Every day it seems there is another story in the news media about companies that have to recall their products due to some type of harmful contamination. A few recent notable examples that spring to mind include an E coli scare from ground beef, a 500 million egg recall due to a Salmonella scare, and of course the death of 23 people from Listeria in cantaloupes.
That’s why I am so passionate about the need to use weighing equipment designed using the sanitary design principles issued by the American Meat Institute’s Equipment Design Task Force. It’s the only way to make sure we reduce food product contamination risks throughout the complete process – from producer to consumer.
The Task force worked with equipment manufacturers, certifying organizations and government officials to develop guidelines to reduce the risk of contamination of food products by pathogens.
Identifying sanitary principles can be an enormous task with each industry having a different perspective. I have listed The Ten Principles of Sanitary Design that have been identified by the AMI. They are:
- Cleanable to a Microbiological Level
- Made of Compatible Materials
- Accessible for Inspection, Maintenance, Cleaning, and Sanitation
- No Product or Liquid Collection
- Hollow Area Should be Hermetically Sealed
- No Niches
- Sanitary Operational Performance
- Hygienic Design of Maintenance Enclosures
- Hygienic Compatibility With Other Plant Systems
- Validated Cleaning and Sanitizing Protocols
While developed for the meat industry, the guidelines apply equally well to equipment for all food uses.
The use of stainless steel construction is a critical part of sanitary design for scales – but I’ve observed that many scale manufacturers consider this to be the only important factor in the overall design. Here are my top four sanitary design tips for scaling equipment:
# 1 – Cleaning accessibility
All parts of the equipment must be readily accessible for inspection, maintenance, cleaning, and sanitation without the use of tools. Make sure you have quick and easy access to clean floor scales to prevent debris build-up and bacterial growth. This includes access to any tight spots that may harbor unwanted material or bacteria. Equipment should be free of niches and recesses to allow for proper cleaning procedures. Look for equipment that minimizes gaps and eliminates bacteria-harboring areas, like lap seams, protruding edges, inside threads, and bolt rivets.
For example, we designed the Aegis Lift Deck floor scale to give quick and easy access to clean in and around the scale. The QuickSilver platforms are also designed to be easily cleaned.
#2 – No product or liquid collection
Make sure your equipment is self-draining so liquid does not accumulate, pool, or condense on the equipment. Maintenance enclosures and all push buttons, valve handles, switches, and touch screens should prevent penetration or accumulation of food, water, or product liquid. Also, enclosures should be sloped or pitched to avoid their use as a storage area.
#3 – Hermetically seal all hollow areas
Be sure to eliminate or permanently seal hollow areas, like frames and rollers, whenever possible. For example, bolts, studs, mounting plates, brackets, junction boxes, nameplates, end caps, and sleeves should be continuously welded to the surface—not attached via drilled and tapped holes.
#4 – Select the right load cell for a food-grade environment
Selecting the right load cell is crucial to ensure accuracy and performance, especially in a food-grade environment. The internal components of the load cell contain electronic circuits that require protection in a wash-down environment. For example, Fairbanks Scales uses stainless steel construction and hermetically sealed components in load cells to prevent entry of moisture and other external contaminants into the body of the load cell.