In the food, pharmaceutical and medical device industries, cleanliness is imperative. Before any instrument or food package can leave the plant, making its way to a medical facility, laboratory or retail outlet, it must be sterile. This is an absolute term with microbial sterilization referring to a total absence of all types of microorganisms, including bacteria. The process destroys all microbes both harmful and beneficial, including the spores.
Classification of Methods
Various methods produce a sterile product. Fall into a system and under the following classifications:
* Physical Agents: Under this category, are four separate treatment methods. These are:
o Heat: There are two types: dry and moist. Dry is the first method used for sterilization. It involves more time than moist heat sterilization. A steam autoclave is an example of moist heat application
o Irridation: This treatment can be gamma rays, X-rays or E-Beam
o Filtration: This treatment filters out certain contaminants based upon size. One of the more popular methods used is membrane filtration
* Chemical Agents: One of the most common chemical methods of achieving microbial sterilization is through the gas ethylene oxide (EO or EtO). An alkyl-acting agent, it has a very comprehensive antimicrobial activity. It destroys the viruses, bacteria and their spores.
Microbial sterilization utilizing the above methods ensures the safety of specific products. Treatments may include the items in their packaging or within the end-environment. It may involve sterilization of various medical equipment or devices. The processes may involve sterilization of the devices or products through the actual food packaging.
Microbial sterilization is not a frivolous topic. It is treatment requiring the following of highly stringent requirements. Failure is not merely something contrary to regulations but can have serious consequences for the health, safety and well-being of those who utilize the equipment or partake of the food or beverages, pharmaceuticals or other items that undergo microbial sterilization methods.
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