Hygiene mandates in food production and packaging facilities continue to be a critical focus of processors and regulators, yet some companies still cling to cumbersome and less-than-effective methods of washing and sanitizing containers used in the process stream.
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Although existing regulations may not mandate a specific level or methodology of cleaning and sanitizing, there are hygiene and efficiency-related reasons why food processors should pay more attention to this process.
In hand washing operations, including power spraying, there is much room for human error. Workers may not achieve the water temperature required to properly sanitize containers. Even after hand washing, food remnants and cleaning agent residue can remain in the seams and corners of containers put back into use.
By automating the washing process, however, food processors are assured of the complete cleaning and sanitizing of containers every time.
There are additional benefits that add to the strong economic case for integrating automated washing systems. For example, saving on wasted labor and floor space and improving on production throughput are important incentives for many food processors.
“Washing systems are becoming an integral part of the food processing line,” said Mark Corser, president of CM Process Solutions of Corona, Calif., a nationwide supplier of stainless steel hygiene equipment, including commercial and industrial washing systems, for the food processing, pharmaceutical, and distribution industries.
“Instead of manually washing containers with a hose or pressure washer, which introduces risk into the process, more companies are installing systems that automatically meet [their] specific washing and sanitizing needs, and are also adding to their volume capacity as well,” Corser explained. “This approach ultimately impacts product quality.”
Papa John’s, the world’s third-largest pizza chain, attributes much of its success to using better ingredients to make better pizza. One of the key ingredients, of course, is the dough. Thousands of trays of fresh dough are sent daily from the company’s distribution commissaries to stores all over the world.
Fresh dough is a bit more challenging to handle than frozen dough; it is much stickier and leaves residue in the trays. Every tray must be thoroughly washed and completely dried before being reloaded with fresh dough for further distribution.
To help meet this stringent requirement, Papa John’s Dallas, Texas, commissary installed an automated two-lane, four-tank washing system provided by CM Process Solutions to clean and sanitize 2,000 dough trays an hour.
In addition to meeting stringent hygiene standards, a properly designed automated washing system pays off in tray throughput.
“This washing system plays a vital part in the process,” said Dan Farmer of Papa John’s U.S. corporate engineering QCC operations. “The rapid and more or less continuous washing and drying of these trays allows us to automatically meet our volume requirements and ensure consistent cleanliness.”
“However, the real key was ensuring the trays were totally bone dry as they were conveyed from the washer directly to the production area for immediate re-use, and CM Process Solutions guaranteed this and delivered it,” said Farmer.
In addition to the assurance that the automated washing system meets Papa John’s stringent hygiene standards, Farmer added that a properly designed automated washing system also pays off in tray throughput.
“The equipment we selected was priced competitively, met our quality standards, and was also tailored to fit our processing line so that we are easily able to meet the necessary tray cleaning production rate for the commissary operation.”
Farmer noted that this type of system has become the standard throughout Papa John’s commissaries and that his organization has just placed an order for two new systems for delivery this year.
In Northern California, Laura Chenel’s Chevre, an award-winning American pioneer of goat cheese processing, recently installed a customized washer from CM Process Solutions to clean and sanitize its process buggies, which are used to transfer cheese from the mixer to the packaging department at its newly expanded Sonoma County plant.