Lighting is crucial to any manufactur- ing process, but it is particularly important in food manufacturing.
The main concerns surrounding lighting in
a food plant revolve around safety, quality,
and hygiene. LED lighting is coming on
strong as the perfect choice for the consumer packaged goods industry.
Safety includes both food safety and
In regards to worker safety, Current
Good Manufacturing Practices require
“adequate lighting,” which is defined by
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in
the Food Code1 as:
• 108 lux at 30” (75 cm) above the floor
for walk-in refrigeration and dry storage
• 215 lux where food is provided for self
service or where packaged foods are
sold or offered for consumption
• 540 lux at any surface where a food
employee is working with food, utensils
or equipment and safety is a factor
The food safety aspect of lighting revolves
around the control of foreign contami-
nants in food. In the aforementioned
Current Good Manufacturing Practices it
states that all light bulbs should be shield-
ed, coated, or otherwise shatter resistant
in areas where food is exposed. It goes
on to say that even in situations where
food is packaged, if the integrity of the
package can be compromised by broken
glass the above criteria will apply. In their
review, The Physical Hazards of Foreign
Materials2, the FDA cites glass as the
most commonly reported foreign material
responsible for illness or injury.
Shatter-proof sleeves and coatings
on fluorescent lights are, by far, the most
common method of addressing this haz-
ard. However, glass is only part of the
hazard. According to an Interstate Mercury
Education and Reduction Clearinghouse
(IMERC) Fact Sheet3, the average four-
foot fluorescent bulb contains 13. 3 mg of
mercury, an obvious environmental hazard
and potential food contaminant.
LED lights can be manufactured
with metal and plastic instead of glass.
Additionally, LEDs contain no mercury or
other health hazards.
The USDA requires that there be sufficient illumination for inspection areas in
dairy, poultry and meat plants.
As stipulated by the U.S. Department
of Agriculture4 (USDA), every room where
utensils for dairy products are produced,
packaged or washed must have at least
30 foot-candles of light intensity on all
work surfaces. Any rooms where dairy
products are graded or examined for condition must have at least 50 foot-candles
of light intensity on all work surfaces.
Additionally, in any location where product
can be contaminated, all light bulbs must
be protected from breakage.
Guidelines established by the USDA5
for meat and poultry are similar; all
areas where utensils are produced, packaged or washed must meet a minimum
of 30 foot-candles. However, inspection stations must be either 50 or 200
foot-candles depending upon the type of
LEDs are an excellent lighting solution for these areas. They can be built
out of cleanable materials that withstand
chemical cleanings and high-pressure,
high-temperature washdown. Most other
solutions will have to be placed in costly
How can we be certain that an area
has been thoroughly cleaned? Areas that
are dimly lit could be missed in the cleaning process, becoming a hazard. Proper
illumination allows us to observe that
sanitary standards are being maintained.
Lighting is being employed in and
under equipment for the purpose of main-
taining hygiene. It also has the added
bonus of aiding in identifying and trouble-
shooting any issues that may arise during
manufacturing. Used in these environ-
ments, light fixtures will be regularly sub-
jected to the harshest conditions possible,
including Clean-in-Place applications. It
is important to select lighting accordingly
for these installations; devices contain-
ing glass and poisonous metals are not
For food producers, light fixtures must
be able to endure the unique challenges
present in production facilities.
Temperature cycling is, by far, the
greatest killer of lights and other electrical
components in a washdown area. Food is
often produced in a cool environment and
when temperatures are raised, all of the
air that is trapped in a device will expand.
The opposite will occur as temperatures
are restored; a device will become a
vacuum, sucking in moist air, steam and
even droplets on the device. Clear pot-
ting can be used to fill the cavities in an
LED light, eliminating the air cavity in the
product. This prevents moisture from get-
ting into areas where there are electrical
components that could short, and also
prevents condensation from forming on
the transparent cover of the light.
Chemical exposure is a second reason
that your lights could fail. It is important
to use products that have seals that
will stand up to chemicals used at your
facility. EPDM (ethylene propylene diene
monomer) seals resist common cleaning
agents, including both caustics and acids.
Mechanical damage incurred during
high-pressure washdown is a third issue.
Lighting the Way With LEDs
By Mark Schmid, Global Business Development Manager — Consumer Packaged Goods, Banner Engineering