Bill Dawe, Industry Sector Marketing Manager, RS Components looks at the hygiene challenges facing the food and beverage industry and how simple and common-sense cleaning and maintenance approaches can often have the biggest overall impact
The food industry is notoriously strict when it comes to hygiene and contamination – and rightfully so. The detrimental effect of contaminants introduced to any single stage of the food processing supply chain can have disastrous effects, not just on peoples’ health and wellbeing, but also in terms of company goodwill and respect of a brand.
Human issues aside, as well as the challenges of regaining brand credibility and recovering from the inevitable dip in market share, companies will also face the wrath of the legislators as they come into facilities to audit and assess cleaning and maintenance regimes.
These combined negative effects are a constant fear for the industry, which is why respectable organisations treat cleanliness as seriously as they do safety or their bottom line. Investment in the best equipment, consumables and hygiene training procedures are therefore a must and it is this investment that often sets some companies apart from others.
Prevention is always easier/better than detection, so in the first instance the normal starting point is the format and design of the processing equipment and facility layout. Modern food industry plant is designed with smooth, sloped and curved lines combined with trap-free joins and welds, to not only prevent product build up and the resulting contamination points, but also be amenable to more effective wash-down procedures using water, chemicals or heat, or indeed a combination of the three. Material choice also comes into play, with modern facilities being awash with stainless steel and inert polymers.
Maintenance plays a key role too. There is no point in investing in state-of-the-art machinery if you don’t look after it. A broken chain or a disintegrating seal could contaminate an entire batch of product; and the downtime to fix the issue can result in many hours or even days of lost production. Even worse would be the non-detection of these foreign bodies and the resulting negative press and recall procedures. And, no matter how ethical or responsible a product recall may appear in a business sense, the detrimental effects on the brand in the eyes of the public is certainly long lasting.
Maintenance procedures are vital. Incorrect equipment or the wrong cleaning material/process could create additional, unnecessary, and protracted remedial action; and the dropping of tools or mislaying ancillaries or cleaning equipment can literally throw a spanner in the works. Coupled to this is effective hygiene and cleanliness training, to ensure that every nook and cranny is covered – with the right equipment and procedures being deployed for the correct length of time and then effectively recorded for auditing purposes.
It may sound like a real horror story, but there are many suppliers out there with fostering and supporting your effective cleanliness regimens at the top of their agenda. From machine and plant designers, down to the suppliers of consumables and hand tools, solutions are available that will offer site- and machine-wide support, not only to your in-house procedures, but also to all the incumbent legislation and local laws surrounding them. A lot of it boils down to common sense and thoroughness. Indeed, in terms of hygiene there really is no such thing as too much effort, as any perceived savings or shortcuts in time or financial investment will pale into insignificance if it ever goes wrong.
Highlighting that adaptations to even the simplest procedures or products can have an immediate and positive effect on food hygiene, all we need to do is look at aerosol-based maintenance products. Here we can see how suppliers are enhancing the delivery of even the most commodity-based of cleaning and maintenance products to help users stay one step ahead of cleanliness issues.
The new Perma-Lock® solution was designed and features on both CRC and Ambersil brands and is a non-detachable aerosol dispensing solution which has been designed to specifically eliminate the risk of physical product contamination whilst servicing or maintaining food and beverage production equipment. As well as preventing contamination, the Perma-Lock® spray system can also be used in two different positions: up for precision delivery and down for use in a wider variety of applications.
A recent winner of the ‘New Aerosol of the Year Award’ at the 2016 BAMA Awards, one judge summed it up perfectly, by explaining how: “…a small change in technology has provided a great benefit and helps prevent accidental loss of caps or valves which might otherwise lead to costly recalls. This new technology demonstrates a commitment to continuous improvement; it’s linked to an identified need of use and offers greater product safety for industrial engineers.”