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Eliminating contamination risks from belts

07 January 2018

Food Processing finds out more about a range of belt solutions that won’t become a hygiene risk. 

Today the food industry needs to be able to keep pace with the ever-increasing demands for hygiene, cleanliness and cost-reduction which means that food processing engineers are always on the look out for suppliers who can offer robust, hygienic and maintenance free solutions.

“Most food will touch a conveyor belt at some point during the production process so, when Looking at a suitable belting solution some critical issues need to be addressed –said David Smith, sales manager at GB Belting. “Firstly bacteriological and/or plastic contamination of food has to be eliminated and plastic modular belts have a very high potential to pose a hygiene problem due to the nature of the product.”

Gaps, splits, pins, holes and voids all pose potential hygiene issues that need to be resolved. Plied conveyor belts can suffer from deterioration if there is inconsistent maintenance and there is the danger they may de-laminate or absorb product through hydrolysis between the plies. These problems can result in belting that is difficult to clean. Additionally, plied conveyor belts can shed plastic if they make contact with other parts of the conveyor which could result strands of fabric in the product being conveyed.

Solid belts with welded teeth can detach and reinforcing cords can, if exposed, wick moisture that subsequently gets into food. "Because GB Belting products are not permeable, keep any shedding to an absolute minimum, are hydrolysis resistant and do not hold onto potential containments they take less time to clean and maintain.

“Our monolithic friction driven belts can be made up to 1,850mm wide and be retrofitted with no or minimal adaption. They are completely solid with no welded drive teeth or reinforcements that could compromise plant hygiene standards," said Smith.

"The latest development along the path to towards hygienic belting is the development of a homogenous or solid thermoplastic conveyor belt. Eliminating fabrics, gaps, voids, holes and other sanctuaries for bacteria is crucial to help the food industry raise the bar in hygiene standards,” added Jeremy Byrne, managing director at GB Belting.

“From process system surveys we identified that some has claimed to be homogenous. However, while they don't have traditional layers, they do contain strands of Aramide fabric running the length of the belt. If the belt suffers even the tiniest of cuts, the belting can habour bacteria and other contaminants. If the operator finds the cut and is unable to quickly replace the product they are faced with lengthy and costly deep cleaning processes so the production line can keep rolling. With our product, if the belt suffers a cut the contaminant can't travel any further."

Equipment checklist?
GB Belting has developed an equipment checklist for belting replacement projects to offer a useful specification the food industry. While these are not meant to be exhaustive, they are a useful guide:

Modular belts – Often comprised of many components and potentially difficult to clean thoroughly. They can suffer by compromising hygiene standards.
Plied textile belts – Generally comprising two or more components, they can be fragile and damage easily, also compromising standards. Plied textile belts with sealed edges and back – Usually manufactured from three or more components, they can be fragile, suffer from edges getting damaged very easily thereby causing hygiene issues.
Dispersed fabric belts  – Made from two or more components, they are durable until fabrics are exposed and bacteria could penetrate the fabric resulting in hygiene issues.

The GB Belting range is available in a variety of materials and treatments to meet and conveying requirements even in tough environments – polyurethane, polyester, antimicrobial treatment, small pulley diameters, structured upper face and resistance to low temperatures. Despite possessing the capability to produce Aramide stranded belts, it is the company’s policy not to apply them in most applications as they are unnecessary and it is felt that they are a risk to good hygiene practices.

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