conveying bulk food ingredients

Conveying Bulk Food Ingredients: Equipment Design

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A recent contaminated ground beef recall announced by the USDA/FSIS highlights the need for safe food production. Because conveyors play a vital role in most food production facilities, equipment design is a key factor in ensuring safe production. In addition, conveying bulk food ingredients often involves transferring materials that are hard-to-handle in challenging operating environments.

Given the challenge, what should you look for when selecting equipment for conveying bulk food ingredients? This blog highlights key aspects of conveyor design buyers should focus on when making their choice

Cleanability

Equipment for conveying bulk food ingredients must be designed with cleanability in mind to ensure compliance with regulations, reduce contamination risk, and enable fast equipment turnaround. Key questions to ask are:

  • Does the equipment design support existing or forthcoming regulations?
  • Does the equipment require sanitation or only washdown?
  • Does the equipment have entrapment points where residue can accumulate?
  • Does the equipment use components that could give off contaminants to the product stream?
  • Does the equipment have to be cleaned with specialized cleaning methods and tools?
  • How easy is it to clean the equipment and return it to productive operations?

Product Handling

Bulk food ingredients vary greatly in their composition and handling characteristics. Knowing your material characteristics in detail will allow you to evaluate how well the equipment supports your application.

While a general question to ask is how well the equipment matches to the ingredients you will be conveying other, more specific questions need to be asked. For example, if your ingredients are dusty, does the equipment control dust? If you are handling sticky ingredients, how well does the equipment discharge the material? If transferring abrasive ingredients or products, such as tea, will the equipment stand up well to the additional wear and tear? Finally, if you are moving hot or cold/frozen ingredients, you will need consider how well the conveyor will handle these types of products.

Operating Environment

Conveyors for handling food ingredients are often placed into challenging operating environments. For example, frozen food producers may use equipment in cold room or frigid environments. In other applications, ingredients may have to be transferred in the presence of high heat devices such as ovens. In every case, a conveyor should be chosen which is purpose-built to handle the operating conditions into which it will be placed.

Equipment Design and Materials

Conveyors for food-grade application use materials and components that are compatible with handling bulk food ingredients. Stainless steel frames prevent corrosion and rusting. Belting and buckets should be made from FDA or USDA approved antimicrobial materials. Horizontal or joined surfaces should be minimal. Fasteners should have no exposed threads, use hex heads, and ideally be out of the food zone. Drive motors and lubricants should be designed for food-grade applications. Finally, open equipment designs are preferred as these reduce the number of entrapment points and facilitate washdown and cleaning.

Successfully handling bulk food ingredients is a difficult challenge. Choosing the right conveying equipment is critical for ensuring product integrity, reducing risk, and achieving efficient and effective operations. If you would like further information or guidance on equipment for conveying bulk food ingredients, UniTrak will be pleased to assist. Please contact our sales team directly to speak with a representative.

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