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Conveyor belt selection advice

06 December 2021

Anna Marcol explains how both hygiene and profitability can be increased by installing the right conveyor belt for the job. 

Despite the best efforts of food plant managers, debris and bacteria can still find their way into the smallest dead spots in a food processing system. This can lead to contamination of tools, equipment surfaces, blades, conveyor frames and conveyor belting that are all often in direct contact with the processed food. While effective cleaning and sanitation plans reduce contamination, hygienically designed equipment and components require less time, water and detergents to clean and sanitise. 

So it is important to ensure that equipment and components are all appropriately hygiene certified for food. This includes meeting minimum hygiene standards in accordance with industry guidelines such as 3-A, NSF or EHEDG, as well as being compliant with the food contact regulations by the FDA or EU 1935/2004 and other national regulations. Food plant managers and equipment operators should carefully consider hygiene-rated equipment and select the best food-contact element for the job, such as having the right belt type and material. But what are the main features to look out for when selecting a belt in food processing applications?

When selecting a belt for food processing applications, hygiene should be the number one consideration. This will not only improve safety, but it will also increase profitability, with less time, water and detergents required to meet the necessary standards. 

A conveyor design supporting sanitary needs should provide easy access to belting from all sides, allowing operators to inspect, clean, sanitise, and validate quickly and effectively. Special attention must be given to conveyor belts that are always in direct contact with the processed food. 

In cases where plastic modular belts are needed because of their intrinsic robustness, reliability, ease of use and sanitation, extra care must be taken to properly clean the belt especially in the hinge area where small particles can accumulate. In this case selecting a belting product that reduces the number of exposed hinges and rods results in less surface engagement for organic debris accumulation and, therefore, reduces the time and resources needed for cleaning. This enables the food processors to save money on the cleaning process itself and means that belting can spend more time doing what it does best, increasing plant throughput.

Furthermore, opting for a smooth and flat conveyor belt design, with the minimum surface covered by hinges and rods can reduce the number of small gaps and pockets where debris might accumulate. With such a design fewer rinse cycles are needed to flush away organic deposits, meaning each cleaning cycle requires less time, water, detergents and sanitisers compared to traditional modular belting solutions. 

When selecting the right food contact material, it is important  that food processors choose a belt that doesn’t change its mechanical properties or wear quickly when regularly exposed to harsh, chemical-based cleaning cycles, at elevated temperatures and with extended contact times. 

Whatever the food processing application, choosing the right conveyor belt, and ensuring equipment is designed with hygiene in mind is pivotal. Not only will it help food processors to comply with industry standards, save time, and resources, but it will also ensure the industry can continue to reduce the dangers of food products contamination.

Anna Marcol is marketing communications manager at Habasit.

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