The hygiene standards maintained in food processing environments and facilities are directly linked to food safety—a primary concern for consumers today. Moreover, incidents of compromised food safety jeopardise consumers’ health and erode a brand or company’s reputation and trust. Dr Maria Neira, Assistant Director-General at the World Health Organization (WHO), highlighted that contaminated food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, and chemicals can lead to over 200 serious illnesses, including cancers. Among the various components of food production machinery, effective cleaning of food conveyors, especially their conveyor belts, stands as a critical area to ensure food safety.
In this blog post, we will delve into comprehensive strategies for maintaining optimal food conveyor hygiene to guarantee the highest level of sanitation and safety in food processing.
- The Role of Food Conveyors in Ensuring Food Safety
- Best Practices in Regular Cleaning and Maintenance
- Selecting the Appropriate Materials and Design for Hygienic Conveyors
- Advanced Technologies for Enhanced Conveyor Hygiene
The Role of Food Conveyors in Ensuring Food Safety
Food conveyors play a pivotal role in the food processing industry, serving as the link between different stages of the production line. They transport not only the final products but also raw materials and intermediate goods. Given their direct contact with food products, conveyors, especially their belts and bands, are prime areas of focus for hygiene in businesses. These components can transfer soil, microorganisms, and contaminants, potentially causing cross-contamination between products and rooms. The contamination can either be physical or microbiological, often caused by the accumulation of biofilm on the conveyor line.
Best Practices in Regular Cleaning and Maintenance
Regular cleaning is the cornerstone of maintaining hygiene and preventing food contamination in conveyors. Whether employing manual labour or automated sanitation machines, the cleaning process should encompass dry-cleaning, scrubbing, rinsing, and wiping. Dry-cleaning effectively removes dirt and debris from the belt’s carcass while scrubbing and rinsing deep-clean the belt material, eliminating any residue, carryback, or contamination. Millitec recommends regular cleaning, ideally once or twice daily and after a product change, to ensure optimal hygiene. Thorough cleaning at the end of work periods is also advised.
Selecting the Appropriate Materials and Design for Hygienic Conveyors
To maintain hygiene, food manufacturers must recognise the significance of conveyor materials and design. A well-designed conveyor can enhance cleanability, simplifying the cleaning process and reducing the risk of biological, physical, and chemical contamination. Millitec’s food conveyors are designed with hygiene in mind, featuring an easy-to-dismantle structure for convenient cleaning. Simply brush away crumbs and debris from the conveyor, clean under the frame and scraper, and wipe down the belt for a thorough cleaning, and all of these could be done without dismantling the machine. Nevertheless, the belt and scrapper unit should be removed for thorough cleaning, but they have a cantilever construction, meaning that the belt can easily be removed without disturbing the frame.
However, when choosing a machine, construction is just one of many factors to consider. Hygienic design principles encompass a range of different factors, including material choice, surface finish, and construction methods, as well as the physical design of the product. For instance, the standard of the conveyor belts varies between food contacts and non-food contacts. Still, the surface that has direct contact with your products should generally be smooth, non-toxic, non-absorbent, and corrosion-resistant. These factors could be overlooked when choosing a proper conveyor for your business.
Advanced Technologies for Enhanced Conveyor Hygiene
Manual cleaning, while effective, can be labour-intensive and less efficient. Therefore, embracing advanced technologies to streamline the cleaning process for food conveyors is essential. One of the most commonly seen types is the Clean-in-place (CIP) units. CIP describes systems and equipment used in food processing that can be cleaned and sanitised without being disassembled or moved, and is commonly applied in the food industry to clean process equipment cost-effectively without disassembly or reassembly.
For instance, Millitec’s Clean-in-place unit sprayed sanitised water under pressure onto the surface of the belt to achieve the highest hygiene standards and prevent contamination. The strap is then rinsed with clean water to remove any sanitiser residue before vacuuming dry on both sides. The system employs a recirculating sanitiser sump to reduce water consumption dramatically. The machine is also fitted with most of our conveyors and will automatically clean the line during production. A full clean should also be done after a change in product and a species or allergen change.
Maintaining impeccable hygiene standards in food conveyors is not just a regulatory requirement but a fundamental responsibility to consumers and the reputation of any food processing business. The integrity of food safety hinges upon the cleanliness and sanitisation of conveyors throughout the production process. Our exploration has highlighted the critical role that food conveyors play in ensuring food safety and the need for stringent cleaning and maintenance practices. From regular cleaning routines to selecting appropriate materials and embracing advanced cleaning technologies, every aspect contributes to a comprehensive hygiene strategy.
As we move forward, it’s imperative for food manufacturers to continuously educate their teams about the significance of conveyor hygiene, keeping them abreast of the latest advancements and methodologies. By doing so, we can collectively ensure that the food industry maintains the highest hygiene standards, delivering safe and healthy products to consumers worldwide.