The study demonstrates the viability for recovering good quality water from whey, a highly pollutant cheese-making by-product, to be reused in cleaning-in-place systems. The results obtained in this study indicate that by using a combined ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis system, 47% of water can be recovered. This system generates protein and lactose concentrates, by-products that once spray-dried fulfill commercial standards for protein and lactose powders. The physicochemical and microbiological quality of the recovered permeate was also analyzed, suggesting suitable properties to be reused in the cleaning-in-place system without affecting the quality and safety of the product manufactured on the cleaned equipment.
The findings provide scientific evidence to promote the safety of reuse of reconditioned water in food processing plants, contributing to building a culture of water conservation and sustainable production throughout the food supply chain.