The development of new food-safety technology seems, in many instances, to be outpacing the rate at which NASA developed the technology to send humans to the Moon. The recent and substantial increase in public and political interest in food safety has translated directly into a flurry of new research and initiatives directed at helping make our food as safe as possible. This, of course, includes an increasing number of new clean-in-place (CIP) processes and systems. 
It was both easy, and quite fascinating, to spend a good deal of time perusing the Web sites of companies that sell CIP equipment, which generally means very large and complex machines, with all manner of blinking lights, dials, hoses and tanks. Intrigued and curious, I closely examined multiple representative schematics which, while ostensibly for CIP systems, could just as believably been the blueprints for a time machine.

And, perhaps, this is what CIP systems actually are. CIP technology is recognized generally as being more efficient and effective than other methods of cleaning or sanitizing. The utilization of this technology decreases the likelihood of facing foodborne illness complaints or the resultant litigation that may follow. These systems are designed to ensure the complete, comprehensive cleaning of food processing equipment.

With equipment that must be disassembled for cleaning and sanitation, there is always a risk that a step in the process will be missed. The use of CIP, however, mitigates (or in many instances eradicates) the risk of bacterial or viral persistence.

In the event your company is ever faced with a recall scenario, the governmental agency dealing with your company will want to define the scope of that recall. Being able to demonstrate that your systems are entirely cleaned and/or sterilized between batches, production periods, shifts or days will in turn limit the scope of the recall to that limited timeframe, saving your company the expense and heartache associated with an enormous recall.

Most importantly though, these systems help companies ensure the safety of their products. And, by extension, they can help prevent foodborne illness. Additionally, CIP systems, in many cases, can also reduce labor costs and maximize efficiency of production.

Looking again at all those schematics, I am still reminded of a time machine. One day, hopefully in the near future, the absolute safety of all food will be virtually guaranteed. In the meantime, let’s keep building (and implementing) all the time machines we can.

Shawn K. Stevens defends and counsels meat companies in foodborne illness matters throughout the United States. 
Mr. Stevens also assists industry clients with regulatory compliance, recall planning, crisis management and other issues in advance of and following major food-product recalls. Additional information about his practice can be found at