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How clean is your CIP really? New Carbotect test will verify in a jiffy

An ingenious new  food-beverage safety tool, CARBOTECT is an organic (carbohydrate) detection tool developed by a South African scientist as an instant pass/fail diagnostic test to gauge the efficacy of clean-in-place processes. It should prove a welcome addition to every QA/QC department.

CARBOTECT is the brainchild of Dr Robin Kirkpatrick, well-known in local food-bev circles as one of the intellects behind the original development of Radical Water in SA, the non-chlorinated approach to sanitisation using electro-activated water that has now been adopted across the globe.

Kirkpatrick outlines his new product:

Determining the success of a cleaning procedure on food, beverage and pharmaceutical processing equipment is based primarily upon the assessment of the microbiological profile of the final rinse solution after cleaning and sanitation, as well as microbiological swabbing of product contact surfaces.

This approach is problematic in that product samples need to be incubated in a lab and only four to five days later can they be certified as quality compliant or not. In the interim, the packaged product must be quarantined or stored which has a huge cost impact on warehousing, logistics, responsiveness of the producer to meet market demand, and cash flow.

CARBOTECT is based on the fact that microbes do not exist in isolation and the presence of nutrients act as the catalysts for their growth. Incomplete or ineffective cleaning procedures will result in the progressive accumulation of product compounds which supply the nutrients required for microbial growth.

Historically, food-bev producers have relied on days-long diagnostic tests and/or the use of ATP chemiluminescence technology as a real-time indication of sanitary status which has been shown to have inconsistent and variable results. To date there is no dedicated and reliable measure to qualify whether the CIP procedure has been effective in removing residual product and/or carbohydrate-based residues after sanitising procedures. Enter CARBOTECT, a semi-quantitative tool that offers a rapid diagnostic test to verify whether this has been achieved.

In no way does it substitute for the standard microbial screen that MUST remain as the benchmark for determining the sanitary status of the equipment. However, it is also recognised that there are inherent deficiencies in microbial sampling and culture that may result in false negative microbial screens where organic and microbial contaminants may still persist in the ‘cleaned and sanitised’ equipment. Thus CARBOTECT is an adjunct technology to be used as a first-line detection tool that complements other microbial-based determinations.

CARBOTECT can also be used to determine the performance of sanitising/cleaning compounds. Equally important is the capacity to determine whether these chemicals are completely flushed out of the equipment. This is particularly important for sensitive products – for example, in brewing it not infrequently results in significant product failure, flavour instability and limited shelf life – and then large product recalls.

In addition, CARBOTECT can also be used as a diagnostic tool to help identify and isolate primary sources of contamination ie dead-legs etc, as well as to expose areas of non-hygienic engineering design in the overall plant infrastructure. Progressive sampling throughout the product process flow will assist with the isolation of the sources of product residues that evade optimal contact with CIP and SIP solutions.


Carbotect1CARBOTECT is supplied as a translucent plastic container of fixed sampling volume ie 100ml.

The container is prepared with a predetermined quantity of colour reagent as a pellet; this standardises the colour reaction according to the concentration of the carbohydrate-based residues relative to the sample volume.

The extent of the colour reaction is based upon an oxidation end-point reaction and the reaction time is dependent on the concentration of the carbohydrate-based residues.

Carbotect2The colour of the uncontaminated rinse or control sample is purple. The presence of organic contaminants will reveal a colour change from purple to blue (light contamination), green (moderate ), yellow (high) and clear (heavy), ranging from 10,000ppm (right) through to 0.07ppm (left) of the glucose solution.

It is reliably sensitive and repeatable for organic residue levels less than 1ppm.

Equivalent sensitivity to other carbohydrate compounds eg sucrose, fructose and maltose has also been verified. In addition, the colour reagent is also sensitive the presence of proteins and their building blocks – amino acids, as well as unrelated polysaccharide compounds such as cellulose.

CARBOTECT is not influenced by cleaning reagents such as caustic or equivalent compounds and remains sensitive to organic residues in the presence of alkaline cleaning and most disinfecting agents.

Industry sectors where the CARBOTECT  tool may be used:

  • Beverage production and packaging – all soft drinks, fruit juices, ice tea and coffee, flavoured waters, breweries, vineyards, dairies etc.
  • Food processing – processed foods, soups, RTE products, sauces and condiments etc.
  • Pharmaceutical plants – syrups and other liquid-based preparations etc.
  • Bulk water facilities – municipalities, water treatment plants at food, beverage and pharma facilities.
  • Hospitality industry – beverage dispensers/fountains for draft beer and soft drinks.