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Tips for an HACCP friendly floor

16 January 2017

When aiming to create an efficient, productive and regulatory compliant food and beverage facility getting the floor right is critical. Food Processing reports. 

If a floor fails then it could harbour dangerous pathogens and will pose a contamination risk to the produce onsite, which is unacceptable in the food industry. 

To reduce the chance of a contamination incident, in areas where consumable food and beverage products are being produced, processed, packaged or stored, exposed concrete slabs need to be covered using a specialist flooring system national and European legislation requires that floors meet a set standard, with the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines of food safety often being used as the benchmark.

The Food Safety & Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, for example, reiterates Article 5 (1) of Regulation 852/2004 of the European Parliament, which states that food business operators put in place, implement and maintain a permanent procedure or procedures based on the HACCP principles.

The HACCP management system has been designed to provide a guideline for building materials in order to safeguard against the risk of food contamination events. These guidelines cover the entire process – from harvesting to consumption – and are targeted around preventing problems from occurring in the first place.

HACCP emphasises the importance of seamless and impervious flooring, as seams, joints, grout lines and gaps can become breeding sites for bacteria and mould. A seamless surface will help streamline any cleaning regime, quickly washing away unwanted substances. 

Traditional food and beverage flooring materials, such as thermoplastic coverings, terrazzo, epoxy resins and polyurethane screeds all meet this HACCP criteria thanks to the seamless, impervious and easy-to-clean finish they create.

It is important to ensure that the floor is able to maintain these properties for an extended period of time, otherwise a HACCP compliant finish could be compromised and degraded by the site’s workload. 

General conditions within the food and beverage industry can affect an insufficiently robust finish. The floor could be subjected to fats, hot oils, blood, sugar solutions and natural food acids as well as steam cleaning, pressure washing, hot water wash downs and the use of aggressive cleaning agents. Many of these factors can cause substantial damage to an uncoated concrete floor due to their corrosive nature. 

Seamless surfaces
Seamless resin-based surfaces are increasingly being specified on account of their hygienic profile and hardwearing characteristics. Thick polyurethane systems are especially applicable, as they can withstand all of the above challenges as well as coping with heavy impacts, foot traffic and thermal shock for the long term. As a general rule, the thicker the system the longer its service life and the better able it will be to withstand damage. 

To meet the HACCP standard, floors also need to allow for adequate drainage and cleaning, facilitating the fast and effective removal of excess liquid and slippery contaminants. Incorporating easily cleanable stainless steel drainage and laying the coating to a fall will ensure that waste liquid flows in the right direction. The seamless nature of polyurethane flooring means that unwanted water, liquids, oils and greases won’t be impeded from moving towards the drainage channel.

An expansion joint on either side of a drainage channel will counteract the fact that the stainless steel drain will have a different coefficient of expansion to the coating. Without this the two materials will struggle to expand next to each other during temperature fluctuations and the coating could crack. A split along the drainage channel edge could lead to contamination build up and water ingress. 

Going forward, food and beverage businesses need to keep a close eye on how the HACCP guidelines and protocols may apply to them, as chances are, that they are going to become – or indeed already are – essential to meeting the standard required to trade domestically and abroad.  

The international importance of HACCP is underlined by the number of producers in key markets around the world eager to create production facilities that meet this standard. Flowcrete told Food Processing about Chef’s Pantry in Braeside, Australia, for example, which installed 1,200m2 of the polyurethane system Flowfresh SR earlier this year in its vegetable processing facility, thanks to the fact that it is HACCP International certified. 

This choice was made so that the fresh food distribution business could rest assured that the floor underfoot would maintain all the regulatory and hygiene properties necessary to safely produce over 90 tonnes of fresh products every week. 

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