Maintaining sanitary conditions in food processing facilities is essential for food safety and the quality of food products.
Foodborne illnesses can have serious consequences for consumers, and can also damage a company’s reputation and financial well-being.
According to the FDA, each year in the United States there are around 48 million cases of foodborne illness. Out of these, 128,000 people end up in the hospital, and 3,000 die.
Therefore, it is important for food processing facilities to follow strict guidelines and regulations to maintain clean and hygienic conditions throughout the production process.
One of the many roles of food conveyors in the food processing industry is to facilitate the efficient and hygienic handling of food ingredients during production, from raw materials to finished products.
Conveyor systems need to adhere to the strictest sanitary standards there are to protect the workers in the facility, the food product, consumers, and the reputation of the business.
In this article, we’re going to explore the requirements of sanitary conveyor systems.
Sanitary design of food conveyors
In order to prevent the spread of contaminants and maintain the hygienic conditions of the production process, food conveyors must be designed with certain features and characteristics that enable them to meet the necessary sanitary requirements.
Some of the key considerations for sanitary conveyor design include:
Smooth surfaces are easier to clean and disinfect than rough or textured surfaces. This helps to prevent the buildup of bacteria and other contaminants, which reduces the risk of food products becoming contaminated during transport.
Additionally, smooth surfaces can help to prevent damage to products that may occur due to rough or textured surfaces. This is especially important for delicate or fragile products that may be easily damaged during transport.
The materials used to construct food conveyors should be easy to clean and disinfect.
Easy-to-clean materials are typically those that have a smooth, non-porous surface that is resistant to bacteria and other contaminants.
“Non-porous” refers to a surface that is not permeable or absorbent. A non-porous surface does not have any small openings or pores that liquids or gasses can pass through. This means that non-porous surfaces do not absorb liquids or gasses, which makes them resistant to the buildup of contaminants.
An example of a material commonly used in food conveyors includes stainless steel.
This material is durable, corrosion-resistant, and can withstand the harsh cleaning and disinfecting agents that are often used in the food processing industry.
Crevices, or small spaces between different parts of the conveyor, can be difficult to clean and can harbor bacteria and other contaminants. This can increase the risk of food products becoming contaminated during transport, which can compromise the safety and quality of the final products.
By minimizing crevices, food conveyors can be more easily cleaned and disinfected, which helps to reduce the risk of contamination and maintain the cleanliness and hygienic conditions of the production process.
If food conveyors use lubricants, they should be food-grade and approved for use in the food industry.
Food-grade lubricants are specifically formulated for use in the food industry and are approved for use in contact with food products. These lubricants are free of contaminants and other impurities that could potentially contaminate food products.
Using food-grade lubricants in food handling is important because it helps to prevent the contamination of food products during transport.
It also helps to ensure the smooth operation of the conveyor and extend its lifespan, which can help to reduce maintenance costs and improve the overall efficiency of the food processing facility.
Cleaning and maintenance of food conveyors
Regularly scheduled cleaning and maintenance are essential for ensuring that food conveyors are operating at their best and preventing the spread of contaminants.
There are several steps that should be taken as part of regularly scheduled cleaning and maintenance of food conveyors:
- Disassemble and wash individual parts: Food conveyors should be disassembled and the individual parts should be washed with hot water and a disinfecting agent. This helps to remove any dirt, grime, or other contaminants that may have accumulated on the conveyor.
- Lubricate moving parts: Any moving parts on the food-grade conveyor should be lubricated as needed to ensure smooth operation and extend the lifespan of the conveyor.
- Inspect for wear and tear: During maintenance, it is important to inspect the food processing conveyor for signs of wear and tear, such as cracks, rust, or other damage. Any damaged parts should be repaired or replaced as needed to ensure the conveyor is operating safely and efficiently.
- Follow a regular schedule: Regularly scheduled cleaning and maintenance is key to ensuring that food conveyors are operating at their best and preventing the spread of contaminants. It is important to establish a regular schedule for cleaning and maintenance and to stick to it to ensure that the conveyors are being properly cared for.
In addition to preventing the spread of contaminants and maintaining the cleanliness and hygienic conditions of the production process, regularly cleaning and maintaining conveyors has several other benefits:
- Improved efficiency
- Extension of lifespan
- Improved product quality
- Enhanced worker safety
Of course, all of this is difficult to achieve with manual cleaning and maintenance. This is why automated cleaning systems (such as clean-in-place mechanisms) are recommended.
Sanitary requirements for different types of food conveyors
Different types of food conveyors may have specific sanitary requirements depending on the type of food products they are being used to transport.
For example, food conveyors used for raw meat may have different sanitary requirements than those used for cooked food.
In general, however, there are two types of sanitary guidelines a food production facility should follow:
- Governmental guidelines
- 3-A sanitary standards
Every country has different institutions that set the standards for food production and safety.
In the United States, there are several agencies that regulate the sanitary requirements for food conveying in food production facilities:
- United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): The USDA is responsible for regulating the safety of meat, poultry, and egg products in the United States. This includes establishing guidelines for the sanitary handling and transport of these products, including the use of food conveyors.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA): The FDA is responsible for regulating the safety of food products in the United States. This includes establishing guidelines for the sanitary handling and transport of food products, including the use of food conveyors.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): OSHA is responsible for regulating the safety and health of workers in the United States. This includes establishing guidelines for the safe operation of food conveyors and other equipment in food processing facilities.
3-A Sanitary Standards
If you’re looking to design a sanitary conveyor system, the 3-A Sanitary Standards are a must-consult resource.
These guidelines provide in-depth information on the construction and design of processing facilities in the food industry, including thorough descriptions and illustrations of sanitation requirements.
Although the 3-A Standards are voluntary, they may be referenced in some state regulations.
These standards have been around since the 1920s, and have been updated over time to incorporate new technologies, best practices, and field experience.
The 3-A Standards are overseen by four associations: the American Dairy Products Institute, the International Dairy Foods Association, the Food Processing Suppliers Association, and the International Association for Food Protection. These organizations are supported by trade associations, government agencies like the USDA and FDA, and equipment manufacturers.
Some examples of what the 3-A Standards cover include specifications for materials that conveyor systems can be made from, proper installation and maintenance of equipment that comes into contact with food products, and procedures for receiving new conveyor systems to ensure they are sanitary.
The standards also include details on design elements like floor slope (to prevent water accumulation), types of doors on enclosures (for ease of cleaning), and light levels inside processing areas or storage rooms (for safety and better visibility).
The sanitary requirements of food conveyors are essential for maintaining the cleanliness, safety, and quality of food products in the food processing industry.
Smooth surfaces, easy-to-clean materials, minimized crevices, and food-grade lubricants are all important design considerations for food conveyors.
Regular cleaning and maintenance are also crucial for ensuring the proper operation of food conveyors and preventing the spread of contaminants.
Governmental agencies such as the USDA, FDA, and OSHA regulate the sanitary requirements for food conveying, and the 3-A Sanitary Standards provide additional guidelines for the design and construction of food conveyors.
If you’re interested in purchasing a conveyor for your food processing facility, please contact us at Cablevey Conveyors to learn more about tubular cable and disc conveyors and how they can revolutionize your food processing facilities.