Food Safety In Dough Processing Facilities

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

Food safety is the number one concern among food processors globally. Negative publicity can undermine confidence in a food processing company. For this reason, food safety should be given precedence beyond profits in a food company’s strategy. By Flexco.

Food safety is the number one concern among food processors globally. Negative publicity can undermine confidence in a food processing company. For this reason, food safety is given precedence beyond profits in a food company’s strategy. Consequently, the US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) as well as many local and regional food regulators have stringent controls over food hygiene that need to be strictly adhered to.


Common Food Hazards In The F&B Industry

Food safety hazards are commonplace in the F&B industry. In the last several years, there have been well-documented cases about contamination from bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli in the Asia Pacific region that caused much concern among public consumers and players in the food industry. However, bacterial infection arising from sanitation and hygiene practices are only the tip of the iceberg. There are lesser-known factors that beg for attention.

One such example is the issue of cross-contamination on splicing equipment. Often, splice presses are brought into a food manufacturing facility when the need to repair or replace the endless conveyor belts in food assembly lines arises. Traditionally food companies have chosen not to own their own splicing equipment as they perceive it to be expensive and difficult to operate. Unfortunately, this leaves them only the option of calling in an outside contractor, and the outside contractor’s equipment, to complete the belt splice for them.

As the splice press is rotated among various customers’ facilities, it is exposed to different environments. Consider an example where a vendor brings their splicing press to a meat-processing factory. The splicing press is used to treat belts for processing raw sausages, bacteria from the raw meat accumulates on the splice press. Without properly sanitising the splice press, the vendor heads for a bakery plant, where the same machine is used to treat conveyor belts that process dough and bread.  During this transporting process, the bacteria is then transferred to the processing lines and remains undetected until cases of food poisoning arise later.

Another example is the use of the splicing equipment in a facility that utilises peanuts as the main ingredient. Peanut dust accumulates on splicing equipment, which then is brought into a peanut-free dough-processing factory later in the day. This would reduce the quality of the products. Worse, this may cause problems among consumers who are allergic to peanuts. Such an episode would inevitably cause a huge public reaction and warrant the complete shutdown and clean-up of the facility. Ultimately, the company will incur both monetary and non-monetary costs.

Furthermore, many service providers still use traditional, bulky splicing equipment that needs a tank of water as a cooling device. Water brought in from the outside or from a different area of the plant introduces yet another potential medium in the splicing process for the transfer of bacteria. If the water comes from an unverified source, water-borne bacteria could easily find its way onto the conveyor belt that is being repaired or installed.

One of the common issues that most food processing lines have are leftover food residues of ingredients on the conveying belt line that may be a potential food allergen to the next processing product.  For example, Bakery line “A” is producing a product that contains egg. The same line was used to clean up at the end of the day for next production.  How much egg residues have been transferred onto the Bakery line A? These residues may be trapped underneath the belt line as the non-engineered or self-made belt scraper wasn’t able to scrap off or quickly uninstall for spray cleaning.  The possible implications may affect the quality of the product, and more importantly, the consumer with an egg allergy consuming the product.  What are the costs incurred to completely shut production down and the conveyor cleansed to run an egg-free product?


Best Practices To Combat Food Safety Hazards

A good way to mitigate the risk of contamination is to have the food manufacturer purchase their own splicing equipment. In this case, the equipment vendor, with their specialised knowledge and know-how, could still be called in to perform the belt splicing. However, the equipment that the crew uses would belong to the food company. As long as the equipment remains in a clean and dry food processing facility, the risk of cross-contamination is greatly reduced.

The food company could consider purchasing a modern, portable splice press which is small, easy to handle and uses a built-in air-cooling feature. Hence, the need for bulky beams, complicated cables and a water source will be eliminated. Setting up and deployment of modern presses are also easier and quicker. Their user-friendly features offer fuss-free use and minimise downtime on the production floor. When not in use, the equipment can be neatly stored in a corner of the factory, waiting to be taken out when maintenance comes around or when the need arises. Owning such a splice press is an ideal and effective way for a food manufacturer or processor to mitigate the risk of contamination. Over time, the investment pays off in the form of higher efficiency and the absence of food contamination episodes.

Mechanically-fastened belts are an alternative to endless spliced belts. Today, factory owners have a wide range of choices for such mechanically-fastened belts. Consider non-metal-based fasteners, often used in cases which the conveyor equipment has small head pulleys and require low-profile fasteners. The splices are fabricated into the belt using a variety of splicing techniques. Such non-metal fastened belts are ideal for food processing factories or applications where metal fasteners are not encouraged so as to prevent food contaminations and food residues left on top of the fasteners. These belts have been deployed across hundreds of locations worldwide and are an integral part of food processing operations.

A food grade easy spring tensioning belt scraper is the most efficient way to remove food scraps and can be re-assemble back on time for next new production. The previous OEM cleaner with manual adjustments resulted in scratched on conveying belt.  Here’s one real-life case study gathered from a Southeast Asia reputable dough manufacturer that saw the reduction in food wastage after installation of one food grade spring tensioning belt scraper on their processing line.  After installation, there was no need for daily wash down. It required only cosmetic cleaning for 15 minutes with less than three operators or whenever there is a product change over. Thus, it has been reduced to weekly complete wash down within three hours with only two operators (including conveyor frame).  The reduction in material carry back / food residues were reduced by 25 percent. The total kilos of food waste were also reduced from 2 kg to 0.5 kg.


Building An Effective Food Safety System For Industrial Bakeries

To ensure long shelf-life of bakery products to reduce food waste, manufacturers from each country will have to note the maximum shelf-life that complies with ministry of health requirements.  For example, if a bun can only last a maximum of six days, the frozen dough would require longer shelf-life (months) before it is used to make buns.

Consider purchasing your own modern, portable splice press, non-metallic fasteners solutions and food grade spring tensioning primary cleaner/ scraper that is confined within the perimeters of your premises. This would greatly enhance your food safety standards, allowing you to enjoy higher throughput, efficiency and profits in your food processing operations.


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