QAC Residues and Hygiene Products

News | 5 July 2012

An alert from QS Fachgesellschaft Obst-Gemuse-Kartoffein GmbH on the 20 April 2012 raised the issue of Didecyl Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride (DDAC) and Benzalkonium Chloride (BAC) residues on fresh fruit and vegetables.

Legislation
Didecyl Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride (DDAC) and Benzalkonium Chloride (BAC) are the most widely used QAC disinfectants in the UK and European disinfectant industry.  They are both supported for pt2 and pt4 applications (this covers food processing) of the European Biocidal Products Directive (98/8/EC). Shortly to be replaced with Regulation (EU) No 528/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of May 22nd 2012 concerning the making available on the market and use of biocidal products.

Non disinfectant applications are covered by REACH - Regulation (EC) No 1907/2006 and amendments.

Holchem do not believe that the use of Didecyl Dimethyl Ammonium Chloride (DDAC) and Benzalkonium Chloride (BAC) also known as Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride for the surface disinfection of food contact surfaces falls within the scope of the pesticide legislation currently in force with the European Union.
The scope of the regulation states in section 1.(a) that it applies to products for  “protecting plants or plant products against all harmful organisms or preventing the action of all organisms, unless the main purpose of these products is considered to be for reasons of hygiene rather than for the protection of plants or plant products;”   

Products, application and toxicity
QAC based disinfectants are not only the most commonly used actives they also are highly effective, safe and economic and form part of the whole cleaning and disinfection process. These actives are not banned for use in hygiene products.
Neither QAC is classified as Toxic. By calculation it is possible to demonstrate that it would be necessary to consume significant volumes of the in-use product to exceed the LD50 value for the QAC.

Summary
Holchems’ reading of the Pesticide Regulation leads us to believe it does not apply to utilising QAC actives for hygiene purposes; i.e. cleaning and disinfection of food contact surfaces.

Holchem do not recommend the use of QAC based products for cleaning or disinfection of food stuffs.

Holchem believe that when the QAC based products are used as directed by the Cleaning Instruction Card there is no evidence to suggest that food safety is compromised.

QAC’s are readily water soluble and if a business has concerns about the potential for transfer of the QAC’s to Produce we recommend rinsing of the food contact surfaces with potable quality water to remove the disinfectant; after a suitable contact time (15 minutes).

Other technologies are available for surface disinfection but we do not believe that a substitution is necessary.

Holchem recommend that businesses satisfy themselves that produce is supplied from growers within the relevant MRL limits.