Food manufacturing standards and regulations are ever-evolving and changing as authorities seek to ensure better consumer safety in manufactured food products. With new mandates issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Baking Industry Safety Standards Committee (BISSC), 3A-SSI (Dairy 3A), and other regulatory bodies, food manufacturers and processors sometimes struggle to keep up. These new regulations may require facilities to modify or even replace their existing conveyors for new and updated equipment that meets current standards. Beyond ensuring compliance with applicable regulations and standards, this blog offers three tips that buys will find valuable when sourcing a food grade conveyor.
Three tips for sourcing a food grade conveyor
When buying a food grade conveyor, the following factors should be considered in the equipment sourcing process:
Tip #1: Ease and speed of sanitation
Sanitation is the most important aspect of a food grade conveyor. A food grade conveyor should be quick and easy to clean, and rated for washdown operation using either Clean-In-Place (CIP) or Clean-Out-Of-Place (COP) systems. The conveyor should be capable of withstanding the high pressures and temperatures that are associated with water, steam or chemical cleaning and drive motors and gearboxes should also be washdown rated and outfitted with seals that make removal of peripheral equipment unnecessary.
Food grade conveyors vary in the ease and speed with which they can be cleaned. Look for features such as quick-release clamps and fasteners (tool-less disassembly) which minimize downtime and facilitate fast equipment turnaround. In addition, look for open designs and pivoting features to bring parts within easy reach, the availability of access ports, etc. when shopping for a food grade conveyor.
Tip #2: Design and construction
Food grade conveyors should have frames and surfaces made of materials which resist corrosion and the accumulation of contaminants. Frames should be constructed of stainless steel and consist of solid frame members with no entrapment points in which contaminants can lodge. Belts should be made from antimicrobial materials which inhibit the growth of pathogens. In addition, buyers should consider a belt’s release characteristics for the material being handled, its ability to resist wear, how easily it can be cleaned, and how well it supports temperature extremes.
Food grade conveyors should have designs and constructions that address the sources of contamination. Look for equipment that prioritizes controlled conveying, the reduction of spillage, and other possible sources of contamination. These can include lubricants, corrosion, dust, and other environmental contaminants, as well as product spillage. Consider how well the conveyor’s design eliminates entrapment points, such as ledges, on which material can accumulate and degrade. Where cross-contamination is an application risk factor, consider how well the conveyor design protects product from sources of cross-contamination when in the conveyor. Preventing spillage and contamination lessens the need for frequent stoppages and cleaning, while reducing the risk of contamination.
Tip #3: Value adding options
If your food grade conveyor must be Cleaned-Out-Of-Place, consider equipment with options which allow you to move/transport the conveyor to the designated cleaning stations. Portability can also allow for additional flexibility should you ever re-engineer or reconfigure your processes in the future. Other options to consider include clean-out trays (catch pans) and sanitary covers to facilitate the cleanup of any spillage as well as protecting product from contamination as it moves through the conveyor.
UniTrak manufactures the KleanTrak line of sanitary belt conveyors. The KleanTrak sanitary belt conveyor is specially designed to address the challenges of hygienic conveying in food grade applications. KleanTrak conveyors are an ideal equipment choice for food, pharmaceutical, and other washdown applications.
KleanTrak conveyors feature an open sanitary design which minimizes the risk of pathogen or allergen contamination and permits fast and easy in-place cleaning. Each conveyor uses a cleated FDA-approved belt, available in a range of styles, in a patented tensionless drive system which provides no belt slippage or stretch. The frame is made from 304 stainless steel and a variety of finishes are available, including electropolishing.
Each KleanTrak conveyor is equipped with a washdown duty drive motor and corrosion resistant bearings. The conveyor can elevate from 15° to 90°, and available options include a stationary base with leveling feet, a portable base assembly, CIP system, tilting system, removable personnel guarding, clean-out trays and sanitary covers, and a controls package.
To find out more about how UniTrak can help with your food grade conveying needs, please contact our sales team for further information.