6 New Food and Workplace Safety Regulations For Grain and Pet Food Manufacturers in 2022

workplace safety regulations for grain and pet food 2018Recent changes in food, environmental, and worker safety have caused many grain and pet food engineers to take another look at their manufacturing facilities. For greenfield sites or renovations, appropriate attention to food and workplace safety regulations from the outset will save thousands in fines down the road. We’ve taken another look at these key safety regulations for manufacturers to know in 2022 and added recent and pending rules.

6 New Food and Workplace Safety Regulations For Grain and Pet Food Manufacturing

In this post:

  1. Amended OSHA Slip and Fall Regulations
  2. NFPA 652: New Standards on Combustible Dust
  3. OSHA New Respirable Dust and Crystalline Silica Standards
  4. USDA and FDA: Food Safety and Modernization Act
  5. COVID-19 Protection
  6. ANPRM for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention

1. Amended OSHA Slip and Fall Regulations

Violations exposing workers to fall or slip accidents occupied three of the top ten most common violations of workplace safety regulations in 2016, including non-compliant ladders, scaffolding, and fall protection equipment. Seeking to remedy these preventable accidents, OSHA amended Regulation 29 CFR 1910 Subpart D, which regulates safety requirements for walking and working surfaces, in 2016. Many of these provisions are already in effect, and several others are required as of November, 2018.

Grain and pet food manufacturers who are building up instead of out, as well as grain elevators and feed storage facilities should pay particular attention to these workplace safety regulations, some which are already enforced with fines.

  • Ensuring exposed workers are trained on fall hazards (required May 17, 2017)
  • Ensuring workers who use equipment are trained (required May 17, 2017)
  • Inspecting and certifying permanent anchorages for rope descent systems (required November 20, 2017)
  • Installing personal fall arrest or ladder safety systems on new fixed ladders over 24 feet and on replacement ladders/ladder sections (required November 19, 2018)
  • Ensuring existing fixed ladders over 24 feet … are equipped with a cage, well, personal fall arrest system, or ladder safety system (required November 19, 2018)

2. NFPA 652: New Standards on Combustible Dust

The dangers of combustible dust are no mystery to pet food and grain manufacturers. Between 2007 and 2016, 91 explosions occurred due to grain dust alone. In 2016 the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) Standard 652 outlined best practices for evaluating risk and protecting against dust and powder fires. The new standard’s biggest departure from previous standards is the development of Dust Hazards Analysis on existing or future processes.

Though OSHA recently abandoned expanded regulations on combustible dust due to regulatory reform under the Trump administration, experts remind businesses that workplace safety regulations on dust hazards exist under a number of other OSHA standards. Project managers and engineers can manage their combustible dust risk in a number of ways;

  • Proper machine maintenance to eliminate dust leaks.
  • Separating feed mixing processes into different buildings to manage risk and loss.
  • Conducting thorough risk analysis to understand threats.
  • Utilizing temperature monitoring sensors to prevent sparks.
  • Installing dust monitoring and dust collection systems suitable for your facility and particulates.

3. OSHA New Respirable Dust and Crystalline Silica Standards

Combustible dust laws are not the only dust-related workplace safety regulation grain and pet food manufacturers should be aware of this year. OSHA regulations governing respirable dust particles require workers to use personal protection equipment (PPE) and requires facility managers to measure, manage and keep levels within Permissible Exposure Limits (PELs). In 2017, OSHA amended regulations on exposure to crystalline silica, one of the most common types of harmful respirable dust. When crystalline silica dust is inhaled it sticks to the lungs, causing scarring and irreparable damage.

Though these workplace safety regulations are most important in the construction industry where workers are regularly exposed to hazardous crystalline silica levels, some steps in raw material feed processing, particularly cleaning, can pose respirable dust hazards. To mitigate exposure, take the following precautions;

  • Know who is exposed, where, and what causes exposure.
  • Measure and monitor harmful or nuisance dust levels.
  • Make PPE available and cultivate a culture of safety compliance.
  • Utilize dust collection with the right air intake and appropriate filtering.

4. USDA and FDA: Food Safety and Modernization Act

The USDA and FDA jointly oversee provisions within the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA), including those regulating food and pet food. Signed into law in 2011, many FSMA regulations are only now going into effect and under enforcement.

FSMA covers nearly all food and pet food facilities. The FDA’s current FSMA guidance document developed solely for pet food “covers facilities that manufacture, process, pack, or hold food intended for all animal species including food-producing animals (e.g., livestock, poultry, and aquaculture species), companion animals (e.g., dogs, cats, horses, and guinea pigs), laboratory animals, and animals maintained in zoological parks. “Animal food” means food for animals other than man and includes pet food, animal feed, and raw materials and ingredients (see 21 CFR 507.3).”

Pet food and grain processors undergoing process development should be aware of FSMA regulations which concern the following cases, among others;

  • Animal foods with high oil content which resist microbial heat treatments.
  • Mycotoxins (Aflatoxins, Fumonisins, Deoxynivalenol, Ochratoxin etc.) proliferating in grains.
  • Pesticides on grains.
  • Plant toxicants (lectin, protease inhibitors, cyanogenic glycosides etc.)
  • Animal-specific nutrient deficiencies and toxicity hazards.
  • Process or product cross-contamination.
  • Metal contamination from process equipment.

5. COVID-19 Protection

One of the most significant recent changes to workplace safety precautions came in response to the COVID-19 pandemic at the start of 2020. Workplaces as well as government offices struggled at times to provide the most helpful precautions to consumers and workers as new studies and information about managing the virus and preventing illness became available. With more data available now in 2022, a number of precautions and protections have been shown to significantly reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help keep employees and customers safer.

Many states, including Michigan, have provided workplace safety guidance regarding COVID-19. OSHA stipulates that state plans must be “at least as effective as OSHA’s and may have different or more stringent requirements.” OSHA has provided additional standards and protections based on particular jobs or industries.

Since COVID-19 is primarily spread through interpersonal contact, these protections are particularly important for food and pet food manufacturers that rely on numerous workers in close proximity to each other. As of August, 2020, over 43,000 meatpacking and food processing workers had caught COVID-19, resulting in nearly 200 deaths. A long list of legal actions by and between government agencies, families, and worker’s groups seeks to make these workplaces safer. A few preventative measures can help to avoid costly litigation.

Reviewing and integrating all of these guidelines can seem overwhelming. However, a few steps can help to simplify things. In their FAQ section, OSHA recommends the following:

  • Conducting a workplace risk assessment for potential COVID-19 exposure
  • Preparing a response plan
  • Taking steps to improve ventilation
  • In areas with substantial or high transmission, employers should provide face coverings for all workers, as appropriate

With these guidelines in mind, planning for and mitigating risk of a COVID-19 outbreak are very similar to mitigating other workplace risks. With a clear and transparent risk assessment, you can see which areas and situations require attention, and determine the ideal response. With a response plan in the event of an outbreak in place, you can keep employees safe, and minimize the need for or expenses incurred by an illness outbreak.

These precautions may seem less important as COVID-19 vaccinations become more widespread and the illness, and its variants, become less deadly. However, these precautions can help to reduce the risk and effects of many other illnesses and help to reduce the effects of another, similar, outbreak at a later time.

6. Heat Injury and Illness Prevention

OSHA reports that 18 of the last 19 years were the hottest on record. As temperatures rise, injuries, illness and death related to heat have become increasingly concerning at work. An Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for Heat Injury and Illness Prevention in Outdoor and Indoor Work Settings seeks to address these issues. Though this is not yet a workplace safety regulation, it provides some insight into what employers can expect in 2022 and beyond.

In 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 1,920 incidents of non-fatal injury or illness due to extreme environmental heat. Since 2011, between 18 and 61 people per year have died on the job due to extreme environmental heat. On average, worker heat deaths have doubled since the mid-1990’s. These incidents, and the proposed rulemaking, deal with a wide range of indoor and outdoor occupations, from agriculture to construction, manufacturing to utility work, forestry to landscaping, and many more. These incidents are particularly prevalent in agriculture, and are likely to impact raw materials operations for food and pet food manufacturing, as well as processing operations, such as grain elevators.

Heat stroke and heat exhaustion are among the most serious and common heat-related illnesses. During heat stroke and heat exhaustion, the body’s temperature rises past the level it can take, causing dizziness, nausea, fainting, organ failure and, if not quickly treated, death. Physical exertion, a lack of acclimation to heat, lack of water, and pre existing medical conditions can also worsen heat-related illnesses.

The rulemaking proposal seeks to address environmental heat hazards at work, heat illness response plans, acclimatization (which can reduce the risk of heat illness), and more. OSHA encourages the public to review and submit comments on the proposal until January 26, 2022.


Evaluating and planning for food and workplace safety regulations during project design and installation will prevent future problems. Working with an experienced and reputable process equipment manufacturer specialized in your industry will help to anticipate safety concerns and hazards specific to your facility.

Solving Liquid Coating Problems with Atomizing Systems

spray coating rotating disk

Getting the right liquid coating for snack foods, pet foods, and other products is already a difficult process. Finding a liquid coating system that can handle the coating efficiently and effectively is even more challenging. Some food manufacturers struggle to maintain the consistency of the coating while finding a clean application method that won’t cause shut-downs or require frequent maintenance. If you’re struggling with this problem, consider the following ways to reduce waste, improve efficiency and reduce maintenance costs in liquid coating using atomizing systems.

What are Atomizing Systems?

Most liquid coating systems use spray nozzles to evenly coat material as it moves through a mixer or conveyor. A rotary atomizing liquid coating system uses spinning disks to instead turn the liquid coating into a fine mist, which evenly coats the material as it falls through the coating chamber. The Mistcoater, including the T, TMX and SST models, is one such liquid coating system. These systems are preferred for many liquid coatings which can clog spray nozzles, such as those with high fat, sugar or salt content.

How Do Atomizing Systems Solve Liquid Coating Problems?

Reducing Overspray

One common problem for liquid coating systems is overspray. In many cases, too much liquid coating is used in order to ensure that all particles receive some of the coating. If a particle receives no coating it can be missing key elements, while overspraying generally won’t harm the end product, so overspraying is usually preferred. However, this also causes waste and expenses that will build up over time. In addition, it can create slip-and-fall hazards when overspray touches walking surfaces, or generally create an unclean environment.

The Mistcoater uses a fully enclosed chamber, so the liquid coating does not escape and does not collect on surrounding surfaces. Since it creates a mist with increased surface area, it also requires less liquid to coat the product. Finally, the product falls through the coating chamber, so all sides of the particles are fully exposed to the liquid coating. By increasing the surface area of both the liquid and the solid, there is less waste and overspray.

Eliminating Clogs

Clogging may be the most common problem in liquid coating systems. Sugars and salts are prone to crystallization on the end of the spray nozzle, and fats are prone to congealing. Most liquid coatings use some combination of sugar, salt or fat solutions. Though not all of these mixtures will cause spray nozzles to clog, it can be difficult to predict which ones will. Or, changing the recipe slightly can cause clogging where a previous mixture did not.

When spray nozzles clog, multiple additional problems can occur; a buildup of backpressure can damage the liquid coating system, the liquid coating will be uneven, which can reduce the quality of the product, and excessive repairs and maintenance may be required to repeatedly deal with clogs. The Mistcoater helps to reduce and, in many cases, completely eliminate clogging problems, since it does not use spray nozzles. Instead, the liquid coating atomizes through the use of a rotating disk spinning at high RPMs. The liquid touches the disk and turns into a mist, which then coats the product as it falls through the enclosed chamber.

Improving Consistency

Inconsistency is another notable problem that can arise in liquid coating. Liquids are, by their nature, difficult to control. Ensuring that a liquid coating uniformly covers a particle once is difficult enough—it is even more difficult for millions of particles over a short space of time. Spray coating often only covers one side of the particle and requires additional steps for uniform coating. When working with a mixer, the spray coating must set very quickly, or the coating can be lost through the mixing action.

An atomizing liquid coating system like the Mistcoater works with, rather than against, natural forces to improve consistency. As the material falls through the coating chamber, it naturally turns, rather than remaining still, as it might on a conveyor. This exposes all sides of the material in a very short span of time, without requiring mixing action or additional steps. Instead of forcing a high pressure spray coating onto the particle and relying on absorption over time, the fine mist naturally attracts to the particle’s surfaces and pores. Since the mist is lighter than the liquid spray, it works its way into and onto the particles more easily, and dries faster.

Finding the right liquid coating equipment for your application requires careful consideration. Take a close look at the properties of the liquid coating, as well as the dry material. If you are struggling with these liquid coating problems, atomizing systems like the Mistcoater may be the ideal solution. To learn more about the Mistcoater and other liquid coating solutions, contact us.

 

6 Powder Flow Control Problems And Solutions

powder flow control problems and solutions

Powder flow problems cause frustration and hours of expensive downtime. They can also damage machines, create backups, and produce sub-par products. Some types of materials, machines, and working conditions make powder flow problems more likely. We’ve identified the most common powder flow control problems and flow control solutions to help you solve these troublesome inefficiencies. We’ve updated this blog post in 2021 to address material characteristics in addition to powder flow control problems and solutions.

In this article, you’ll find:

  • Problem: No Flow
  • Problem: Low Flow
  • Problem: Decreasing Flow
  • Problem: Material Flooding
  • Problem: Damage to Feeder
  • Problem: Clumping
  • Importance of Powder Properties

6 Most Common Powder Flow Problems and Flow Control Solutions

1. Problem: No Flow

Under normal operating conditions, the material should flow through the system without interruption. If no-flow alerts are a regular occurrence, the system is not optimally designed for either the material or the environment. This may occur in environments with high humidity, materials with high moisture content, solid materials that are irregularly shaped, or materials with certain coatings.

Solution: Agitation

Depending on the cause of the no-flow problem, a few solutions are available.

  • A mechanical agitator before feeder entry
  • Vibrator added to hopper
  • Air pads to aerate product

Each of these are long-term solutions that will ultimately save your time and money by eliminating downtime. When making these upgrades, make sure to conduct proper testing. Consider carefully where and how to mount the devices, and how often they should operate to be most effective.

2. Problem: Low Flow

This powder flow problem may go unnoticed for long periods since it doesn’t directly cause downtime. However, insufficient flow can affect all downstream systems. Low flow may be caused by obstructions above the feeder, or misalignments. This may also occur if the materials are too thick or the feeder is too small.

Solution: Bigger or faster feeder

The ideal flow control solutions for this problem will either expand the feeder to increase volume at slower speeds, or speed up the feeder to push more material through faster.

  • Upgrade to larger feeder
  • Add variable frequency drive
  • Change reducer on drive

3. Problem: Decreasing Flow

Some powder flow problems do not cause a sudden stop, but rather a slow reduction in material flow. Unlike other powder flow problems which are caused by materials sticking together, this is generally caused by materials sticking to the feeder because of static build-up.

Solution: Eliminate static

This is a particularly common problem in fast-moving, dry materials, but flow control solutions to this problem are generally easy to implement.

  • Ground the feeder frame to prevent static build-up
  • Use electro-polish on feeder
  • Add Teflon coating to feeder

4. Problem: Material flooding

If too much material is getting through or the material floods after shut-off, this can also cause production problems downstream, or result in inconsistent products. These flow control solutions create the opposite effect of the previous three, but they are implemented in similar ways.

Solution: Slower, interrupted feed

Upgrading the hopper or attached systems can stop flushing and flooding.

  • Vent hopper to reduce aeration
  • Install slide gate or butterfly valve at discharge point
  • Smaller feeder
  • Lower drive speed
  • Incline the feeder

5. Problem: Damage to feeder

If your system takes more damage and needs more repairs than comparable equipment, the materials or the system may be to blame. This may be a bulk solids or powder flow problem, and it can be caused by too much abrasion or improper system construction.

Solution: Slower speeds, stronger system

This flow control solution can be implemented by either slowing down the product or reinforcing the system.

  • Lower drive speed
  • Install larger feeder to slow materials
  • Add liner or coating to system

6. Problem: Clumping

When powders lump together, they can form a clump and a clog at varying points in the process. This can cause some of the previously mentioned powder flow problems, but it is also a problem by itself. When powders clump together, they won’t mix properly, they can harbor bacteria pockets that withstand heat, they can create empty pockets in storage units, and more.

Solution: Reduce cohesion

Powders may clump together for many reasons, including high humidity, static electricity, or reduced product quality. Take a closer look at the powder and see what may be causing the cohesion. Analyze the circumstances when and where clumping occurs the most; is the environment very humid or dry? Does it occur during one process, but not the next? Did a particular shipment clump more than others? This analysis will help you target the cause of the cohesion, so you can solve it.

Importance of Powder Properties

The equipment design and build plays an important role in preventing or solving powder flow problems. However, it’s also important to consider the characteristics of the material as well. When your equipment manufacturer has a good understanding of the material characteristics of the powder, they can build the optimal machinery to prevent powder flow problems.

Before working with your equipment manufacturer, it’s helpful to have measurements on the following powder characteristics, where applicable. Details on these characteristics can help an experienced equipment manufacturer anticipate problems. There are many physical properties of powders, and which properties are most important will depend on the process and the industry. In this case, we’re considering the physical properties of food powders for human or animal consumption.

  • Density: There are multiple aspects of a powder’s density that can affect how it is stored, how it flows, and how it’s processed. The bulk density, particle density, loose bulk density, and compact density may be important, depending on the process. In general, you should at least have measurements for the powder’s bulk density.
  • Flowability: This physical property will particularly affect how the powder moves from one process to the next, and how it settles within a container. There are several properties within flowability that may be important, including angle of repose and how the product settles. A product with a steep angle of repose will not fill a vertical container evenly, so it may require additional safeguards.
  • Cohesion: This is an aspect of flowability, however its importance earns it its own category. The propensity of a powder to form lumps will significantly affect how it’s stored and processed. Cohesion may occur through a powder’s natural stickiness, through static charge, through moisture, or through other means. If moisture is a key element of cohesion, it will also be important to measure the powder’s hygroscopy.
  • Aeration: This is another aspect of flowability, which also deserves its own category. If a powder is prone to aeration, it will become loose and create dust easily. These types of powders should not be subjected to freefall, as they will create dust and powder explosion hazards. For these types of powders, dust suppression equipment will be particularly important.
  • Particle uniformity: Particle size and the variation between particle size also affect how the material flows and how it’s processed. If two particular particles can vary in size and shape significantly within the powder, the powder will be prone to separation, which can affect product quality.
  • Abrasion: Many powders can be deceptively abrasive. A powder that may seem soft in our hands can become damagingly abrasive at higher velocities and in high volumes. Powders with abrasive characteristics will need special equipment considerations, such as special linings or coatings, so the equipment doesn’t wear out prematurely.

If you’ve inherited a system that constantly sees problems, or your materials have changed and it’s created new issues, consider these solutions. If you’re building a new system, take advantage of testing and proper construction beforehand and these powder flow problems will never occur. With the right material testing before installation, you can be sure that your system is made for your materials before it arrives.

Designing Liquid Dosing Systems

Liquid Dosing System

Liquid dosing systems are used in a wide variety of industries in applications, from food and beverage to pet food, industrial chemicals, pesticides, sanitation, and many more. To design the right liquid dosing systems for your needs, it’s helpful to understand the basic components of the system and how the liquids you’re working with interact with them. The basic components of a liquid system are the storage vessel, pump, liquid measurement device, environmental sensors and controls. Though there are exceptions and unique specifications for many different systems, the following are general guidelines to keep in mind when it comes to designing your liquid dosing system.

Designing Liquid Dosing Systems

Know Your Liquid Characteristics

Having a good understanding and an accurate record of liquid characteristics will help you design the best liquid dosing system. The supplier of the liquid should be able to supply this. Consider best practices for storing and handling the liquid, as well as how well it flows, what it reacts with, and more. Start with the following liquid characteristics:

  • pH
  • Viscosity
  • Specific gravity
  • Preferred process temperature
  • Water soluble
  • Oil soluble
  • Solution vs suspension
  • Reaction to agitation
  • Chemical interactions
  • Corrosiveness

Storage Vessels

The characteristics of the liquids, as well as the amount of liquid you’re working with will both determine how to design the storage vessel in your liquid dosing system. Safety is an important consideration to start with. If the liquid is flammable, it must be stored in a protective container that prevents combustion during storage and transport. Strong acids or bases must be stored in vessels that prevent corrosion. For food grade applications, the contact surfaces must be easy to clean and sanitize. Some chemicals, such as cyanoacrylate, are very sensitive to moisture, so the vessel must be securely sealed. When working with toxic or hazardous materials, a secondary spill containment unit will be necessary.

For the size of the storage vessel, carefully record the delivery method and the liquid use rate. In some cases, it may be possible to use the liquid directly from the container it’s shipped in. Some systems can unload drums and liquid IBC’s with no need for interim storage. When using these systems, it’s ideal to stage a container with the necessary hookup and valve assemblies. This way, the flow of the liquid is not interrupted when a container is empty. When drawing liquid from these containers, use a pump with high suction at the inlet, and slightly tilt the vessel towards the discharge opening to fully use the product.

Pumps

Choosing the right pump plays a vital role in designing liquid dosing systems. Once again, pay close attention to the material characteristics here. Consider reactions the liquid might have with metals, erosive damage that might occur from suspended solids, as well as the liquid’s viscosity and how hard the pump has to work.

If the application calls for a simple transfer of liquid without a great deal of back pressure, then a centrifugal pump may work fine. To keep the pump working at higher pressure, you can add stages to the centrifugal pump. Centrifugal pumps can suffer some slippage or cavitation if conditions change, so they are usually not a good choice for metering.

For metered liquids, positive displacement pumps are a better choice. There are many different types of positive displacement pumps, including diaphragm pumps, gear pumps, lobe pumps, sine pumps, progressive cavity, peristaltic and piston pumps. For thicker liquids or suspensions, a diaphragm pump may be ideal. Gear pumps are highly repeatable and can generate high pressure. These types of pumps are ideal for liquids with high lubricity, like fats and oils, but they do not work well with suspended solids. For thicker liquids containing suspended solids, such as fillings, jams and dressings, a sine pump or progressive cavity pump is generally a good choice.

Regardless of the type of pump used when designing your liquid dosing system, it’s a good idea to monitor the temperature and pressure of the liquid to make sure that it is within the process tolerance. A little bit of monitoring can save having to replace a costly pump later on.

Meters

The right meter will ensure the right amount of liquid is being used. Most liquid system meters are either volumetric or mass flow devices. Volumetric devices operate by displacing a known volume, usually working with a nutation disk or piston. The meter monitors the number of rotations and translates the number into a flow rate. These types of meters are ideal for liquids that won’t change in density and don’t require a high level of accuracy.

A mag meter uses velocity to measure flow. Water-based solutions work best with these types of meters, since the fluid must be conductive. For this meter to work, the liquid must fill the pipe with no voids. This type of meter does not obstruct the fluid’s flow as it’s measured, and it can be very accurate. However, this type of meter is ideal for continuous flow and generally won’t work well with intermittent stopping and starting.

Coriolis meters are mass flow meters. As the name implies, these meter use the Coriolis effect to measure the flow of liquid. This type of meter will compensate for changes in the liquid’s density. Coriolis meters are also very stable and accurate to as little as one tenth of a percent, so they’re ideal for precision liquid measurements.

With these considerations in mind, you can work with your equipment manufacturer more effectively and design liquid dosing systems that work best for your needs. Consider these components, as well as sensors and controls, as you design your liquid system.

The History of Food Processing: How We Got to What We Eat

how to choose a food processing equipment manufacturer

Food processing includes a wide variety and range of activities that help to make food tasty, accessible, and safe. Humans have been trying to make food processing faster and more efficient for thousands of years. The long history of food processing has helped us sustain our quickly growing societies, and also given us more time for other activities. As we continue to advance, our ability to make food fast and affordable and long-lasting advances too.

The History of Food Processing: The Stone Age to the Modern Age

The First Methods

When we think of the history of food processing, we probably think of the first big machines and conveyor belts full of canned goods. However, the first processes for cleaning, storing, and improving foods began thousands of years ago. These processes have been improved, but many of them are still vital to us today.

The first and most important step in food processing was also the simplest: cooking. Our earliest ancestors started by simply adding heat to meats, seeds and vegetables as early as 1.5 million years ago. Simple food preservation methods followed, including drying, smoking and salting, in some of the earliest civilizations, including Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, as early as 9600 BC. The invention of writing and history helped to advance these early methods, as the first food processors were able to record, pass down and trade information more easily.

The history of food processing began with a number of preservation and cooking techniques that are still used today, though on a much larger and more efficient scale. From prehistoric societies, to some of the earliest ancient empires, such as ancient Greece, India, China and Peru, up to the Middle Ages, these techniques were developed, refined and spread around the world across many different cuisines.

  • Cooking
  • Salting
  • Pickling
  • Drying
  • Smoking
  • Fermenting

The 19th Century: Pasteurization and Canning

Two important processes were popularized in the 1800’s; pasteurization and canning. These processes became vital to the history of food processing, making foods safer and much more accessible.

Pasteurization, developed by and named for French microbiologist Louis Pasteur, was researched in the 1860’s. This process was particularly important for juices and especially milk, which is very susceptible to bacterial growth. Pasteurization kills microbes by applying heat, without affecting the nutritional quality or taste of the food. Without this process, this history of food processing would not have advanced much farther. Long-term food storage and transport throughout the world would have been extremely limited.

A bit earlier around 1810, a French chef was working with a similar process. Nicolas Appert began experimenting with food preservation using heat, glass bottles, cork and wax. La Maison Appert (The House of Appert) became the first food-bottling factory in the world. Other inventors and merchants built on this method to eventually develop the tin can. The tin can would become particularly popular with the start of World War I and the high demand for cheap, long-lasting, transportable food for soldiers.

The 20th Century: Ready-to-Eat Meals

Throughout the 1900s, a number of rapid, important developments led to food processing as we know it today. Just as WWI popularized the tin can at the start of the century, WWII and the space race in the middle of the century helped to speed up the development of ready-to-eat packaged meals. During this time, the working middle class also began to expand around the world, bringing increased demand for fast meals with a long shelf-life.

New processes as well as new ingredients and new appliances contributed to the history of food processing in the 20th century. Spray drying, evaporation, freeze drying and the use of preservatives made it easier to package different types of foods and keep them on the shelf. Artificial sweeteners and colors helped to make these preserved foods more palatable. The home oven, microwave, blender and other appliances provided an easy way to quickly prepare these meals. Factories and mass production techniques made it possible to quickly produce and package foods. These developments paved the way for globally popular foods like frozen dinners, instant noodle cups, baking mixes, and more.

21st Century: Food Safety and Regulation

Though processed foods were fast and affordable, concerns began to rise about their nutritional value in the late 20th and early 21st century. Many preservation processes reduce the vitamin and mineral content of otherwise healthy foods. Added fat, sugar and oil increases calorie content without increasing nutritional value. Concerns about preservatives and their long-term health effects began to rise. The toll of disposable plastic packaging also began to rise. Though food processing made many foods easier to buy and prepare, there were trade-offs that had, so far, not been addressed.

In 2004, the USDA studied the nutrient content of foods prepared in varying ways. In 2010, First Lady Michelle Obama spearheaded the Let’s Move! campaign designed to reduce childhood obesity and reduce sugar and salt levels in processed foods, particularly those targeted towards children. A number of food manufacturers agreed to reduce salt levels in response. Around this time, the FDA studied food nutrition labels and the public’s understanding of them. Finding that the nutrition labels weren’t helpful for many, the FDA pushed for clearer labeling standards in 2016, including clearer calorie and sugar counts, among other revisions. Many of these debates persist today.

Food safety regulations also saw important changes in the early 21st century with the passage of the Food Safety and Modernization Act. As food processing expanded in large factories, the need for stricter food safety procedures and ingredient tracking became more important to prevent or reduce the effects of foodborne illnesses.

The history of food processing has grown more in the last 200 years than it has throughout the tens of thousands of years that human civilization has existed. As these processes continue to advance, foods that are safe, accessible, and affordable as well healthy and environmentally-friendly are the next challenges to meet.

How to Select the Right Feeder For Your Materials

The ingredient feeder is responsible for metering the right amount of ingredients from the source into the next process. This part of the ingredient system is often overlooked, which can cause problems later on. Different materials, particularly fibrous, aeratable, abrasive and cohesive materials, can all create problems in the wrong feeder. If you’re struggling with flow problems, consider these tips on how to select the right feeder for your materials.

How to Select the Right Feeder For Your Materials

First: Assess Your Materials

Having a good understanding of your materials’ properties will help in selecting the right feeder. It will also help in designing the optimal system overall. If your equipment designer understands the difficult characteristics of your material, they can make adjustments to the feeder and prevent flow and measurement problems. Give your equipment supplier a sample of the materials beforehand, so they can make an assessment.

Consider the following material characteristics, which can cause flow problems at the feeder.

  • Fibrous: fibrous materials are lightweight, with long strands, tend to be fragile and they easily interlock and mat.
  • Aeratable: Aeratable materials are usually fine powders that behave like liquids when aerated. This can cause them to flood hoppers and create hazardous dust clouds.
  • Abrasive: abrasive materials can wear out your feeder quickly, but the wrong feeder liner can cause the materials to break apart.
  • Cohesive: cohesive materials tend to stick to each other and form balls or clumps.

Feeders for Fibrous Materials

Fibrous materials are some of the most challenging to work with. There is a wide variety of fibrous materials, such as fiberglass, carpet fibers, wood flour, husks and many more. The strand length will be an important consideration, as well as density and moisture content. Fibrous materials with short strands will be easier to work with, and long strands will be more difficult.

In some cases, a screw feeder may work best. However, there should be a large gap between the screw and the tube, so the long strands don’t break apart in the process. A slower than normal rotation, variable screw pitch and a rotating flow blade will help to keep the material moving at a steady rate. In other cases, a vibratory feeder may work better than a screw feeder for long-strand materials, as a screw feeder can damage the material. An agitation system will help to prevent matting, however the hopper must also suit the feeder. If the fibers are very susceptible to matting ratholing, a surge hopper may be ideal.

Feeders for Aeratable Materials

Aeratable materials like talc powder, flour, glass microspheres and other powders can pose serious hazards without the right feeder design and safeguards. These materials flow like water when aerated, and also create dangerous dust clouds. Dust clouds create debris across the factory, they can be hazardous to workers’ health if inhaled, or a spark, even from static electricity, can cause them to ignite.

One of the most important considerations in selecting a feeder for aeratable materials is dust suppression and collection systems. Fugitive dust can be an issue at various points in the process, including the hopper, feeder, conveyance system and more. Tight seals between these processes will help to keep dust from escaping. However, dust collectors should be used at any point where the material may escape, and regularly assessed to ensure proper airflow.

Besides creating dust, aeratable materials are also prone to flooding. They will flush out of a feed screw and overfill the system if the feeder is not designed properly. A center rod works better than an open flight in this case. It may also be beneficial to use smaller, more frequent refills to prevent aeration. Vibrators can also help to densify the material and make it easier to work with.

Feeders for Abrasive Materials

Abrasive materials can quickly damage the feeder. However, the wrong feeder lining can also damage the material. Selecting the right feeder for abrasive materials means finding a liner suitable for the particle size and hardness of the material.

An abrasion-resistant bolt-in liner made from steel, carbide, or polyethylene can help to protect the feeder. However, this may not be suitable for large particles dropped from a distance. As the hardness and abrasion resistance of the liner increases, it also becomes more brittle, so it will be more susceptible to damage from heavy impacts. This also makes it harder to form and handle, so fabrication will be more challenging. To find the right balance of hardness and abrasion resistance, it’s helpful to have a good material sample and assessment of the overall process.

Feeders for Cohesive Materials

Cohesive materials tend to stick to each other and clump together. The first line of defense against this problem is the hopper design. An asymmetrical mass-flow hopper will help to discourage rat-holing. The hopper should also have a completely smooth surface, with no ledges or protruding welds for the material to stick to.

You might use external paddles and a flexible hopper to de-clump the material as it moves into the feeder. Or, a slow-spinning, vertical or horizontal agitator will break up the material before it enters the feeder. Air pads or vibration might also help. However, agitation devices should cycle, not work continuously, or they can cause the material to become airborne or compacted.

A properly designed screw feeder will be best for cohesive materials. The opening from the hopper to the feeder should be as large as possible. A screw with a larger center shaft, smaller flights and progressive pitch will also help the material fill the screw flights evenly and feed consistently.

Different materials flow in different ways. A feeder that works for one material might not work for another. To select the right feeder for your materials, the best defense is a clear understanding of how the material flows. Giving your equipment manufacturer a sample of your materials and testing the process beforehand will help to ensure your equipment works properly when its’ installed.

Minimizing Risk in Food Processing: Worker Safety, Sanitation and Traceability

minimizing risk in food processing

Safety and sanitation regulations in food processing are very strict, perhaps because the stakes are very high. Ineffective safety and sanitation procedures can put consumers at risk as well as workers. Maintaining high safety and sanitation standards is an ongoing and sometimes arduous process, but lax standards can mean liability, recalls, and big losses, both to profitability and to public image. If you’re considering improvements or changes to your food processing facility, consider these common risks to food processing plants, and how you can minimize risk in food processing.

How to Minimize Risk in Food Processing

Proper Sanitation

Thorough and effective sanitation procedures are vital to food processing at every level. The FDA lays out sanitation rules and guidelines across a number of documents for different industries and verticals, including the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA). Different facilities require different cleaning and sanitizing procedures, since they use different types of equipment and work with different foods. Finding the right procedure can be difficult, and some risks are especially hard to eliminate.

These are the most common sanitation risks in food processing to look out for:

  • Drains: Drains are one of the most common harborages for pathogens, especially Listeria. Studies show that between 33 and 47% of drains in food processing plants carry Listeria. Cleaning drains is an unpleasant but essential task that must not be overlooked in cleaning procedures.
  • Cleaning debris: “Cleaning” generally refers to removing debris, while “sanitizing” refers to destroying bacteria. For sanitizing chemicals to do their job, they must contact the equipment surface, which means debris must be cleaned first. It’s important to have the right tools for the job, including the right cleaning detergents to loosen materials, and the right brushes to scrape or brush away debris.
  • Electronics: Electronics can make food processing equipment more efficient, but electronics are also harder to clean. Use electronics with the right IP certifications or hermetic sealing, so they can stand up to high-pressure cleaning and sanitizing.
  • Vents: Vents are usually hard to reach, so they often go uncleaned. This allows both dust and bacteria to build up, which can be harmful to air quality as well as food safety, and can introduce risks of dust explosions where dust and powders are present.
  • Color-coded cleaning tools: Cleaning tools used on floors or drains should be separate from cleaning tools used for equipment, even if the tools are the same. Color-coding is helpful for keeping tools separate, and is explained in 21 CFR 117.
  • Good manufacturing practices: Good manufacturing practices (GMP) are an important part of sanitation and food safety. Using the proper steel grade, removing breakable burrs or openings in welded joints, and a number of other practices will prevent design flaws from creating safety hazards.

Worker Safety

Sanitation is critical to minimize risk in food processing and protect consumers, but worker safety is also essential. Often, these two go hand-in-hand. When safety protocols protecting workers are lax, food safety standards fall behind as well. Food processors must adhere to OSHA regulations for worker safety, and additional safety measures can also help to reduce liability and minimize risk. The following are some of the most common risks to workers in food processing.

  • Heights: If you have catwalks, ladders, or your staff are working at heights at any time, it is important to have proper railings, traction stickers, and fall protection systems. OSHA updated these rules in 2016 to better protect workers from falls.
  • Slippery surfaces: Surfaces exposed to water, grease, blood, or other slippery substances can also present fall hazards in food processing plants. Use mats over these areas to prevent slips, and make sure mats are cleaned properly during sanitation procedures.
  • Dust: Seemingly harmless dust can be dangerous for a number of reasons. Breathing in dust puts workers at health risks and dust residue from foods can invite pests. The most dangerous hazard, however, are dust fires and explosions. These can destroy entire facilities and kill workers. Make sure vents are cleared (see vents section above), bulk bags are emptied properly, and workers are well educated on dust and powder explosions and hazards.
  • Removable safeguards: Safeguards might sometimes interfere with a worker’s task, so it can be tempting to remove these to make the task faster or easier. However, safeguards protecting workers from blades or other moving parts should not be removable. Emphasize that safety is the first priority, and safeguards should never be tampered with or removed. If the task is difficult, help employees find alternative ways of making it more efficient.
  • Electrical hazards: Electrical wiring can be especially hazardous when working with high-powered equipment. Only a licensed electrician should alter, repair or install electrical components. It is also important to ensure wires are not damaged, especially those that might come into contact with liquids, and that outlets are securely grounded, especially in sandy soil conditions.
  • Hazardous cleaning chemicals: Sometimes proper sanitation requires the use of cleaning elements that can be extremely hazardous to workers. For example, chlorine dioxide gas is sometimes used to disinfect enclosed spaces. However, this chemical is extremely toxic. Workers should understand how to handle these chemicals, how to use protective gear, and the consequences of exposure.

Traceability

Traceability is another important aspect of food safety and an important part of minimizing risk in food processing. Effective traceability measures are not only required by FSMA, but also allow food processors to reduce the impact of contamination if it occurs. There are several essential features of an effective traceability system.

  • Proper labeling: Labeling shows where ingredients came from, where they went and when. This is essential for detecting and recalling contaminated ingredients or products, and limiting the effects of a recall.
  • Automated systems: Automated systems help to dispense ingredients precisely, not only eliminating waste but ensuring the right lots go into the right products.
  • Integrating software: Integrating tracking software with your automated ingredient system will not only make labeling simpler and more accurate, but will also improve your record-keeping in case of an audit.
  • Testing: A simulated recall will show whether your traceability measures are effective. Performing a simulated recall will show you any weaknesses in your traceability sequence, so you can fix them. If you need to perform a recall, your staff will be familiar with the procedures.

By minimizing risks in food processing, you can avoid or reduce the impact of potentially costly mistakes or problems. As your business expands, or as you add or change equipment at your facility, remember to reassess. With the right safety, sanitation and traceability procedures in place, you can protect yourself from liability and loss.

USDA Safety and Compliance Requirements for Food Processors

USDA compliance

Preventing illness and contamination across the food supply chain is a challenging process, with many regulatory bodies involved. It can be difficult to know where the responsibilities of one group ends and another begins. The USDA and the FDA work closely together in different areas of the food supply chain to ensure sanitation and safety. In some cases, USDA safety and compliance requirements and inspections are similar to the FDA’s, and in other ways they are different.

USDA Safety and Compliance Requirements for Food Processors

Grant of Inspection and HACCP

The USDA requires that businesses and facilities working with meat, poultry, eggs and egg products apply for a Grant of Inspection. There are several steps to this process, including application, registration, sanitation requirements, and hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), among others. This is similar in some ways to requirements set forth by the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA).

HACCP for a Grant of Inspection is similar to FSMA requirements in many ways. HACCP requires the following:

  • Written hazard analysis: Where hazards are likely to occur in the production process and how these can be prevented.
  • A flow chart: A flow chart should describe the steps in the product process, the purpose of each process, and any hazards associated.
  • Written hazard plan: For each product, a written hazard plan should address the associated hazards and how to prevent or mitigate risk.
  • Corrective actions: How to prevent a problem or mitigate risk if a problem occurs.
  • Validation and Verification: Validating that the HACCP plan works and verifying that it continues to work.
  • HACCP Records: How to maintain records to show the HACCP plan is being followed.

Sanitation Procedures

Businesses and facilities that work with meat and poultry must have strict sanitation procedures in place. This helps to prevent the spread of bacteria and foodborne illness, or limit the damage if contamination occurs. These procedures and requirements are also similar to FSMA.

A thorough and effective sanitation plan is one of the best ways to prevent illness and mitigate risks in your facility. Your Sanitation Standard operating procedures should include the following. Keep in mind that all facilities are unique, and this list is not exhaustive.

  • Team responsibilities: who is responsible for sanitation and what their duties include.
  • Disassembly: Machines that are not suitable for clean-in-place procedures must be disassembled.
  • Scrubbing: For sanitary cleaning chemicals to work, debris, grease and oil must first be removed from tools and machines.
  • Facility cleaning: The facility itself, as well as the tools and equipment, should also be cleaned, including floors, walls, and ceilings.
  • Sanitary garments: Garments like gloves, aprons, and other gear should be changed at least daily, or more often if necessary.
  • Verification: A process must be in place to show that these procedures are being conducted properly.
  • Corrective actions: If any cleaning procedures are not followed, corrective actions should be in place to stop production if necessary and prevent the problem from happening again.
  • Recording-keeping: Accurate record-keeping shows when cleaning procedures are being conducted, and by whom.

Recall Procedures

Even the best sanitation and hazard management procedures don’t work 100% of the time. This is where recall procedures come in. Just as FSMA requires recall procedures for other food processors, the USDA requires recall procedures for meat and poultry processors.

Recall procedures are intended to reduce the impact of contamination by stopping the distribution of contaminated food. A recall can also be used if contamination is not harmful, but foods have been mislabeled or an excess of harmless ingredients have been used. In meat processing and other food processing, the requirements are similar. You should have the following, though this list is not exhaustive.

  • Recall team: who is required to implement a recall and what are their duties?
  • FSIS office: the contact information for your local Food Safety and Inspection Service office.
  • Hazard evaluation: on what criteria do you decide to conduct a recall?
  • Recall scope: how will you determine where products must be recalled from?
  • Records: how are products traced and how do you store and manage these records?
  • Recall notice: how will you communicate your need for a recall?
  • Recall disposal: how will the recalled products be disposed of?

Keeping food and facilities safe requires everyone’s participation. With thorough procedures in place, as well as verification and regular assessments to ensure these procedures work, you can reduce risks of fines, complications and recalls.

6 Ways to Reduce Costs in Food Manufacturing

Reducing costs in food manufacturing doesn’t have to mean reducing product quality. In many cases, solving problems that cause waste or lost time will not only save money but will also improve the overall process and product quality. Utilizing technology at critical points, implementing preventative maintenance, and other measures can all help to reduce costs in food manufacturing.

6 Ways to Reduce Costs in Food Manufacturing

1. Precision Measurement Reducing Ingredient Waste

Some ingredients require tight tolerances, and using too much of these ingredients can create product defects. Other ingredients are less exact, but using too much ultimately results in waste. In either case, using accurate and precise measuring tools can help to reduce unnecessary ingredient loss and over-use.

Finding the right load cell means considering the load cell capacity, scale instrument capacity, and the individual ingredient accuracy. It also means keeping the load cell accurate, and placing it properly to prevent noise, vibration, unbalanced loads, and other interference. In some cases, especially when the optimal ingredient amounts are significantly different, or have significantly different tolerances, it’s ideal to use different scales, which can function simultaneously. When there are multiple microingredients in use, a microingredient system will provide exact measurements. This will help to reduce costs in food manufacturing by reducing ingredient overfill or waste.

2. Reducing Product Defects Through System Design

A number of issues can cause product defects, which can cause products to be discarded or recalled. Recognizing these issues and solving them through thoughtful system design will eliminate problems before they begin.

Systems constructed without good manufacturing practices (GMP) in mind can create product defects in a number of ways. For example, low-grade steel, improperly welded joints, or metal burrs can all introduce metal fragments into the mix. This will ultimately result in discarding or, worse, recalling large quantities. Working with an experienced manufacturer and vetting the manufacturer beforehand can prevent this.

Product defects might also result if ingredients are not properly mixed. A ribbon mixer must be filled to its swept volume for it to work properly, and underfilling the mixer—such as cases of lowered production requirements—will cause ingredient separation. The mixer design, including the volume and profile, among other features, should all be carefully considered in order to get a good mix within the right time frame. The mixer must also be allowed to run for the appropriate duration. Emptying the mixer prematurely ultimately will not save time, as it will create an inconsistent mix.

Material segregation after mixing can also cause product defects. Material segregation often occurs simply through the physics of movement, but it can be prevented by removing or rearranging certain processes.

3. Preventative Maintenance Instead of Equipment Replacements

Preventative maintenance can be easy to overlook, however it’s one of the best ways to reduce costs in food manufacturing. Regularly scheduling maintenance procedures and verifying that they are completed can prevent break-downs, but also prolong the life of expensive equipment. For example, with proper mixer maintenance, your mixer can last for decades. Without it, it can require parts replacements in a few years.

Make time for these essential maintenance procedures:

  • Lubricating drive belts, chains and sprockets
  • Calibrating load cells
  • Checking and replace seals where necessary
  • Check drive belt tension
  • Check mixer alignment
  • Check and replace electrical components where necessary

4. Lower Costs and Save Time With Bulk Ingredients

It’s no mystery that buying in bulk saves money long term. Transitioning from smaller bags to bulk bags also means adding some additional equipment, but it can save time and reduce costs in food processing long-term. Properly installed, a super sack unloader with the right discharge makes it easy to dispense bulk ingredients safely and efficiently.

5. Reducing Liability and Fines Through Design

Some costs are small and add up over time, however regulatory noncompliance or personal injury lawsuits can create heavy fines and legal costs. Reducing these as much as possible can help to reduce costs while also creating a safer product and safer workplace. Observing OSHA regulations for worker safety and the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) are the best ways to reduce expenses from liability.

The following are some of the most common causes of workplace injuries and deaths, which are also easy to avoid:

  • Dust fires and explosions: emphasize the importance of cleaning and maintaining proper ventilation
  • Slip-and-fall accidents: Ensure catwalks have safety railing, power cords are covered, wet floors are clearly marked, and employees have proper safety gear when working from heights.
  • Electrical hazards: Make sure that electrical cords are not damaged, machines are properly and securely grounded, and electrical wiring is always conducted by a licensed electrician.
  • Falling objects: Workers should never walk or stand underneath heavy objects, such as super sacks. If heavy objects move across the facility, make sure the path is clearly marked.
  • Missing safeguards: Safeguards separating workers from dangerous machine parts such as mixing blades or electrical components should not be easily removable, and should be in place at all times.
  • Shortcuts: Even the best safety procedures are ineffective without participation. Prioritize safety, state why these measures are important, and do not incentivize taking safety shortcuts.

6. Remove Downtime With Machine Synchronization

Lost time is essentially lost money. With the right system design, you can synchronize your machines and reduce idle time as much as possible. By introducing some redundancy, you can also reduce the impact of a machine shut-down, while also improving productivity during a fully-functional process.

For example, measuring ingredients as they move through the system removes weighing time. Other devices measure ingredients as they move into or out of a holding vessel. With this fill time aligned with the next step, such as mixing time, measurements remain exact without losing any time between processes. By using two smaller mixers instead of one large mixer, you’ll also be able to continue production even if one mixer requires maintenance, repairs, or replacement.

These measures will help to reduce costs in your food manufacturing facility, and also help to create a more effective, efficient workplace. As you make improvements to your plant, keep these strategies in mind.

Mitigating and Preventing Recalls in Food Processing

preventing recalls in food processing

Food processing plays an essential role in creating the majority of foods for both animals and humans. Ensuring that this process is safe and well-controlled can help to prevent costly and potentially dangerous recalls. Mitigating and preventing recalls in food processing means utilizing good manufacturing practices, safety measures, cleanliness, and careful, repeated testing.

6 Ways to Mitigate and Prevent Recalls in Food Processing

1. Good Manufacturing Practices

The equipment used to process foods is one of the most common causes of recalls. Ensuring that food processing equipment is properly designed and inspected can help to dramatically reduce recalls and increase food safety. Good manufacturing practices include all of the following:

  • Proper welding practices: There should be no spaces for bacteria hide and build up, nor any vulnerable areas that might crack or flake off. This includes proper sealing of all joints, screws and edges, as well as preventing metal burrs or sharps that might flake off and contaminate food.
  • Suitable steel grade: When working with high heat, acids, oils, or abrasive ingredients, using a high-quality, thoroughly tested steel is the best way to prevent recalls in food processing due to metal fragments.
  • Hermetic Sealing: Equipment with tiny, unsealed spaces are natural breeding grounds for pathogens. Hermetic sealing of devices like load cells ensures that bacteria don’t build up, and also extends the life of the equipment by preventing moisture from harming sensitive electronics.

2. Proper Cleaning

Thorough and well-designed cleaning procedures are the first line of defense against food-bourne illness pathogens. Taking time to create and implement a cleaning process that is both effective and easy to follow can help to mitigate and prevent food recalls due to bacteria. This is also an important part of creating a safe and effective HACCP plan. Consider the following when creating and implementing a cleaning program:

Clean in place vs disassembly: Some equipment can be cleaned more thoroughly and effectively using clean-in-place (CIP), while other equipment must be disassembled first. CIP can be ideal for cleaning and sanitizing processes working with liquids, while disassembly and individual cleaning is better suited for solids and powders.

Implementing the right cleaning method is also essential for sanitation. Detergents and cleaning solutions should be strong enough to sanitize the equipment. These can only work if stuck-on oil or other materials are removed first, so scrubbing should be a part of the cleaning process. Finally, the process should be tested to be sure it is effective; if too much bacteria remains after cleaning, the process should be reassessed.

3. Cooking and Freezing

These two processes can easily go awry, and monitoring them closely can mitigate and prevent recalls in food processing due to foodborne illness. Keep in mind that products with high fat or oil content can create pockets of bacteria that resist the cooking process. Both the freezing process and the cooking process should consistently reach the proper temperature for the proper time period. Safeguards should be in place to alert staff if the cooking or freezing temperatures are outside of allowable limits.

4. Proper Storage

Both ingredients and finished products, as well as cleaning solutions, must be stored properly. Improper storage can easily undo all of the other precautions carefully put in place. For storage procedures, keep the following in mind:

  • FIFO: Ingredients should be stored to easily enable first-in-first-out use.
  • Temperature control: Perishable ingredients or finished products should be stored at the correct temperature at all points during storage and shipping (see point above).
  • Separate cleaning solutions: Cleaning solutions, as well as any pest-control products, should be stored separately from ingredients or finished products.

5. Consistent Testing and Verification

Food safety procedures are only effective when they work and when they are followed. Regular inspections and testing can show if these procedures are actually being followed and, if they’re working.

Testing can show if procedures are not being followed, or if they are not working. However, it is also important to find the root of the problem; why the procedure isn’t working or isn’t being followed. Employees might not understand the reason for each step, or a particular procedure might have obstacles, such as faulty equipment or limited time constraints. When employees understand the reason for each procedure and its importance to food safety, it’s more likely to be completed. Similarly, be sure employees have the time and equipment they need to complete a procedure.

6. Lot Traceability

Completely preventing recalls in a high-volume food processing situation is not feasible, but accurate lot tracing can help to mitigate the effects of a recall. Effective lot tracing is essential to consumer safety, and also FSMA regulations. Being unable to trace ingredients and products through processing and shipping can result in uncontrolled illness as well as fines and liability.

An electronic lot tracking system synced with an automated ingredient system is the best way to maintain lot traceability across the supply chain. Just as with your cleaning or food processing safeguards, it is important to verify that this system works. Perform inspections and mock recalls at regular intervals to ensure that tracking is accurate and a product could be effectively recalled using the system in place.

High-quality design, reliable systems and regular verification are the keys to mitigating and preventing recalls in food processing. Ensuring that your food processing, cleaning and recall procedures are effective—and continue to be effective—will help to prevent a recall, and reduce the overall impact if the need arises.