Dispatches from Anuga FoodTec 2009

Matching material with process is key to hygienic design, says expert

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food industry, Hygienic design, Hygiene, Steel

More needs to be done to fully optimise production equipment and processes to guarantee the hygienic production of food as well as greater cost efficiencies, claims a food technology expert.

And Professor Herbert J Buckenhüskes, head of the Food Technology department of the German Agricultural Society (DLG), said that ongoing research in the fields of analytics, materials science and process technology is increasingly focused on finding the right materials for the processing sector to eliminate the problem of particle stick to surfaces.

Surface polishing

While stainless steel is the hygienic material of choice for the food industry, even it can rust under certain conditions such as contact with chlorides in disinfectants, and the rust can contaminate the food.

Buckenhüskes maintains that in order to solve this problem, it is not enough merely to use highly stable stainless steel alloys; instead special treatments such as electropolishing can be effective in reducing the roughness of the metal surface to ensure microorganisms have less surface area to hold on to.

"This is an expensive process, but it has long been common practice in the pharmaceuticals and biotechnology sector in order to fulfil its high quality standards."

"And hygiene-improving measures such as these greatly reduce the amount of time and chemicals that are needed to clean machines so this offers food producers a lot of potential for reducing their costs,” ​he claims.

Buckenhüskes said that the treatment, temper-hardening and structuring of steel surfaces with the help of nanotechnology is also an interesting development.

Automation

He added that the issue of hygiene is also reinforcing the trend toward increased automation in the food industry: "It's a lot harder to monitor people than machines."

While legislators have laid down regulations which require that workers in the food industry attend regular training sessions, the Professor said that the supervisors can not always stand next to the workers to make sure hygiene regulations are being complied with.

Trends at Anuga

The latest trends in the hygienic design of production, packaging, storage, and distribution of food are being covered this week​at Anuga FoodTec 2009, claim the Cologne trade show’s organisers.

They said that a key development in this area is the design of hygiene sensors that determine when and how much cleaning is required and identify any cleaning product residues.

“New methods are also being used to design cleaning products. The old rule of thumb ‘the more, the better’ is now a thing of the past, and in individual cases it has even proved to be counterproductive.

“Today we know that the key to success is the interaction of the right choice of cleaning products and processes and the materials used,” ​said the Anuga team.

Cross-contamination

The organisers said that hygienic design criteria are also being applied in the construction of many plant units located close to the production process, such as the drive technology of conveyor systems:

This is being done in order to eliminate the risk of cross-contamination through stirred-up air and the accumulation of dirt. There is still no solution for every single problem. For example, the areas in production plants where electric cables and pneumatic pipes are laid down still have to be looked at with a critical eye.”

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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