Tag Archives: food processing

Three Ways Sanitation Automation Helps Food Processors Reduce Costs

By Bob Ogren
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Sanitation in a food processing plant is a large-scale effort that many organizations see as an added cost of doing business. Yet, it’s essential and can have costly consequences if done improperly.

Because time is money and facilities want to avoid any necessary downtime, the window for completing proper sanitation procedures is small. Many food processors simply put more people on the job while requiring them to work third shift, hoping to get things done faster.

Automating certain sanitation procedures in your plant can provide real benefits, many of which will help reduce the costs associated with food safety and keeping your facility clean. Here’s a look at the three main ways food plants can save by implementing automated sanitation solutions.

1. Resource Management

When you invest in sanitation automation, one of the biggest advantages is the increased understanding of how resources are being used. This knowledge and improved visibility gives you control of how resources such as water and chemicals are used during sanitation.

Butcher cleaning the floor at meat factory. Image courtesy of Birko.

Perhaps the most significant area in which facilities experience savings is through reduction of water usage. Automated solutions improve the efficiency of rinse cycles while ensuring appropriate water pressure is being used. Every plant has unique water needs, but you should expect water savings between 30% and 50%, depending on the solutions that are applied.

Sanitation automation will also lead to a reduction in energy costs. Using less water means less energy is required to heat that water. Advancements in sanitation technology have made certain solutions more energy efficient. Features such as multi-stage pumps for full alternation, motors that allow pumps to ramp up and down as needed, and flow switches that send pumps into “hibernate” mode help reduce electricity usage.

Waste water from food processing also needs to be treated before it goes down the drain. Less water treatment means fewer chemicals are needed.

Food processors that introduce automated sanitation solutions will use cleaning chemicals more efficiently. Automation ensures chemicals are dispensed precisely where they are needed at the correct concentration, without any over spray. Again, while every situation is unique, most facilities can expect a 20–30% reduction in chemistry costs.

In the end, you will have a very clear picture of the amount of water and chemistry needed to complete sanitation, and you’ll know the amount of time it should take. That means you can plan for more uptime.

Overall, not only can automation help food processors make efficient use of resources, it also makes them more sustainable.

2. Labor Costs

Labor is yet another resource that can be more effectively managed when there’s an investment in sanitation automation. The labor market is tight, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire the people needed to carry out sanitation work.

Sanitation often involves menial and tedious tasks that also require attention to detail. It usually entails working overnight when production stops, and certain responsibilities can be dangerous. At the same time, minimum wage is rising, and many organizations are looking to reduce labor costs.

Introducing sanitation automation can certainly cut labor expenses and remove the need to hire more people, but more importantly, it can make the workers you do have more productive. Automation should be used to eliminate menial tasks from sanitation workers. For example, instead of a person standing in front of a conveyor belt and spraying it down with a hose for hours on end, the job could be easily automated.

We worked with a brewer who was having two employees take as long as three hours to clean a filler. By automating that task, they turned it into a 45-minute job and allowed those employees to refocus their efforts. Plus, the before and after pictures of the equipment show a visible difference in cleanliness.

You can trust an automation solution to do a consistent job, and it will never call in sick.
Still, you’ll always need to have “boots on the ground” and human eyes evaluating sanitation. Automating certain sanitation practices will free up employees to work on more important duties that add value and keep them engaged in their work.

3. Mitigating Safety Risks

The most important thing sanitation automation provides is more peace of mind. No one wants to lose sleep worrying about a failed inspection or the potential for a worker injury. Automation reduces the risk of product contamination and lessens potentially dangerous situations for employees.

For instance, spiral freezers are particularly precarious areas to clean. Automating its cleaning process eliminates the need for a worker to maneuver through an unsafe space, reducing the likelihood of a workplace injury.

Human labor can also lead to human error. But, when sanitation tasks are automated, they become more consistent and easily repeatable. This is especially important for cleaning hard-to-reach problem spots that become harborage areas for bacteria. There may be a tendency among human workers to skip areas they can’t reach, or fail to clean them properly, but a machine cleans everything the same every time.

The monetary risk of contamination inside your facility is significant. For example, if Listeria were to take up residence in a plant, it could cost your business millions of dollars.

According to a study from the Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association, the average food product recall will have direct costs of $10 million while indirect costs could reach into the hundreds of millions. That’s because you also need to consider the ongoing cost of a damaged brand reputation, not to mention lost productivity from business interruptions and lost profits from disposing of potentially contaminated product.

Sanitation Automation: The Future is Now

There are many reasons to start implementing automation into your food and beverage plant’s sanitation practices. Food processors in Europe have been quicker to adopt these solutions because many of the same issues U.S. manufacturers face, such as wages and resource scarcity, can be even more pronounced overseas.

As the labor market in the United States presents challenges for hiring managers, and drought conditions in some regions make water a scarce commodity, automation presents an opportunity to bring your facility into the future. Add to those concerns the increased regulations from FSMA, and there is even more reason to invest in dependable sanitation solutions.

Food processors need to find trusted advisors who can evaluate operations inside the plant and look for ways to implement automation in ways that make the largest impact.

While there is certainly an upfront cost in automating sanitation, the potential savings and added visibility these solutions provide won’t take long to pay for themselves. In most cases, facilities that invest in sanitation automation will see a return within a year to 18 months. If done properly, you can achieve impressive cost-saving results through automation.

Megan Nichols
FST Soapbox

Quick Guide to Keeping Your Food Processing Facility Clean

By Megan Ray Nichols
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Megan Nichols

Keeping your food processing facility clean is actually even more important than the food itself. What steps can you take to help keep your food processing facility clean?

1. Cultivate a Clean Culture

Keeping your facility clean is more than just your job. It’s the job of everyone who walks through your doors, whether they work on the factory floor or in the offices. Your first step should be to cultivate a clean culture. Get everyone involved, from the newest hire all the way up to the CEO. Everyone should have their assigned job, but they should also feel comfortable speaking to their supervisors or upper management to report spills, possible contamination and other cleanliness problems.

It’s not just better for your overall workplace cleanliness—keeping a clean workspace helps to improve employee safety, productivity and morale as well.

2. Reinforce the Necessity for Personal Hygiene

When you have human employees involved in the production process, there is always a chance the product can become contaminated. Personal hygiene can help to reduce the chances of contamination by keeping your employees clean and safe as well.

Hand washing, for example, is a step that is often neglected but can mean the difference between a clean batch of food and a contaminated one. Good hand washing procedures can also help reduce the spread of cold and flu germs inside the workplace.
Personal protective equipment also falls into this category—gloves, hair and beard nets, shoe booties and other coverings should all be worn to lessen the possibility of contamination.

3. Keep Up With Your Equipment

The exact equipment you need to complete your work will vary depending on the type of food you’re processing, but for most foods that start with raw ingredients, you will need some sort of sifting equipment. These are designed to remove under- and oddly-sized food items or to remove dirt, leaves or other debris that might have come in contact with the food from the field where it was harvested.

Most sifting equipment relies on vibrating or moving sifters that can throw small particles into the air. While necessary, this also creates a new potential source of contamination for your food items. Investing in sifting equipment with a dust hood can help solve this problem. Not only do dust hoods keep your product and facility cleaner, machines with dust hoods reduce air pollution too.

4. Food Storage and Temperature

Food production facilities are at the mercy of temperature. Food that is allowed to get too warm can grow bacteria, making it dangerous to consume. Food that is left for extended periods of time at temperatures between 41 and 135 degrees Fahrenheit are also at risk for bacterial and microorganism growth.

Be vigilant about the temperature at which your food is stored. Food that needs to stay hot is required to be kept at 140 degrees or above, and cold food needs to be kept below 41 degrees.

5. Clean, Clean and Clean Again

Keeping all of your equipment clean and sanitized is an essential step in the maintenance of your food processing facility, but many pieces of equipment are not designed to be disassembled and sanitized separately. This may be tricky when there are cracks and crevices where food particles can get stuck, encouraging bacteria growth. You have two options for cleaning your equipment—clean in place and clean out of place.

Cleaning in place, as its name suggests, involves cleaning your equipment without taking it apart. This includes running sanitizing chemicals through the equipment and cleaning all accessible surfaces.

Cleaning out of place requires shutting down the equipment and disassembling it, allowing you to clean and sanitize all of those hard-to-reach corners. Depending on the piece of equipment, this may require shutting down your entire production line, so be sure that cleaning out of place won’t impact your production deadlines.

6. Cut the Clutter

Clutter in a workspace, even if it’s just boxes of product waiting to be palletized, can contribute to an unclean and unsafe work environment. Clutter allows the collection of dust, which can make its way into both food and equipment.

Take the time to dedicate specific areas to storage, preferably away from the primary production line. Keep your main traffic routes clear to prevent on-the-job accidents and ensure that anything kept in overhead storage is stable with no risk of falling.

7. Keep Covers and Guardrails In Place and Maintained

Open tanks or containers that process food are prone to contamination and are difficult to keep clean. Any tanks or containers that have covers on them should be covered at all times to ensure the product is kept clean.

For places where guardrails are necessary, such as above production lines or other elevated walkways, confirm that the rails provide coverage on all exposed sides. Make sure that there is also no risk of any dirt or other contaminants from shoes or the walkways falling into food or onto the production line.

A dirty production line can cost you thousands of dollars to correct, costing even more if the contaminated product has to be discarded. Take the time to maintain your cleanliness and keep your facility running smoothly.

Judy Black, Rentokil
Bug Bytes

How the Internet of Things Helps Pest Management in Food Processing

By Judy Black
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Judy Black, Rentokil

As the applications of connected devices continues to drive innovation and create exciting possibilities throughout the food processing industry, the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on pest management in the food supply chain is already easy to recognize. An ecosystem of connected devices streamlines several processes that are integral to an effective integrated pest management plan, providing convenience and saving time for both food manufacturers and their pest management partners. From creating a smart network of devices that detect changes and track movement in the pest population to seamless reporting procedures that cut down on paperwork, we’re already seeing the benefits of a more connected world on a very important aspect of food safety.

Judy Black will host a free webinar, along with her colleague Jeff Robbins, director of commercial pest marketing, on the applications of IoT in pest management throughout the food supply chain on Wednesday, Aug. 9 at 1:00 pm ET/10:00 am PT. Register hereAt the ground level—often quite literally—we have networked traps for pests ranging from stored product insects to rodents. Each trap tracks the pests it captures and reports its readings to a central hub in real time, providing an instant snapshot of changes in the pest population and triggering notifications when that population exceeds pre-set parameters—well before the pests create an issue. Beyond knowing when a pest population increases in a facility, this network of connected monitoring devices can pinpoint where those pests are congregating, allowing the facility’s pest management partner to identify and eliminate the source of the issue quickly.

Beyond those devices on the front lines, the IoT also has a major impact on the behind-the-scenes management of pest management processes. With the increase in reporting requirements brought on by the adoption of FSMA earlier in the decade came a lot of new paperwork for food manufacturers. On the pest management front, the paper trail required to track the steps taken to reduce the risk of pest infestation represents a significant commitment of time and effort on the part of facility managers. Working with a pest management partner that understands the opportunities connected devices provide means less paperwork; a centralized online hub allows facility managers to review their partner’s recommendations, indicate the steps they’ve taken to address issues and close the loop without having to touch a file cabinet.

The availability of this pest-tracking data allows forward-thinking pest management companies to be more efficient and better informed. By compiling and analyzing this data, they can identify regional trends in pest populations, allowing them to be better prepared to recognize and resolve pest issues early and to stay ahead of cyclical fluctuations in the pest population.

We often talk about technology in terms of the impact it will have in the future, but in the pest management business, we’re already seeing the benefits of a connected ecosystem of devices. While the technology will continue to evolve and improve, it’s important for food manufacturers to recognize the benefits of working with a pest management partner that embraces the IoT. By streamlining and centralizing the processes of monitoring and reporting on pest management practices, this technology saves time and reduces the risks pests pose throughout the food supply chain.

Tim Husen, Rollins Technical Services
Bug Bytes

Sanitation Solutions for Pest Problems

By Tim Husen, Ph.D.
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Tim Husen, Rollins Technical Services

It’s no surprise that food manufacturing and processing environments are naturally vulnerable to food safety threats. Food processing environments have all the things a pest needs to thrive: Food, water and shelter. And if poor sanitation is added to the mix, pests can find your food processing plant absolutely irresistible.

An unkempt facility can attract flies, ants, cockroaches and other unwanted common pests such as rodents. All of these common pests could put you or your facility at risk during your next audit.

The good news is pest-related sanitation issues are preventable through proactive and holistic preventive treatment plans. It’s important to establish proper sanitation processes and procedures so that over time, you avoid or reduce the occurrence of pest problems that could cost you major points on an audit and potentially compromise your products.

Many food processing facilities employ integrated pest management (IPM), an approach that helps prevent pest activity before it occurs and uses chemical treatments only as a last resort. The goal with these types of treatments is to give facility managers tools to use in advance of their next audit to stay ahead of pests, to teach employees good practices and to avoid problems before they happen. A good IPM program includes careful documentation of pest issues and the conducive conditions relating to them, as well as any corrective actions taken to resolve them. This documentation is incredibly important not just in solving pest problems, but also in its relevance to FSMA regulations.

When talking to pest management providers, remember that a “one-size fits all” strategy often doesn’t work, so expect your pest control company to recommend a customized plan. Different environments have different “hot spots” (areas where pests typically are present if the conditions are right) and face different pest pressures. However, there are a few key best practices that can be applied to any facility to help protect against pests.

The following guidelines will help to minimize pest activity and prepare for your facility’s next audit.

1. Educate and Enlist Your Employees in the Fight Against Pests

The first step to establishing your sanitation plan is enlisting your staff. One of the strongest building blocks in your defense against pest activity is sanitation. This key component of your IPM plan begins with the vigilance of your employees. Sanitation and pest management aren’t one-and-done tasks. They’re ongoing and you’ll get the best results when the entire staff is on board.

How can they help? Your employees are often the first to notice any potential signs of existing problems, so it’s important to educate them on hot spots where pests could live, what signs they should look for, and what to do if they see a pest issue. Once your employees understand the importance of sanitation, set a zero-tolerance policy for spills, debris and waste. If employees spot a pest, make sure they understand the protocols for documenting its presence. Consider implementing daily, weekly and monthly sanitation routines in addition to an annual deep cleaning.

Finally, enlist your employees to help keep common areas clean, from break rooms to locker rooms. Establish processes to clean up dirty dishes and drink spills, and empty full trash bins immediately. Don’t forget about cleaning the bins themselves! Also, make sure that common refrigerators aren’t filled with past-expiration lunches or snacks. If you’re finding it tough to get employees to participate, most pest management providers will offer a free education program to make employees aware of potential risks and what they can do to help. Sometimes it can help employees to hear from the experts.

2. What’s on the Inside Counts

As the saying goes, what’s on the inside really matters. This is true for the interior sanitation of your processing facility, too. There are a few particularly vulnerable hotspots to be conscious of when putting together your sanitation plan, especially the production floor, the storage areas and the receiving areas.

For obvious reasons, the production floor is one of the most important areas of focus for your sanitation program. Any hygiene issue could directly impact and expose your food products to contamination. Pests love to make their homes in big equipment that is often difficult to access for cleaning. Improper sanitation may lead to bacteria growth on the production line, which poses a major food safety threat. Create a schedule so that all equipment and machinery are sanitized regularly, and don’t forget about paying extra attention to those out-of-sight areas.

Drain flies and other pests live around drains and drain lids. Both should be scrubbed and sanitized regularly to prevent buildup of grease and other gunk that can attract pests. Organic, professional cleaning solutions are a great option to break down tough stains and grime on floors and around drains. These organic cleaners use naturally occurring enzymes and beneficial bacteria to degrade stains, grime and other organic matter build up, which helps reduce the likelihood of drain flies and other pests.

Storage areas are also prone to attracting pests and the potential bacteria they harbor. These cluttered spaces can get filled with extra boxes and other debris, and are perfect locations for pests to hide. Keep these areas clean and clear of clutter so pests have fewer areas to seek shelter and reproduce.

Cockroaches especially love cardboard boxes, so take those to recycling facilities regularly. Remove any equipment that is not being used. If you have re-sealable containers, clean out all the containers before placing new products inside. All containers should be tightly sealed and kept six inches off the floor and 18 inches away from walls. You can also affix mops and other types of cleaning equipment to the wall. Keeping them off the ground will keep them dry and prevent them from sitting in standing water, which is a major hot spot for fly breeding and bacteria build up.

Don’t forget that pests are experts at squeezing under receiving doors and sneaking onto shipments. To prevent unwanted stowaways, ensure your exterior doors form a tight seal when closed and always give delivery trucks and incoming shipments a thorough inspection for pest activity. Pests love to sneak into any opening they can find, so keep building exits, loading docks and other entrances closed as much as possible. Install weather stripping and door sweeps to keep pests out by creating a tight seal around openings. Believe it or not, rats can squeeze through a hole the size of a quarter, mice through a gap the size of a dime, and crawling insect pests through spaces barely noticeable to the human eye. For other cracks and crevices, use weather-resistant sealants to close any openings and consider installing metal mesh for an extra layer of protection against rodents that can gnaw openings to get inside.

3. Don’t Forget the Great Outdoors

To keep your exterior spic and span, create and maintain a regular sanitation schedule for your building’s exterior so it doesn’t become a haven for pests.

Regular pressure washings of sidewalks and walls will knock away any debris or build-up on exterior surfaces and could help remove any bird droppings around the property that could be brought inside by foot traffic. While it seems like a no-brainer, keep dumpsters and recycling collections as far away from facilities as possible, and make sure they are cleaned and sanitized frequently. And like interior cleaning best practices, don’t neglect areas above or out of the line of sight like gutters and rooftop ledges. Sometimes, leaves, standing water and other debris can build up over time, which provides breeding areas and shelter for pests—­especially mosquitoes.

Did you know that flies are not just attracted to food processing facilities because of food smells, but also for their exterior lighting? Flies and other flying insects are attracted to light and may use it for orientation. Mercury-vapor lighting is especially attractive to flies, so consider swapping mercury-vapor lamps next to entryways with sodium-vapor lights or LEDs. And to lure flies away from your building, place your facility’s mercury-vapor lighting at least 100 feet from entrances. It is often important to remember that the best option is always to direct lighting towards a building rather than mount lighting on it.

Good outdoor pest maintenance also includes landscaping. Trim your trees often and keep plants at least 12 inches away from your building. This decreases the chance of pests using vegetation as breeding or nesting grounds and the chances they’ll get access to your facility. Standing water often becomes a breeding site and moisture source that could provide pests like flies, mosquitoes and rodents with water necessary for survival. Remove any standing water around your building to prevent this and remove any reason for those pests to stick around. Look for stagnant water in gutters, ponds, birdbaths, water fountains and any other places that water could sit for more than a week without moving.

These proactive pest management tips will be useful in protecting your building and products from food safety threats. If there are any tasks that require additional help, consider talking to your pest management provider about creating an IPM plan. They will walk through your facility with you to identify any hotspots and suggest potential corrective actions—you’ll be glad you did when it’s time for your next audit.

Indicon Gel, biofilm

Spray Gel Detects Biofilm on Surfaces

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Indicon Gel, biofilm

The food processing environment is ripe with hot spots where biofilm can hide. A rapid biological hygiene indicator in the form of a spray gel has been developed to provide companies with a visual indication of biofilm on a surface. Once the gel makes contact with biofilm it produces foam within two minutes. Manufactured by Sterilex, Indicon Gel does not require mixing and is appropriate for seek-and-destroy missions. It enables detection of microorganisms that include Listeria, E.coli and Salmonella on both large surfaces as well as niches that cannot be accessed by a swab.

Fast Facts about Biofilm

Gears

Three Practices for Supply Chain Management in the Food Industry

By Kevin Hill
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Gears

While building an effective logistics strategy, the end goal of supply chain management (SCM) needs to be kept in mind (i.e., allowing each member of the supply chain to achieve efficient inventory management as well as reach its customer service goals). To this end, it’s important to share information that will help each member achieve success. This includes data relating to demand forecasts, anticipated lead times and safety stock quantities. Let’s look at SCM best practices for food manufacturing and supply, and how this information plays a role.

Effective SCM: Best Practices for the Food Industry

Here’s an overview of SCM best practices in food supply and manufacturing:

Learn more about managing your supply chain at the Best Practices in Food Safety Supply Chain conference | June 5–6, 2017 | LEARN MOREDemand Forecasts. This is generally based on demand, sales or usage patterns in the past. However, future demand can be affected by changing situations such as:

  • Gaining/losing customers
  • Increased/decreased product popularity
  • Introduction of new products
  • Short-term increase in demand through promotions, etc.

Better estimates can be achieved with an effective derived demand or a CPFR (collaborative planning, forecasting and replenishment) system. This can be done through automated data collection, or by the following process:

  • Identifying customers who can predict future demand (i.e., what they may use or sell in the future)
  • Collecting demand forecasts about specific products from them
  • Comparing these forecasts against their actual purchases on a monthly basis
  • Helping them improve future predictions by sharing this data with them

Customers may overestimate demand, but you might consider offering a discount based on accurate forecasts to encourage better results. In addition, you should also consider these five elements:

  • Usage patterns in the past, not including CPFR data
  • Increasing/decreasing product popularity trends
  • Higher/lower seasonal usage or demand
  • Events/promotions in the near future
  • Market and industry data from sources such as management, sales, etc.
Alert

Is Your Condensation Under Control?

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Alert

“Drop the Mop! Take a Clean New Look at Condensation Control in Food Processing Facilities” is available on-demand Little beads of water on overhead surfaces can cause big problems. Remember the Listeria contamination that affected Blue Bell Creameries? FDA investigators spotted condensation dripping right into food and food contact surfaces. In a response to an FDA Form 483, Blue Bell wrote “As part of our internal review, we are extensively reconfiguring lines and equipment to eliminate the potential for condensation forming on pipes above processing equipment”.

Condensation can form on overhead surfaces during sanitation processes, which poses potentially serious issues. During an upcoming webinar, “Drop the Mop! Take a Clean New Look at Condensation Control in Food Processing Facilities”, experts from the University of Nebraska, Maple Leaf Foods, General Mills, Smithfield Foods, and 3M Corporate Research Materials Laboratory will discuss tips on how to manage condensation, along with the challenges associated with condensation.

Hank Lambert, Pure Bioscience

Antimicrobial Technology Mitigates Pathogen Risk Throughout Supply Chain

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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Hank Lambert, Pure Bioscience

Learn more about mitigate risks in the supply chain by attending the Food Safety Supply Chain Conference, June 5–6, 2017 in Rockville, MD | LEARN MOREEver heard of silver dihydrogen citrate (SDC)? The patented molecule is a new antimicrobial being used to kill potentially deadly pathogens in places from food processing facilities to restaurants. SDC is non-toxic and has an EPA toxicity rating of IV (the lowest category).

At the Food Safety Consortium last month, Hank Lambert, CEO of Pure Bioscience, talked about how the technology his company developed can help the food industry control pathogens (including Listeria mitigation), along with its differentiating characteristics versus other disinfectants. He also gave a preview of the applications in which the company will pursue FDA and USDA approval this year.

 

Heat transfer, filtration

Safety in Food Processing: How to Select the Right Heat Transfer Fluid

By Christopher Wright, Ph.D.
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Heat transfer, filtration

It is critical that the heat transfer fluids (HTFs) used in the manufacturing sector are used appropriately and managed safely. Food-grade HTFs are highly refined petroleum mineral oils that are non-toxic, non-irritating and lack an odor. If a food grade HTF has been certified for use in food processing, it carries a HT-1 certificate (e.g., Globaltherm FG). Food-grade HTFs are commonly referred to as being non-fouling, which means that as they thermally degrade, they produce small carbon particles that are suspended in the HTF. This means the carbon formations are less sticky, thereby reducing the extent of adhesion to the internal surfaces of a HTF system. A recent report analyzed the test reports from HTF systems and showed carbon residue was lower for food-grade HTFs than mineral-based HTFs.1 This demonstrates the non-fouling nature of food-grade HTFs. The report recommended the independent assessment of HTFs to ensure food manufacturers and producers are using food-grade HTFs.

The HTF sector was estimated to be worth $2.8 billion in 2015 and is projected to grow by 6.8% over the next 5 years.2 Heat transfer refers to the transfer of thermal energy, and fluids are used to transfer heat energy from a heat source to processing equipment where heat is needed. This is a basic requirement in a wide variety of industrial processes, including the processing of foodstuffs such as crackers or any foods that come in a packet.

Food-grade HTFs are non-toxic, odorless and appear transparent like water, but they clearly should not be confused with water.1 Indeed, a food-grade HTF is a highly refined petroleum mineral oil and consists of a complex combination of hydrocarbons obtained from the intensive treatment of a petroleum fraction with sulphuric acid and oleum, by hydrogenation or by a combination of hydrogenation and acid treatment.

Food-grade HTFs are the most likely HTF to be used in the processing of foods provided they are judged to be safe for incidental contact with food. This certification is governed by two well-known bodies—the NSF and InS. In the case of the NSF, the components comprising a fluid are assessed for safety by a toxicologist and, if deemed safe, are awarded a HT-1 certification and can be used for incidental contact. In some cases the use of so-called food-grade HTFs is stipulated by insurers and food retailers, and certain manufacturers will be routinely audited to ensure that an appropriate HTF is being used in the processing of food. Another advantage of a HT-1 certification is that it is associated with fewer handling complaints than other fluids.

In the case of the United Kingdom, Global Heat Transfer, part of the Global Group of Companies, estimates that around 20% of all HTF systems are involved in the processing of food. The use of a food-grade HTF is recommended, but its use is not regulated. However, HTF leaks do occasionally occur. In 1998 more than 490,000 pounds of smoked boneless hams were recalled by Smithfield Foods after several customers reported a “bad taste” and “burning in their throat”, which lasted up to three hours.3 The cause was incidental contact with a non-food grade gear lubricant.

In the context of food processing, good manufacturing practice (GMP) prerequisites combined with the application of risk-based Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) according to Codex Alimentarius principles alongside first-, second- and third-party quality audits in the supply chain are used to ensure food is managed safely both during processing and when being distributed to the consumer. In addition, industrial insurers work closely with manufacturers to ensure commercial operations are adequately insured and as part of this process, may stipulate the use of a food-grade HTF and how it should be maintained.

There is no specific legislation to ensure that food grade HTFs are used in the processing of food, so it is the responsibility of the food business owner to ensure food safety throughout the supply chain and more pointedly to design plant, equipment and premises such as to protect against the accumulation of dirt, contact with toxic materials and the shedding of particles into food.

However, as outlined in the Smithfield Foods case, there is the potential for the food to come into contact with an HTF during processing. It is important to consider a few scenarios where a food may be contaminated with an HTF.

Scenario 1. The HTF may be managed by the manufacturer according to HACCP if directly involved in the processing of a product or by GMP prerequisites if the HTF forms part of the facility and services to the production line. Either system will not allow any amount of HTF to be present in food. In the event of incidental contact with food, the manufacturer may choose to dispose of all food. In this scenario, a mineral-based HTF may be used rather than a food-grade HTF.

Scenario 2. The HTF is managed according to the stipulations from the retailer. In this scenario the retailer may stipulate that a food-grade HTF is used. The HTF would be checked during auditing. However, this would be a paper-based audit, and so the HTF would never be physically sampled and analyzed.

Scenario 3. The insurer stipulates the use if a food-grade HTF. Like scenario 2, adoption would be assessed during audits of a facility and paper-based checks would be conducted. Like scenario 2, however, the HTF would never be physically sampled and analyzed. In this case the insurer may be more concerned with the safety of the system and may be more interested in the sampling reports and parameters, such as annual sampling frequency and flash point temperature of the HTF.

The gap highlighted in scenarios 2 and 3 is that a food-grade HTF would never actually be physically analyzed onsite. HTF sampling and chemical analysis is quick and easy to conduct, and can be conducted by professional companies without interrupting production.

This article makes the case for checking that non-fouling, NSF or InS certified food-grade heat transfer fluids are being used in food production. This can be achieved using independent sampling that can be conducted on-site as requested and shared with all stakeholders including the insurer, to show the HTF is being managed and that the HTF system is safe; the retailer, to demonstrate that an appropriate food-grade HTF is being used during the processing of food; and external auditors, to demonstrate that production is consumer safe.

References

  1. Wright CI, Bembridge T, Picot E, Premel J, Food processing: the use of non-fouling food grade heat transfer fluids. Applied Thermal Engineering 2015: 84; 94-103.
  2. Global Industry News (March 18, 2016). “Europe Became Largest Market for Heat Transfer Fluids in 2015, With 33.6% Share in Terms of HTFs Consumption” Retrieved from http://globalindustrynews.org/2016/03/18/europe-became-largest-market-for-heat-transfer-fluids-in-2015-with-33-6-share-in-terms-of-htfs-consumption/
  3. Gebarin S,. (January 2009). The Basics of Food-grade Lubricants, Machinery Lubrication. Retrieved from http://www.machinerylubrication.com/Read/1857/food-grade-lubricants-basics
3M Luminometer software

New Technology Rapidly Detects Contamination in Food Processing Facilities

By Food Safety Tech Staff
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3M Luminometer software

Managers in food processing facilities are under more pressure than ever to get their product out the door quickly, but they cannot sacrifice safety. A new technology developed by 3M can help them quickly identify potential contamination in their facility, which can help them determine whether to stop production. The Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring and Management System is a handheld luminometer that was developed with the help of food manufacturing professionals in positions from plant floor operators to company executives.

“We involved customers throughout the development and design of the entire system to automate and streamline what is in many cases a tedious, manual process of selecting test points, assigning them daily, conducting tests, documenting results, managing sample plans, and developing quality improvement measures,” said Tom Dewey, 3M Food Safety global marketing manager in a press release.

3M Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring and Management System (Photo courtesy of 3M)
3M Clean-Trace Hygiene Monitoring and Management System (Photo courtesy of 3M)

The company made improvements to the device’s industrial design to make it more durable and user friendly. Other features include reengineered optical technology with photomultiplier detectors; upgraded software with a streamlined dashboard; and the capability to transfer data between the luminometer and the software via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections.