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Clean thinking

19 September 2016

Emma de-Alwis highlights key hygiene information that food manufacturers need to take into consideration when installing new technology. 

To produce high quality and safe food products, hygienic design, maintenance and use of food production equipment is vital. Design should be balance of operational requirements (personnel and process safety) and hygienic requirements (food safety). There are many key hygiene questions that need to be answered before installing new equipment. This includes the following:

What are the risks or hazards? Risks to the consumer may be biological, physical, chemical or allergenic. The severity of these risks depends on the product, the shelf-life, consumer and many other aspects. The equipment used in food production must not bring about an unacceptable change in the food composition, deteriorate organoleptic characteristics or bring about danger to human health. 

Where is the equipment located? Equipment must be installed in a way that allows adequate cleaning and maintenance of the equipment and the surrounding area. EHEDG (European Hygienic Engineering Design Group) suggests that a distance away from the floor, wall, ceiling and other structures, is dependent on the equipment width – for items smaller than 90 cm wide a 20 cm clearance is advisable, where as for items above 210 cm a clearance above 60 cm is desirable (Guideline 44).

How is it designed, maintained and cleaned? The machinery directive (Directive 2006/42/EC) states that machinery intended for use with foodstuffs must be designed and constructed in such a way as to avoid any risk of infection, sickness or contagion. The materials used to construct the equipment must be suitable for the application to which they are intended and must be cleanable before each use. Smooth surface finishes and limited angles, corners or crevices help prevent microbial or insect niches and areas for organic matter to gather, while also making the task of cleaning easier. Sufficient drainability is important, as stagnant water or cleaning chemicals within a piece of equipment present a risk to the product. It is also important that no ancillary substances (for example lubricants) come into contact with food.

When purchasing equipment always consider the damaging effect that harsh environments within a factory may have – through humidity, fluctuating temperature and cleaning chemicals, for example. Planned preventative maintenance is also important to establish when installing a new piece of equipment. It is vital before commissioning equipment, to also consider the time it will take to clean and the suitability of the cleaning method. The more nooks, crannies and difficult to reach areas; the longer cleaning will take, meaning longer downtimes. Validation of cleaning methods is an important step when designing cleaning schedules. 
Who can I ask for advice? There are plenty of resources available in relation to hygiene and machine installation. Standards such as EN 1672-2:2009 and EN ISO 14159:2008 provide information in relation to hygienic design of machinery and support the objectives of the machinery directive. Campden BRI provides advice and guidance on food and drink production, including hygiene.  EHEDG also provides helpful guidance and practical advice in implementing legislation into design practices and manufacturing processes. It has also just created a regional branch for the UK and Ireland to promote the principles of hygiene engineering in the UK/IE food industry. 

Document 8 (Hygienic equipment design criteria (2004) and most recently Document 45 part 1 (Cleaning Validation in the Food Industry - General Principles (2016) contain a vast amount of useful information and can be freely downloaded from the EHEDG website.
Emma de-Alwis is a hygiene specialist at Campden BRI

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