important consideration which must be discussed in depth with the
feeding system supplier. As discussed above, feeder designs can be
available with a variety of integral design options that address overall cleanability, as well as accessibility, for the prevention of both
bacterial and product contamination.
Food safety and contamination avoidance is of utmost importance
when handling any food product, whether it is for a hygienic process, such as infant formula or baby food, or for handling allergens
in a snack food-type product. Feeding and handling of difficult
flowing or sticky powders can often present challenges in cleaning.
Therefore, it is important to discuss in detail with the feeder/materi-al handling systems manufacturer the options available for cleaning
(such as dry versus wet cleaning designs) and minimizing downtime
for maintenance and changeover. If wet cleaning is required, then
a design must be provided that ensures all surfaces are wet-able.
In addition, when wet cleaning, microbial contamination can be an
issue. Even non-contact surface areas, such as feeder frames, must
be designed to minimize closed-end hollow tubing, which can then
be drilled in the field and create bacterial contamination traps.
Q. How can food processors mitigate these dangers?
A. Many food safety and cleanability design features can be
either standard or incorporated into the complete material delivery
system. Wet in-place cleaning can be achieved through the use of
integrated retractable spray balls and specialty piping/drain designs.
Dry cleaning can be made more effective through easy access feeders or rotary valves with completely removable rotor shafts to gain
access to the complete valve housing. In the case of weigh belt
feeders, specialty enclosed housings with antimicrobial belts can be
provided. By including upfront design features that focus on accessibility and easy cleaning, food processors can easily reduce product
changeover time, and simplify the cleaning process for sanitation
crews, thus improving overall process efficiency.
Q. Which types of cleaning procedures have
proven to be the most effective for feeding?
A. Feeder designs can be included for a variety of cleaning
procedures, including high-hygienic wet cleaning, and high- or
basic hygienic dry-clean procedures. The optimal cleaning procedure is highly dependent upon the type of material being fed, the
process requirement and environment. In addition, many food manufacturers are developing or utilizing cleaning protocols that avoid
any wet cleaning. In these cases, feeding systems that include interchangeable product contact modules with quick-disconnect clamps,
which allow for quick and easy changeover between product runs,
may be viable.
In cases where a wet cleaning is acceptable, the use of retractable
spray balls can be incorporated into feeder hoppers and material
contact components. When requesting these types of designs, the
end user should also request that the feed system manufacturer
provide confirmation of cleaning via riboflavin testing. This testing
provides assurance to the end user that all product contact surfaces
are sufficiently wetted.
Finally, in some situations, different surface finishes and stainless steel grades must be reviewed for materials in contact with
certain food products to make sure they eliminate the start of
microbial growth. For this reason, it is imperative that detailed
cleaning requirements be discussed in depth between the feeder
system supplier and the food processor, as some hygienic requirements may be overkill for the design of the process, thus making
the design cost inefficient. It is also important to note that regulatory design standards which apply to cleaning may differ between
countries, such as between the United States and Europe. US
standards, like USDA or 3A, focus on construction and design,
while European standards, like EHEDG focus, on validation tests
Due to the variety of options available, discussions regarding
cleaning must be held early in the equipment design process. For
example, during the request for quote and project definition stages, with open communication between the food manufacturer and
feed-system supplier to discuss all options available for cleaning
and product contact accessibility. By designing these features into
the system at the forefront of the project stage, many of the issues
which occur due to contamination and subsequent food safety can
be avoided. ◆
From our comprehensive
line of maintenance
chemicals to our
technology, LPS® has
your food safe solution.