Hygienic Design, Part Three: Maintaining Hygienic Process Equipment
Food & beverage facilities have the constant responsibility of maintaining hygienic control for not only their products, but also their employees. As Gray discussed in Part One and Part Two of this series, there are serious considerations when it comes to designing, constructing, and renovating food & beverage facilities. It is an all-encompassing process, from utility tie-ins and trash collection to airflow direction and a thorough sanitation program. After a facility is built and set up for hygienic design, the cleaning of process equipment is a critical factor, and it should not be dismissed.
The need for maintaining hygienic process equipment is more important than ever for several reasons. Apart from direct costs of halting production, the logistics of removing the contamination, the amount of production time lost, and the funding needed for additional resources to manage possible recall tasks, there are indirect costs—such as brand reputation, losing repeat customers, and lawsuits that can also be difficult for the company moving forward. Human lives and companies’ success and reputation depend on food production safety.
FSMA and Automated Systems
To solidify the importance of food processing sanitation, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was introduced in 2011 with a focus on prevention instead of reaction. Beyond regulations, consumers have higher expectations than ever for the favorite food & beverage brands they consume. As a result, hygienic food process equipment trends now include Clean-in-Place (CIP), Cleaning-out-of-Place (COP), data tracking, metal detectors, automation to ensure control and traceability, and sanitary cleanable designs.
These automated systems help clean the inside of processing equipment without having to disassemble the equipment, adding efficiency to the cleaning process. “The Clean-in-Place (CIP) systems feature automatic valves that will introduce the CIP flow at the proper time to the process line,” says Brian Bernard, president, Spec Engineering, a Gray company, which designs and integrates CIP systems. “The CIP supply skid with integrated valves allow the flow of product to pause, introduce the cleaning solution, and then reintroduces product back to the system after sanitization is complete.”
Terry Voight, process design engineer at Anderson Dahlen Inc., a Gray company, had this to add, “A CIP system is achieved by incorporating in the design CIP spray devices for equipment in the process. It is defined as the ‘cleaning of complete items of plant or pipeline circuits without dismantling or opening of the equipment and with little or no manual involvement on the part of the operator.’” Under high turbulence and high velocity, Voight explained, jets are sprayed on the surfaces or cleaning solutions are circulated through pipelines, known as piping circuits. The CIP process usually involves a caustic wash, which is followed by an acid wash and then a sanitizer. He continued, “CIP systems vastly improve the efficiency of automated plants. They clean faster, more reliably, and more safely than manual methods. They also reduce waste, save energy, and minimize downtime.”
CIP systems can fit in a congested space yet clean an entire system. Running an automated CIP system can maintain your cleaning schedule and decrease wear-and-tear on a machine. Additionally, workers reduce their exposure to chemical handling for a safer work environment.
As for how automated systems can clean the inside of processing equipment—without an operator having to disassemble the equipment—Brian Woltman, sanitary equipment sales at Anderson Dahlen, suggested that “using an automated CIP system with spray balls for tanks and equipment” will get the job done.
Staying in Compliance
Automated cleaning systems also help food processors stay in compliance with the FSMA’s focus on prevention instead of reaction to contamination in the production process. “By implementing automated cleaning systems, food processors will have a set cleaning schedule that can be implemented without the need for an operator. Having traceability and validation of the cleaning process will produce safe consumer products and increase consumers’ confidence in the brand,” stressed Bernard. Woltman also added that using sensors to determine the rinse-water quality, after the initial cleaning process is complete, will help confirm cleaning results.
Voight’s insights on compliance dealt with documentation, as well. “A plant must comply with all document criteria for hygienic requirement, such as EHEDG certificate, 3A certificate, or PMO standards. For properly cleaned processing equipment, a plant must monitor and maintain proper documentation for the following parameters in its instrumentation: temperature measurement, time measurement, pressure measurement, flow measurement, and conductivity measurement.” Such measurements can be done by paper chart recording or paperless digital recording.
Cleaning Beyond COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected how companies approach the cleaning and disinfecting of equipment. We asked some of the experts at Gray what they foresee in this area going forward. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a shift in consumer trends, as more households transitioned from eating at restaurants to preparing meals at home, thus increasing the demand for prepackaged food at the same time. “This demand yields more required recipes or flavors produced on the same equipment,” commented Bernard.
“CIP systems are critical plant infrastructure to ensure production quality for multiple batches of the same recipe during separate campaigns, as well as to properly prepare shared equipment systems to run new batches utilizing different recipes,” added Jonathan Malakoff, subject matter expert, liquid systems at Spec Engineering.
For systems where CIP-ready process equipment is used, yet a CIP system is not integrated into the process, there are still opportunities to enhance cleaning. Replacing the need for an operator to hand clean or power wash a piece of equipment from the inside, a solution like the SmartCart is a fully customizable, one-touch automated multi-cycle CIP mobile cart that can be transported to multiple lines in the facility. Also, a data management system can be utilized for audits, allowing for additional transparency.
In addition, Anderson Dahlen builds custom equipment with CIP options and sanitary standards that dictate various design features, including accessibility to inside of the equipment for ease of cleaning between batches, as well as platforms with specific materials and design features to meet sanitary standards.
Consumers increasingly want traceability and information about their food & beverage products. As companies are able to track the cleanability of their plants and equipment, this information can help bolster consumer confidence in their favorite brands. Food safety and quality commitment go hand-in-hand; you can’t have one without the other.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.