flaking material, smooth surfaces, free of crevices, no pitting) and cleanliness


This refers to the filtration of dairy products such as cream, evaporated milk, and hot processed cheese.

These filters are used to remove foreign particles (for example gaskets, brush particles, etc.). Cream filters are required when cream is transported from establishment to establishment or if the cream is vat pasteurized. If a closed HTST system is used it is desirable but not necessary to filter the cream prior to churning.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition, and that it is regularly monitored


This refers to scales used in the processing area as well as those used for bulk and retail sales. It does not include analytical balances in the laboratory.

  • Examine the cleanliness and condition of the scales (platform is stainless steel or corrosion resistant material, framework free of flaking material), scale accuracy and whether accuracy has been maintained according to the written procedure