Contaminant of the month: Water reuse guidelines for beverage and food producers

July 1, 2014

What is the topic? This "Contaminant of the Month" will be different from the usual. We will be discussing water reuse in beverage and food production. …

What is the topic?

This "Contaminant of the Month" will be different from the usual. We will be discussing water reuse in beverage and food production. Those high volume users are often limited by local availability and increasing costs to obtain and treat water prior to discharge, seasonal variations, local shortages and regulatory restrictions.

  • Water is the major component of all beverages and a significant part of producing many food products.
  • Beverages can include, among others, bottled water, sodas, reconstituted juices, soft drinks and athletic drinks and beer.
  • Food producers need water for washing agricultural products and for canning. Beverage bottlers need water for washing returnable containers, and both beverage and food producers need water for cleaning process equipment, as well as for general cleaning and sanitation associated with the facility.

How can water use be controlled and minimized?

  • There are just three significant options for obtaining new water when needed: Conservation, desalination of salt or brackish water when it is available and multiple reuse and reducing the water footprint of the facility.
  • The goal is to optimize the use of the available water to reduce waste and wastewater discharges, thereby also reducing those process costs and regulatory restrictions.
  • The objective, when necessary, is to identify water quality suitable for the end use, and to choose the most cost effective approaches that are available to safely suit the need.

What uses and water quality specifications are appropriate for these applications?

  • Beverage and food production requires high quality water whenever a human consumable product is being made. In addition, producers must be sensitive to consumer concerns and competitive pressures.
  • Drinking water quality is required when food contact may occur, and direct use of recycled water in a product is probably not advisable at this time.
  • Technologies can produce water of the highest quality from virtually any source, and numerous municipal water supplies are developing reuse applications.

ILSI Guidelines for Beverage and Food Process Reuse:

  • The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) has produced: Water Recovery and Reuse: Guidelines for Safe Application of Water Conservation Methods in Beverage Production and Food Processing (2013).
  • The purpose was to demonstrate the feasibility to reuse certain wastewaters for non-product contact applications and thereby increase water use efficiency where it is necessary and beneficial to the producer.
  • The Guideline is applicable to recycled non-sanitary wastewater, recycled processing wash waters and collected rain water and non- or minimal product contact applications, such as washing returnable containers and cleaning process equipment.
  • The Guideline addresses both high end in-plant uses, and low end non-plant uses.
  • World Health Organization Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality are the basis for the high end uses, and other specifications are provided for low end uses.
  • The Guideline recommends Hazard Assessment Critical Control Point (HACCP) management systems to assure consistent quality, and it also suggests an 11 step approach for evaluating the circumstances and deciding upon the path for the particular application.
  • There are also several case study examples to illustrate existing applications.

The full Guideline is available for no cost from ILSI’s website at:

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