The Right Conveyor System Can Help You Avoid Food Recalls

by | Dec 12, 2022 | Food Safety

Use closed conveyor systems to mitigate risk and prevent safety issues related to sanitation.

The danger of contamination from harmful pathogens such as salmonella, listeria, and E. coli is perpetual, leading food processors to protect the public and their companies’ bottom lines by keeping working environments safe, clean, and sanitized.

It is no surprise that the preventive controls regulation requires manufacturers to create a food safety strategy to prevent sanitation deficiencies, given the rising number of outbreaks and recalls linked to post-processing food contamination. The regulation covers sanitation procedures for food-contact surfaces, prevents microbial and chemical cross-contamination, and monitors environmental pathogens in crucial equipment such as conveyors.

Quality assurance teams are paying more attention to the type and design of conveyance systems used to help meet food safety standards. This includes identifying potential harborage points where debris and pathogens can collect and implementing best practices to save on equipment cleaning costs, perform regular testing, and maintain the environment.

According to Justin Kerr, founder of Factor IV Solutions LLC, a food-safety consulting firm that has assisted hundreds of food manufacturers and harvesting businesses across North America, we are constantly asked for advice on conveyor types and designs. For conveyors to work properly, there should be as few harbourage points as possible. Product protection from the environment and ease of cleaning should both be guaranteed.

Factor IV Solutions helps food processors to create sanitation standard operating procedures (SOPs) for conveyors that test food and nonfood surfaces for sanitation. However, regularly verifying and testing food and nonfood surfaces may increase the risk of contamination, consequent recalls, and additional cleaning and testing costs, so it is best to select a conveyor that eliminates as many risk factors as possible.

Choosing a conveyor system.

Open conveyor systems, such as bucket elevators and belt conveyors used in food processing, are more susceptible to contamination. Products using open conveyors can become contaminated with pathogens, contaminants, or moisture from the surrounding environment. It’s also possible for spills to occur on the plant floor or for material to end up in the drains. Because of this, processors that utilize such conveyors must have stringent environmental controls, including continuous swabbing, testing, and quality assurance. To determine which conveyor system is best suited to meet your needs, check out our conveying system comparison chart.

Another advantage of closed conveyor systems is that they effectively seal off products from the outside environment. Even then, it is necessary to control the environment. The closed systems vary in design, one popular example being tubular drag cable conveyors when conveying high-value foods. A coated, flexible, stainless-steel drag cable gently moves products through a sealed tube. Solid circular discs (called “flights”) are attached to the cable, which pushes the product through the tube without the use of air. Because the cable is sealed, no debris accumulates within its strands.

According to Kerr, an enclosed conveyor like the Cablevey provides a controlled environment that minimizes the danger of contaminants and pathogens from outside the system. It is less likely to be contaminated by aerosols and overspray from adjacent lines because it is enclosed.

Cablevey Conveyors has been designing, developing, and servicing enclosed cable and disc tube conveyors for over 50 years, with installations in over 65 countries. In addition to conveying fine powders and bulky whole potatoes, products are increasingly used to move coffee, breakfast cereals, nuts, produce, pet food, and specialty items.

According to Kerr, the controlled environment inside tubular cable conveyor enclosures results in higher repeatability and cleanliness over more extended periods than open systems.

Closed conveyors significantly reduce potential harborage points for contamination, according to Kerr.

According to Kerr, tubular drag cable conveyors are extremely easy to construct since they lack standard joints, threaded bolts, and plastic-to-metal connections.

Better cleaning.

Wet cleaning uses enclosed conveyors to clean and sanitize material handling systems without wetting the surrounding areas. This ensures fast and effective cleaning and sanitizing without disassembling the systems.

Not all food processing materials are suitable for wet cleaning, but wet cleaning minimizes potential contamination for other types of food. The procedure begins with a water rinse followed by a foaming agent, a sanitizing rinse, and a final water rinse. After the system is flushed out thoroughly, drying is accomplished by attaching urethane wipers to the tubular conveyor’s discs, which function as a squeegee to remove any residual water.

According to Kerr, every surface can be equally cleaned within the tubular system, thanks to water chemistry, temperature, physical action, and time. Clear tubes can be used for visual inspection or verification as an added benefit.

The system can be cleaned thoroughly and efficiently without taking it apart, saving time ranging from 20 to 90 minutes depending on the system layout, product, and required cleanliness level. This method can significantly decrease downtime and disruptions during production changeovers and eliminate the need for extra dedicated conveyor lines. Cleaning can be automated through the plant’s distributed control system.

According to Kerr, Cablevey’s advantages include the verifiability and recurability of cleaned surfaces and their ease of maintenance. Verifications against cleanliness can be maintained over a more extended period.

Before purchasing a food processor, equipment suppliers such as Cablevey allow quality assurance teams to perform sanitation tests to ensure that the conveyor meets the company’s criteria.

“Customers can come to our test lab to conduct product and swab tests before and after wet cleaning and review the results for themselves,” says Morgan Bailey, communication specialist at Cablevey Conveyors.

There is a great deal at stake for food processors when it comes to avoiding safety issues. Safety issues are always a concern, particularly when it comes to harmful pathogens, as the public and companies’ bottom lines are protected from massive costs that result from recalls. Quality assurance teams, therefore, examine the type and design of conveyance systems continuously and closely.

Wet cleaning can be automated to help mitigate risk and avoid a variety of safety hazards. These enclosed conveyors keep debris and pathogens from accumulating, saving money by eliminating the need for manual cleaning. Enclosed conveyors will become increasingly popular choices as processors continue to seek ways to enhance safety.

If you want to learn more about wet or dry cable and tube conveyor cleaning, check out our website’s cable and tube cleaning resource page, where we have created a series of videos and animations.

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