There is no doubt how important it is for meat and poultry food processing equipment to satisfy strict hygienic design standards, ensuring everything on the manufacturing line can be cleaned and sanitized quickly and easily. While it is clear that ready-to-eat (RTE) food contact surfaces need to adhere to hygienic design standards in order to decrease the risk of contamination, it is critical that sensitive nonfood-contact surfaces comply as well. Packaging and coding equipment, as well as other smaller components such as sensors, electrical cords and ball bearings, are often overlooked despite the fact that there is not only the risk of environmental contamination but also the possibility of a shut-down should the facility fail inspection. As with food-contact surfaces, nonfood-contact surfaces have the potential to spread pathogens (especially Listeria monocytogenes), provide harborage areas for insects and rodents, and develop dangerous levels of rust and corrosion.
Harsh Washdowns Take Their Toll on Sensitive Equipment
In order to meet RTE hygienic design standards, there are different practices that meat and poultry processors must undertake including adherence to a stringent cleaning and sanitation program that brings the equipment back to its original condition. This helps prevent contaminants such as biological (e.g. pathogens), chemical (e.g. lubricating fluids, cleaning chemicals) and physical (e.g. glass, insects, metal) from adversely affecting the food product. Whether a company handles the cleaning and sanitation internally, or hires an outside contractor, the process can be extremely tough on the equipment. Water temperatures can reach 140° F for cleaning and 180° F during the sanitizing process, and cleansers and sanitizers contain strong chemicals such as chlorinated alkaline and iodine. Coding and packaging equipment not properly designed for these harsh operating conditions can become severely damaged. Although some precautions can be taken to protect sensitive equipment, it only takes a small error during the washdown process for an expensive piece of equipment to be irreparably damaged or require expensive repairs.