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Putting the focus on cleanability

25 March 2019

Food Processing finds out more about the importance of choosing a conveyor belt that is easy to clean. 

European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) has created guidelines which help ensure hygienic design of products and equipment used in food production. The principal goal of EHEDG is the promotion of safe food by improving hygienic engineering and design in all aspects of food manufacture.

The new Enhanced Hygienic Conveyors from Wire Belt have been designed to meet these guidelines, in addition to complying with BS EN 1672-2, covering hygiene requirements for food processing machinery, and the EC Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC.  

The new conveyors are designed for use in production facilities where contamination is a prime concern. The key objective during the design process was to facilitate easy and fast cleaning and this has resulted in the conveyors featuring an open, wash-through construction and open leg frames, so there are no hidden areas.  The conveyors are also designed to eliminate crevices and ‘bug traps’, while surfaces are self-draining. Components such as footpads are all made from food-approved materials.

The standard control panel was also given consideration and this has been designed with hygiene in mind, with a sloped top for drainage, IP66 ingress protection and fully stainless steel construction.  

In common with Wire Belt’s established lines, its Enhanced Hygienic Conveyors use standard components across the range, ensuring shorter lead times, simpler servicing and a ready supply of spare parts.  

Commenting on the background to the development of the new conveyor belt design, Ben Thomason, technical sales engineer at Wire Belt, said: “In many food applications ease of access to clean conveyors is a key consideration for hygiene teams, as is having the ability to undertake the task as quickly as possible.  This is not always possible on many existing conveyors.  Listening to end-users, Wire Belt set out to design the new Enhanced Hygienic Conveyor range to facilitate wash-through/clean in place – this saves the hygiene team time as they do not have to dismantle the conveyors to get to hidden areas or blind spots.  No part of the conveyor needs to be removed to get to dead spaces.  All aspects of the conveyor design will facilitate cleaning, with a simplified wash through construction, and because there are no closed sections removal of debris and contaminants is quicker and downtime is reduced.  All surfaces are self-draining to eliminate accumulation of water and cleaning fluids.”

The design of the conveyor belt also took into account the need to reduce the quantity of water and  cleaning products required during washdowns. 

Closed belt types, such as plastic modular, for example, need to be removed from the conveyor and submerged in a bath to allow water and cleaning fluids to penetrate hidden areas within the belts structure. “Our open mesh wire belts, such as the Flat-Flex and the Flex-Turn, can be sanitised with a high-pressure water jet and cleaning fluid,” continued Thomason. “This results in a lower consumption of both water and cleaning product, as well as reducing the man hours required to clean the equipment.”

Some of the most difficult to clean food products include added-value meat and poultry processing, which can leave a residue of oil and excess coating/flavouring on the belt. This can lead to an accumulation of debris around drive shaft assemblies, which are often hard to access for cleaning. The build-up of matter around the gears will not only provide a fertile breeding ground for bacteria, but it will also hinder the proper operation of the conveyor. “Our open conveyor design allows operators to monitor the condition of the complete belt circuit during production as well as making it easier to clean thoroughly during washdown,” said Thomason.

In conclusion, Thomason pointed out that product recalls are one of the biggest threats facing food manufacturers. He said: “Not only will the cost of recovering and replacing recalled products impact profitability, the negative publicity surrounding a recall will also reduce the trust consumers place in the manufacturers brand. A product recall due to foreign matter or bacteria contaminating the product can be avoided by selecting a  conveyor belt that can be cleaned and inspected thoroughly, and which is easily detectable in the event of the belt being damaged during production.” 

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