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.

Enzyme Applications for Animal Feed: Questions and Answers

enzyme applications for animal feed

Enzymes essentially speed up chemical reactions, including metabolic reactions. There are many different types of enzymes, and many different ways to apply them to animal feed. They may be added in liquid or dry form, and the ideal application process depends on the type of feed, the manufacturing process, and more. In this blog post, we’ll discuss a few common questions, problems and solutions in enzyme applications for animal feed.

How Do Enzymes Work?

There are many different types of enzymes, and these useful proteins are now used in a wide range of agricultural and industrial processes. We add different enzymes to different applications to speed up chemical reactions, such as enzymes in laundry detergent to break down stains or enzymes to pre-treat biofuels, but many enzymes are also naturally-occurring, such as those used in digestion.

How Do Enzymes in Animal Feed Work?

Enzymes in animal feed increase the rate at which animals can break down and absorb fats and nutrients. This means the animal can grow faster with fewer nutritional additives and less waste. Phytase, which aids in phosphorus absorption, is particularly important in reducing phosphorus pollution. Phosphorus pollution is a common, negative effect of industrial agriculture which contaminates waterways and creates marine dead zones.

How Are Animal Feed Enzymes Applied?

As previously mentioned, enzymes may be applied in either dry or liquid forms. In dry forms, this might include powder or granulates. These may be added directly to the feed during the mixing process or added as a powder coating post-pelleting. In liquid forms, the enzyme may be diluted in an oil-based or water-based solution, and applied as a liquid coating over the feed post-pelleting.

What Are the Challenges in Enzyme Applications for Animal Feed?

Accurate Dosing

Many suppliers will ship enzymes in highly concentrated forms to reduce shipping costs. In addition, enzymes must be added in carefully measured amounts. Some enzymes can be applied at levels as low as 50 grams per ton of feed. This means accurate dosing is very important. It’s also important to have a clear picture of the enzyme’s potency and how to dilute it properly. This is true for both liquid and dry enzyme applications for animal feed. The measuring and mixing system for the enzyme and carrier must be highly accurate, and calibrated regularly to ensure it remains accurate.

Withstands Heat

Enzymes that are added to the feed prior to pelleting must be heat stable, or able to lose some potency without eliminating the overall effect. Most enzymes will start to break down when exposed to temperatures over 150, however high temperatures are also required to kill bacteria. To solve this problem, the enzyme must be protected from the heating process, applied in amounts where heat will not completely destroy the enzyme, applied after the heating process, or a heat-stable enzyme must be used.

Withstands Pelleting

Pellets require the right levels of moisture and the right density to retain their shape. If the dry enzymes added to the mix reduce the moisture content past a certain level, the pellets may begin to break apart more frequently, causing product loss and waste. Or, when using granulate enzymes, the particles must be the right size for the pellet, or this can also cause the pellets to break apart at later stages. This problem can be solved through careful testing, gentler treatment of the pellets, or by using enzyme applications for animal feed after the pelleting process.

Suitable for Application Equipment

When working with liquid enzymes, the application system must be designed to effectively handle the enzyme as well as the carrier. In some cases, a saltwater solution may be used as a carrier. If this is the case, it’s important to take corrosion into consideration. The spray nozzles and the equipment in general must be able to withstand corrosion from saltwater.

In other cases, the liquid enzyme may be injected into the fat application system. If the enzyme is first diluted with water, it cannot be introduced into the fat, or it will cause the fats to congeal and clog the application system. In some cases, utilizing an atomizing system, such as the Mistcoater, can solve these problems, since it does not require spray nozzles.

Characteristics of enzymes will vary depending on the type of enzyme and the manufacturer. It is important to work with the enzyme manufacturer to determine the optimum conditions for enzyme applications for animal feed. This can be true with the same enzyme manufactured by two different companies. With the enzyme characteristics and application methods in mind, it’s also important to work with your equipment manufacturer, and make sure that the system is designed properly. To learn more about liquid application, microingredient metering systems, and similar equipment, contact us today.

7 Ways Feed Mill Automation Drives ROI

feed mill automation ROI

In any industry, automation is based on goals: solving problems, minimizing risks, and reducing costs. The same is true for feed mill automation. There are a number of ways that feed mill automation can improve the end product and solve or reduce problems throughout the operation. Though some facilities may automate all processes at once, step-by-step automation is also a viable option. Feed mill automation can drive ROI in the following ways, and many of these benefits may occur simultaneously, depending on which process or processes you choose to automate. We’ve updated this post in 2021 to provide more information and some more specific examples of these automation improvements.

7 Ways Feed Mill Automation Drives ROI

1. Reducing Labor Costs

Automation not only ensures that tasks are completed consistently, but also eliminates the need for manual operation. Repetitive tasks no longer require physical labor, and free up manpower for more sophisticated and important jobs. Automation can also protect workers from safety risks, either by removing them from dirty or dangerous environments, or by putting reliable safety controls in place.

Example:

In a manual batching operation, there may be one or multiple scales filling as workers monitor them. As the scales fill, the workers start and stop the process until the scale is filled to a desired amount. During this process, the worker must monitor the process the entire time, or risk over-filling the scale. Making this process efficient either requires multiple workers monitoring multiple scales, or requiring one worker to monitor multiple scales and increasing the likelihood of error. With feed mill automation controls, the system monitors the scales, and one worker can monitor, calibrate and maintain the system.

Reduce error and improve efficiency. Download the Engineer’s Guide to Weighing and Batching >

2. Enhanced Production

Enhanced production is one of the most common factors driving ROI in feed mill automation. With the right design and maintenance, automation can streamline processes and remove the need for breaks and pauses. The right machines can also work at a faster rate.

Example:

Feed mill automation drives ROI by making it easier to run multiple processes at once, and reducing error between each process. For example, a batch mixer must run for a set time period to fully mix major, minor and micro ingredients together. If the batch mixer runs too long, the ingredients can start to separate, and the system runs less efficiently overall. A worker in charge of monitoring the batch mixer can easily become preoccupied with another task, such as monitoring or managing another machine, helping another employee, cleaning up a spill, or many other things. The batch mixer will continue to run until the worker starts the next process. This ultimately delays all upstream and downstream processes too. Feed mill automation helps to prevent overruns and ensures each process flows smoothly into the next.

3. Measurable Regulatory Compliance

Feed mill automation can simplify regulatory compliance for rules like the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), among others. Track and trace is an important part of FSMA compliance, but can be difficult to accurately implement without systematic controls. Tracking lot numbers manually not only introduces error, but takes up workers’ time and energy. Lot tracing can easily be automated, and it will greatly improve accuracy. With a reliable, automatic system in place tracking where your ingredients came from, what they went into, and where the product ultimately went, you can reduce liability and meet compliance requirements with minimal costs.

Example:

Accurate measurements are important for maintaining product quality as well as FSMA compliance. In a manual feed mill operation, accurate measurements are often reliant on record-keeping done by machine operators. A worker might fill a scale, record the amount on a chart, and weigh the next ingredient. However, this presents multiple opportunities for error; accidentally recording the wrong amount, marking the wrong line on the chart, accidentally skipping an ingredient, and many other things. With system automation, these amounts can be automatically and exactly recorded.

4. Consistent Testing

To prevent moisture, toxins and other substances from ruining ingredients and the finished product, proper sampling and testing is essential. With automated sampling and testing, you can gather uniform, accurate information about ingredients and products. Detecting excessive moisture in ingredients from the start will prevent product from being contaminated, and allow you to hold suppliers accountable for defects. Detecting aflatoxins and other harmful substances in ingredients also reduces liability, as well as product loss. With feed mill automation for testing and sampling combined with automated track and tracing, any problems with ingredients or products can be accurately recorded.

Example:

While an automated system cannot require that a test be performed, it can provide reminders that help to reduce error. While it’s easy to forget an important test when things get hectic, or skip it to save time, it’s harder to do when the system explicitly asks if a test has been performed. A simple mechanism like a checklist helps to reduce humor error and reduce the incidence of deliberately skipping a step. For example, adding a test confirmation reminder for aflatoxins upon receiving a corn shipment can help to reduce the chances of using contaminated ingredients.

5. Reducing Batching Errors

Batching is one of the most common areas for feed mill automation, and often offers the highest initial ROI. By automating your batching and mixing processes, you can substantially reduce error and variation. When your recipe is programmatically controlled, corn, soy, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other additives are each exactly measured. With an easily re-programmable controller, you can even change the recipe without significant downtime.

Example:

Microingredients present some of the biggest opportunities for error. Since microingredients are required in much smaller amounts than major or minor ingredients, even seemingly small errors can be significant. In manual systems, microingredients may be added by hand to the mix. It’s very easy to miss a scoop, scoop the wrong ingredient, or add two scoops, especially when a process is repetitive and fast-moving. Microingredient systems measure and add these ingredients automatically, reducing errors significantly.

6. Automatic Routing

Automation of the batching process is usually the first section of the feed mill to be automated, but the addition of downstream routing of material can enhance the payback of the system. If the system has to wait for the operator to setup the routing of material to the downstream packaging or load-out, then valuable production time can elapse while waiting for a route to be selected.

Example:

By reading the amps in use, an automated feed mill system can detect if a conveyor or bucket elevator is currently in use or if it’s finished and ready for refilling. This tells the system where to route the ingredients and helps to prevent delays in between. While an operator might route to the wrong bin or might be working on a different task when a bin is filled, an automated system will switch automatically to the right bin.

7. HACCP

Through most zones, feed mill automation makes hazard analysis and critical control points easier to regulate and monitor. By gathering more data, more often, with less manpower required, you can get holistic, up-to-date information about your production line. You can also eliminate risks altogether by automating repetitive tasks with a high risk of human error. Automated regulation ensures that critical control points are monitored at the same time, in the same way, with no exceptions.

Example:

If the belt on a conveyor or bucket elevator isn’t tracking properly, the bearings aren’t properly lubricated, or the machine is working harder than it’s supposed to, it can cause a spark. Since powders and dust proliferate in the relatively tight space of an elevator shaft, a spark can ignite a powerful and deadly fire or explosion. Automated feed mill systems use current and voltage monitors to track when the conveyor is overworking and either stop the system or require a maintenance check-up.

Before starting or continuing feed mill automation, plan and design your system carefully. Conduct ingredient testing to ensure that the system is suitable for your recipe, and be sure to factor any maintenance costs into your ROI calculations. With the right system automating the right process, you can realize a return quickly and eliminate risks at the same time.

Comparing and Contrasting Liquid Coating Equipment Solutions

comparing liquid system pumps

There are a number of ways to apply liquid coatings to foods and pet food. Using the right liquid coating equipment solutions for your coating type and product can improve product quality, and reduce waste, maintenance expenses, and downtime. In this blog post, we’ll discuss different liquid coating equipment solutions. We’ve updated this blog post in 2021 to give you more information about the latest liquid coating equipment solutions.

Comparing and Contrasting Liquid Coating Equipment Solutions

Screw Conveyor

spray coating screw conveyorAs extruded products move through a screw conveyor, they can also be coated. This requires the use of spray nozzles over the screw conveyor. However, the spray nozzles actually coat a relatively small portion of the product. This means the coating relies on mixing action to properly and uniformly coat the product. Spray liquid coating equipment solutions using screw conveyors don’t provide much mixing action and comparatively little retention. Reducing the screw conveyor flights or using ribbons in place of solid flights can improve the mixing action. Paddles with a slight pitch between the ribbon flights will move the product in the opposite direction of the conveyor, which can also improve the mixing action.

Ideal Application Method

Using a screw conveyor and spray nozzles is a popular method for coating materials. This arrangement can be used for many different liquid coatings and materials, though there are certain circumstances that are ideal. Since the spray nozzles can become clogged when working with liquids that contain high levels of fat, oils, sugars, or salts, it’s ideal to test the viscosity of the liquid first. Since the mixing action is essential to the liquid coating, but it can also break apart pellets or particles that are especially fragile, this method also works best for tougher materials that are likely to retain their shape.

Rotating Drum

The rotating drum is a common liquid coating equipment solution in food and pet food production. With this method, the product tumbles through a tilted drum, across raised flights on the inside. This system provides the unique advantage of adjustable retention. The drum also eliminates pinch points, which can cause fragile products to break. However, this method also has some disadvantages. Similar to the screw conveyor, the rotating drum requires mixing action to work. By putting the spray nozzles into a plenum prior to entry into the drum, this process can be improved.

Ideal Application Method

The rotating drum method is another popular liquid coating method. Since the mixing action is gentler compared to the screw conveyor, and doesn’t have pinch points, this operation can work better for more fragile pellets and other particles. Since this method also offers control over retention time, it can also work better for liquids that require longer periods to soak into the material. Since this method also requires spray nozzles, it’s ideal to work with liquids that aren’t prone to clog and don’t use excessive fats, oils, sugars or salts.

Rotating Disk

spray coating rotating diskThe previous systems all use spray nozzles to coat the product. Systems using spray nozzles have a number of challenges. Spray nozzles can easily clog, especially when working with coatings with heavy fats, oils, sugars or salts. Liquid coating equipment solutions that bypass spray nozzles can avoid many problems resulting from clogs. Rotating disk applicators like the Mistcoater use spinning disks to apply liquid to the product. The liquid coating drops onto a disk spinning at a high RPM, which atomizes it into a fine mist and covers the product. This method not only provides uniform coating, but also requires less maintenance.

Ideal Application Method

The rotating disk liquid coating system provides versatility and efficiency. Since the rotating disk applicator doesn’t require mixing action to coat the material, this can be ideal for fragile pellets and particles. Since there are no nozzles to clog, this can also work well for liquids with a high oil, fat, sugar or salt content. For systems that are prone to clogging or crumbling fragile particles, a spinning disk system can be an ideal upgrade to reduce maintenance costs, reduce material loss, and improve finished product quality.

Batch Mixer

These liquid coating equipment solutions are usually located just before load-out or packaging. These mixers used paddles, or a combination of ribbons and paddles to move coatings over the material. This allows the product to move through the mixer quickly without getting damaged. A vacuum can also be drawn on this mixer, allowing it to draw the air out of the product and then draw liquid into the product when the vacuum is released. With this system, it’s also easier to add a light level of liquid to the product. The disadvantage is that this system requires more headroom, and it can be expensive.

Ideal Application Method

The batch mixer liquid coating method also offers versatility and efficiency. With the ability to choose between vacuum coating and mixing action to coat the materials, it’s easier to accommodate a wider array of materials and liquids with varying properties. Vacuum coating can help to increase liquid retention, as it allows the liquid coating to enter the pores of the pellets or granules. This method also makes it possible to add multiple liquid layers to the product. If the liquid coatings require separate applications to retain their properties or to fully absorb into the product, combining batch mixing with vacuum coating may work best.

Each of these methods has advantages and disadvantages. Finding the right liquid coating equipment solutions means finding a good fit for your product, coating, and the rest of your existing equipment. Work closely with your system engineer and provide as much information as possible about the coating and materials you’re working with. This will help you to optimize your system.

Solving Application Problems in Dry Pet Food Palatants

dry pet food palatants

In our previous post, we discussed some of the problems and solutions in applying liquid pet food palatants. Pet food palatants are also available in dry forms, which present different advantages, as well as different challenges. Solving problems in dry pet food palatant application requires a close look at the application equipment, as well as storage procedures, controls, weights, and more.

Dry Pet Food Palatants: Problems and Solutions

The first form of pet food palatants were dry additives known as “digests.” These digests were proteins that were broken down and applied to dry foods in order to mimic the taste and smell of meat that cats and dogs naturally crave. Today, pet food palatants are much more diverse, but dry palatants still play an important role in pet food processing.

Storage for Dry Palatants

As you might expect, dry palatants will not withstand moisture well. Dry palatants are made to adhere to products with the introduction of fats or oils, so too much moisture early on will cause them to stick together and spoil. Proper storage is essential, especially in humid environments. The dry palatants should be completely sealed until they are ready for application.

Flow Control

Though dry palatants will not cause clogs the way liquid palatants will, they do cause other problems. Dry materials are susceptible to a number of flow problems. The materials might stick together from moisture or static electricity, or they might stick to equipment surfaces. Agitation will keep the dry digest flowing properly, and stainless steel construction or non-stick coating will prevent sticking.

Retention

For the dry palatants to stick to the product properly, retention time is important. The dry palatants are usually applied after a layer of fat or oil, which allows the palatants to stick. If the fats or oils do not have time to absorb properly, the layer will be too thin to absorb the palatants. Or, if the layer is too thick, it will encapsulate the palatants. Thorough equipment testing is the best way to ensure that each stage in the process works properly.

Uniformity

Uniform application is also an important consideration. For the palatants to be uniformly applied, the fat or oil must also be uniformly applied. If you are finding a lot of dry palatant at the bottom of the pet food bag, the dry layer is not sticking properly. Changing the application point or the amount of liquid used on the surface can help to solve this problem.

Application

Dry digest is typically applied at a lower rate than liquid palatants, usually between .5 and 2.5% percent. With this relatively low amount, a light, even layer over the product is especially important. A vibratory spreader or a rotary slinger can effectively and evenly spread the palatants over the surface of the product.

Accuracy

With the low amount of dry palatants used, an accurate and consistent control system is also important for measuring the flow of all ingredients. With more accurate instruments to measure the flow rate, the more accurate the application will be. In the case of dry palatant application on kibble, the flow of the kibble is considered the master flow, and the flow of the other ingredients are slaved to the master flow as a percentage.

Verification

Proper application of dry palatants requires consistency, uniformity and accuracy. Relatively small environmental changes can easily disrupt this process. Temperature, humidity, and flow rates should remain consistent. The equipment should also be monitored and verified to ensure it is working properly.

Dry palatants and wet palatants work together to make nutritious pet food appealing to dogs, cats, and other animals. When application processes behind these additives work properly, the system can work efficiently and the finished product is high-quality. The right system design can solve many of these problems from the start and keep operations running smoothly for years to come.

Solving Application Problems in Wet Pet Food Palatants

application methods in liquid palatants

Palatants give pet food the taste and aroma that cats and dogs naturally crave in their food. However, applying palatants presents a number of challenges to pet food processors. Pet food palatants can be dry or wet, and each has unique advantages and disadvantages. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at application problems and solutions in wet pet food palatants.

Pet Food Palatants Liquid Coating Solutions

Pet food palatants can be derived from plant or animal proteins. Animal-based liquid palatants can be produced through heat, enzymes, or acids to create a thick gravy-like slurry. This slurry is usually an oil- or water-soluble suspension. It may contain suspended solids, and it may also be highly viscous, hygroscopic, acidic and fatty.

During application, palatants are almost always applied with a layer of fat or oil. The fat or oil is applied first, given time to settle, and the palatant is applied. If these layers are not applied properly, the palatants can become encapsulated in the fats, or the palatants will not adhere properly.

Spray Nozzle Clogs

Applying liquid palatants often involves the use of spray nozzles. However, thick suspensions can quickly clog spray nozzles. To prevent this, the spray nozzle pump should be capable of application at both high and low flow rates. It is also important to monitor the pressure during pumping. If the pressure builds up, the spray nozzles have probably clogged and the coating will not be uniform. For this reason, it’s also helpful to observe the spray pattern and verify that the liquid coating system is working properly.

Another solution to this common problem is removing the need for spray nozzles all together. Some liquid application systems use spinning disks to atomize the liquid and therefore do not need to be monitored for clogs. These liquid application systems are not suspect to back-pressure buildup, and can be highly effective in applying fats, oils and other challenging suspensions.

Back-Pressure Build-Up

Liquid palatants are typically used at a relatively low percentage rate between 1-4%. To maintain this level, the pump must be able to work accurately and consistently. Pressure build-ups, as previously mentioned, can cause problems with the pump. Positive displacement pumps are capable of pumping against back-pressure, so these will help to keep application rates consistent. The pump should also be designed to handle materials with low lubricity and high viscosity, or they will wear out quickly and require frequent maintenance.

Acidity

Equipment used in the application of liquid palatants must be able to withstand acids. This includes the pump components and application system. Over time, acids will wear down equipment that is not designed for this purpose. Food grade stainless steel equipment will generally withstand the acidity in palatants and last longer than other materials.

Oxidation and Storage

When fats and oils interact with oxygen, lipid oxidation occurs. This causes the lipids to break down into other components, such as hydroperoxides and aldehydes. Ultimately, this degrades the appearance, nutrition, taste, texture and odor of the palatants and the pet food. While lipid oxidation can and does occur at every stage of production, transport, storage and use, reducing oxidation as much as possible at the processing stage is essential for maintaining the quality of the palatants prior to sale. Proper storage for the palatants can help to decrease lipid oxidation. The palatants and oils should interact with the air as little as possible until they are applied, and then the product should be sealed within the package.

Storage temperature is another important consideration. Liquid palatants are easier to pump at a higher temperature, usually between 70-110F. However, prior to application, the palatants should be stored at the manufacturer’s recommended temperatures. Separation can also occur in the tank. Agitation in the tank can keep the suspension homogenized.

Working with liquid pet food palatants can be challenging, but these additives play a vital role in producing pet foods that are both nutritious and appealing to pets. Optimizing the palatant storage and application system—and being aware of potential problems—can help to increase system efficiency and product quality. In our next blog post, we’ll address application challenges and solutions in dry pet food palatants.

Optimizing Pet Food Production with Palatants

pet food palatants

The ultimate goal in pet food production is to give companion animals the nutrition they need to stay healthy and live long, happy lives. However, even the healthiest, highest-quality pet food won’t be effective if pets don’t want to eat it. This is where palatants come in. Pet food palatants give all types of pet food the taste, aroma and texture that pets crave. Pet food palatants have changed over the years, improving pet food and processing, but also presenting new challenges.

What Are Pet Food Palatants?

Dogs use 1,600 taste buds to detect which foods are edible and good for them. Cats use 473 taste buds. Both animals can discern between different flavors, such as sour, bitter and salty, and this helps them determine what they should eat or what they want to eat.

Pet food palatants are designed to mimic the sensory experience a dog or cat experiences from their natural food source, mainly meat. This makes pet food more appetizing to pets. Palatants can be dry or wet, and they are often combined together. They are used in dry and wet pet food varieties, as well as treats, rawhides, tablets and more. They can be derived from animal or plant proteins.

The first pet food palatants were called “digests.” They were enzymatically broken down into dry proteins and added to pet food. Palatants have changed a great deal over the years, and continue to play an important role in making nutritious pet food enticing to pets.

The Application Process

The process for properly applying pet food palatants is important to ensure they are absorbed by the product. Internal palatants may be added to the product itself during processing and also added as a coating. For the coating to adhere and absorb properly, a layer of fat or oil is distributed over the product. Then, the liquid palatants are added, followed by the dry palatants.

Finding the Right Pet Food Palatants

The first challenge in pet food palatants is finding the right palatants for the mix. Some palatants are formulated to be much richer in flavor, scent or texture, while others are more mild. Different palatants also offer different protein and nutrient content, depending on their source and how they are processed.

To find the right pet food palatants, pet food processors and researchers consider the following:

  • The palantant richness compared to the richness of the pet food.
  • Palatant composition, including protein content, nutrient content, salts, etc.
  • The palatant thickness, suspended solids and processing equipment.
  • Product claims, such as plant-based, grain-free, natural, low-fat, non-GMO etc

It’s important to consider the end result of the pet food product as well as the application process of the palatants. Since palatants are made from fats and oils, they can more easily cause problems with coating equipment.

Testing Pet Food Palatants

The best way to assess whether or not pet food palatants actually make pet food appetizing to pets is to test them. This is usually conducted through a bowl test. A dog or cat is given two different pet foods, and the animal’s reaction shows how well the palatants work.

Though the bowl test may seem straightforward, researchers must take a few important considerations into account. For example, the way a pet initially reacts to the food may be different from their ongoing reaction. A pet may be initially drawn to one type of food, dislike the taste, and then try another. Dogs and cats also have different eating habits that change the bowl test measurements. While dogs will eat their food more quickly, cats will eat and return to the bowl multiple times. Researchers study these reactions and many other factors when considering the effectiveness of pet food and pet food palatants.

Trends in Pet Food Palatants

As pets have become increasingly important in their owners’ lives, owners are seeking foods that can help their pets lead longer, healthier lives. Pet owners are increasingly looking for pet foods that are more natural, contain more wholesome ingredients, and provide better nutritional support. The market for products with “clean” labels—containing no meat byproducts, allergens, artificial flavors, colors, etc—and fresher ingredients has grown. Pet food palatants are still an important part of these products, however keeping the products fresh has introduced new challenges. These fresh or raw ingredients are more difficult to protect from oxidation and spoilage. Pet food processors and equipment manufacturers are developing new strategies to support this growing market.

Pet food palatants play an essential role in pet food production. Different types of palatants also present different advantages and challenges. In our next blog posts, we’ll discuss equipment challenges and solutions when applying pet food palatants.

Common Recall Risks in Pet Food Processing: Part II

common recall risks in pet food processing

In our previous post, we discussed a number of recall risks in pet food processing, including bacteria, chemicals and heavy metals. In this post, we’ll discuss additional recall risks affecting the pet food processing industry. This includes two of the most common and most dangerous recalls risks; mycotoxins, specifically aflatoxins, and trace mineral inaccuracies.

Common Recall Risks in Pet Food Processing

Mycotoxins, Storage and Testing

Bacteria and chemicals are not the only recall risks in pet food processing. Mold toxins are another common cause of recalls in pet food processing. Molds that grow in a wide variety of grains, seeds, nuts and grasses produce mycotoxins, which are toxic to animals and people. The most harmful among these are aflatoxins, potent carcinogens and mutagens commonly affecting corn. Effects of aflatoxicosis include liver damage, liver failure, cancer, and an inability to process or metabolize nutrients, among other effects. Due to their high toxicity, the acceptable level of aflatoxins set by the FDA is low, at 20 parts per billion for human and pet foods.

Aflatoxins Thriving in Dry Weather

Aflatoxins are common in corn and can be found in a wide variety of products using corn-based ingredients. These toxins are also very difficult to manage, and continue to be a source of recall risks for pet food processors. According to the FDA, “In 1998, 2005, 2011, and 2013 aflatoxin
contamination of dog and cat food resulted in illness, dog mortalities, and extensive recalls of
affected dog and cat food.”

While many harmful molds and toxins proliferate during warm, humid, wet conditions, aflatoxins are particularly difficult to manage because of their unusual tendency to thrive during hot, dry conditions. Aflatoxin risks are high in 2020 due to hot, dry weather across regions with high corn and grain production. Other damaging incidents, such as wind storms, hail and insect damage has made crops more susceptible to aflatoxins.

Relationships With Suppliers Are Key

This pet food recall risk is also difficult for pet food processors to manage. Aflatoxins are resistant to operations like cooking, which kill other contaminants. Reducing the risk of aflatoxins mostly falls on grain harvesters and suppliers. Improper storage, testing, drying and handling before and after harvest can cause grains contaminated with aflatoxins to enter the pet food supply chain. Pet food processors with a high level of vertical integration and supply chain management and visibility may have the best opportunity to mitigate this problem. Other pet food processors must take care to test ingredients for toxins and maintain close partnerships with reliable suppliers. Facility managers must also take care to prevent ingredient mixing; mixing clean grain or ingredients with contaminated ingredients is not a sufficient solution to reduce the level of aflatoxins.

Trace Minerals and Inaccurate Recipes

Both humans and animals require a number of trace vitamins and minerals for optimal health. Pet food processors may use mineral powders or liquids to give pet food the trace minerals and nutrients that animals need to stay healthy. Trace vitamins and minerals may come from organic or inorganic sources. The source can impact whether or not the substance can be effectively absorbed. In many cases, an inaccurate recipe can make pet foods harmful to pets, either by using too much or too little of an ingredient.

A Careful Balance

B-complex vitamins, including B-12, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, thiamine, pyridoxine, and biotin, all effect metabolism, nervous system function, and skin and fur health. Trace minerals, like zinc, manganese, copper, selenium, iodine and iron, play a variety of roles in an animal’s metabolic system, nervous system, immune system, joint and bone health, and much more. All of these vitamins and minerals are required in very small amounts. However, a deficit will start to weaken essential function. Unfortunately, an excess can also cause health problems.

Excessive vitamin D levels are one cause of recalls in pet food processing. In small amounts, vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium and phosphorus. It’s particularly important for supporting muscle and bone growth in young animals. However, too much vitamin can be toxic, causing illness, kidney failure and death. Many other trace vitamins and minerals have similar, very narrow requirements.

The Importance of Accurate Formulation

Accurately measuring macronutrients is easier, since the tolerances tend to be wider. However, ensuring the right mix of trace nutrients requires careful ingredient understanding, as well as a highly accurate distribution system. As previously mentioned, the organic or inorganic source of the ingredient will play a role in how it is absorbed and how it reacts during processing. Thiamin, for example, can be easily destroyed during some cooking processes. In other cases, an trace mineral may appear in the formula, but the animal cannot actually absorb the inorganically-derived substance. All of these aspects, and many more, play a role in the optimal recipe.

With the right vitamins and minerals selected, a reliable micro ingredient system is also essential. Using too much or too little of these ingredients can have deadly consequences, so it’s essential to keep weighing instruments well-calibrated. Automation at this stage can also help to prevent costly errors, and ensure that a recipe is consistent. Integrating a tracking and tracing system is also important. This way, if an error occurs and a lot contains too much of a trace ingredient, it can be removed or recalled more easily.

Food recalls in pet food processing can come from many different directions, just like recalls in food processing for humans. It is impossible to account for all of these risks 100% of the time. Even the most detailed testing and sanitation procedures can leave invisible toxins, microbes, and chemicals untouched. This is why preventative as well as reactive measures are necessary. Preventive measures, like detailed maintenance, proper equipment design, testing, and hazard analysis and help to stop risks before they start. When contamination does occur, reactive measures like tracking and tracing, and recall procedures will help to reduce harm.

Common Recall Risks in Pet Food Processing: Part I

recall risks in pet food

Even when recall procedures are well-practiced and well-known throughout the company, a recall is still a turbulent time. Sometimes recalls take place due to improper sanitation procedures or a lack of testing, and other times it may simple result from an unfortunate accident. Food for human consumption as well as animal consumption can all face recalls. Understanding the biggest recall risks in pet food processing, and how to mitigate these risks, can help you avoid these instances.

Common Recall Risks in Pet Food Processing

Bacteria and Improper Cooking

Bacteria present perhaps the biggest recall risk in pet food processing, just like food for human consumption. A number of bacteria can harm pets in similar ways as humans, though the risk of human infection from handling pet food is much higher. This is one of the reasons that pet food and food for humans are held to similar sanitation standards.

Just like food for human consumption, pet food is also susceptible to contamination from Salmonella, Listeria, and E.Coli bacteria, the most common causes of contamination and food recalls. Cooking at high temperatures generally destroys these bacteria and makes pet food safe for consumption. However, a number of things can go wrong. Fats and oils can create safe pockets for bacteria during this process, ovens may not reach the right temperature, or contamination can occur at other points during the process.

Wet pet food or treats often contain raw ingredients as well, which presents greater risks of foodborne illness. However, all types of pet food can be susceptible to harmful bacteria. Maintaining and verifying proper sanitation procedures, hazard analysis, testing, and recall procedures can help to mitigate the risk of a bacteria-related recall in pet food processing.

Chemicals and Contamination

One of the most well-known and widespread pet food recall cases was the melamine-related recall in 2007. Thousands of pets around the world sickened and died during this time, and the cause eluded researchers for weeks. The pets showed signs of kidney failure, though the chemical responsible for the illness, as well as which pet food brands were affected, was difficult to pinpoint.

Tracing the Cause

The cause of the widespread illness was ultimately found to be contaminated wheat gluten, rice protein and vegetable protein. These raw materials made their way into many different pet food types and brands, making it difficult to trace and stop the spread. The ingredients were contaminated with melamine, an industrial chemical, and possibly cyanuric acid. Melamine has many uses, including an industrial binding agent, flame retardant, and even a fertilizer. However, the presence of melamine and cyanuric acid caused kidney failure in pets.

How melamine and cyanuric acid got into pet food remains uncertain. Accidental chemical contamination during the processing of wheat gluten, rice protein and vegetable protein may have occurred. Since melamine, cyanuric acid and other additives can increase the apparent protein content of these ingredients, the contamination may have been deliberate, though the effects were unexpected.

Challenges in Detection

Testing is one way to prevent chemical contamination through raw ingredients. Ingredient testing can show the presence of many other contaminants, though it is more difficult with melamine. In testing, melamine mimics the appearance of protein, so it is difficult to detect. With difficult contaminants like this, effective tracking, tracing and recall measures are vital.

Heavy Metals and Pollution

Heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury are also causes of recalls in pet food processing. In very small amounts, heavy metals are not necessarily toxic, and may even be helpful, as many trace minerals are. However, in higher concentrations, heavy metals are highly toxic and can have many negative health effects. The FDA provides maximum allowable concentrations of these metals to inform testing and recall procedures.

Bioaccumulation and Heavy Metals

In some cases, heavy metals may find their way into pet food from outside sources, such as paint chips or chemicals. In many cases, however, heavy metals enter pet food in the same way that they enter food for human consumption. This is generally through polluted air, water, and soil. A number of industrial processes generate arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury as byproducts, which then make their way into the air through smoke and ash, water through effluent, and into soil through dumping or through the water cycle. Vegetation absorbs these metals, and transfers them to other animals, including chicken, beef, and fish. These metals then transfer up the food chain and accumulate inside predatory animals. When heavy metal concentrations are particularly high, accumulation speeds up and can sicken animals faster.

While humans generally consume a wide variety of meats, grains, fruits and vegetables, pets often consume the same ingredients throughout their lifetime. Since pets, like humans, cannot process larger doses of heavy metals, the elements build up in their system over time (bioaccumulation). Toxicity builds up until it creates health problems. When pet foods do not contain high levels of heavy metals, this generally does not impact pets until much later in life, if at all. However, high levels of heavy metals can cause health problems quickly.

Preventing Heavy Metal Toxicity with Testing

The process of bioaccumulation is generally out of pet food processors’ hands. This process can only be reduced by regulating environmental pollution, monitoring potentially hazardous industrial processes and chemicals, and properly cleaning toxic waste and spills. When ingredients are exposed to toxic chemicals or heavy metal contamination, testing is key. High levels of heavy metal toxicity can be shown through proper testing. Raw ingredients, generally animal products though sometimes polluted grains, should be tested regularly. Once again, recall, tracking and tracing measures are also essential.

Preventative measures, such as good manufacturing practices for equipment and product testing can help to prevent these recall risks. However, no system is 100% effective. Reactive measures, such as track and tracing systems and recall simulations, can help to mitigate the damage if a recall does occur. Both of these measures are essential. In our next blog post, we’ll discuss additional recall risks and how to prevent them, including the risk of aflatoxin contamination and trace mineral inaccuracies.

Process Improvements to Increase Efficiency in Pet Food Processing

process verification in manufacturing

Increasing efficiency can mean many things. It might mean decreasing waste, lowering costs, improving speed, or increasing overall production. There are many ways to go about this. These improvements can also be difficult to compare or analyze. In this blog post, we’ll discuss a few of the most readily available process improvements specifically in pet food processing. These improvements can help to decrease waste, improve process speed, and improve overall efficiency at your pet food processing facility.

Process Improvements to Increase Efficiency in Pet Food Processing

Optimizing Liquid Coating Systems

Liquid coating systems present a number of challenges to pet food processing facility managers, as well as opportunities for improving efficiency. Pet food facilities working with liquid coatings that are high in fat content, like many dry pet food processing plants, often struggle with clogs and pressure backups. Liquid coating nozzles can easily become clogged in these situations, requiring frequent cleaning, maintenance and replacements. Overall, this requires downtime and eats into production time. Pressure backups also reduce the equipment’s lifespan. When clogged nozzles do not coat products evenly, this can also result in product defects and losses.

Comparing Liquid Coating Equipment

Finding the right liquid coating process and equipment can increase the efficiency of this process dramatically. Your coating system must be designed to suit your liquid coating product, as well as the surrounding processes. The liquid coating must also have enough time and opportunity to evenly coat the product and properly absorb.

Considering alternative liquid coating solutions can help to optimize coating quality, reduce maintenance, and even speed up the process. Even making slight alterations to the mixing process, such as reducing screw conveyor flights or introducing pitched paddles can increase the mixing action and improve the uniformity of the coating. If the spray nozzles are consistently causing problems, consider a system that bypasses spray nozzles, such as a spinning disk atomizing system.

Automated Micro Ingredient Systems

Some pet food formulas require the addition of micro ingredients, such as vitamins and minerals. A reliable system for adding micro ingredients can help to reduce waste, improve organization, reduce process time, and improve tracing. Adding ingredients by hand introduces the opportunity for waste and error. Automated micro ingredient systems allow you to measure ingredients quickly and exactly. With the right micro ingredient systems and tracking system integration, you can also save time on FSMA-required lot tracking.

Scale Calibration

An important aspect of an efficient micro ingredient system is accurate weighing devices. When weighing small amounts of ingredients, accuracy is essential. Be aware of effects that can make your load cells inaccurate, such as temperature changes, load cell creep, interference, or a lack of calibration. Keep in mind that small mistakes in measurements can add up; a minor weighing error with as little as .5% overuse ultimately means wasting .5% of the total product purchased.

FSMA rules require that pet food processing facilities track and trace ingredients, just like food for human consumption. Automated ingredient systems can help trace ingredients from the start of the process until the finished product. A fully integrated system can keep necessary documentation and also work with your labeling system.

Process Improvement Assessments

Go through process improvements step by step, and compare all the costs and expenses equally. Remember to include not only upfront investment costs on one side of the equation, but also maintenance, training, or installation. On the other side, include all the benefits you’ll receive, such as process speed improvements, reduced waste, decreased downtime, and lowered maintenance costs long term. Take a look at the process improvements and efficiency upgrades that present the biggest opportunities first. Equipment or processes that are causing waste and delays should be examined first, as these will present the biggest opportunities for improvement.

With the right systems, equipment upgrades and process speed coordination, you can optimize the most essential aspects of your pet food processing facility. Assess each process first to find where opportunities exist. Prioritize each improvement, and take them on step-by-step, as opportunities become available.