According to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, more than 13 million pounds of beef, pork, poultry, and mixed-meat products were recalled in 2013 alone. More than 12 million pounds of these were “Class I” recalls, which means that there was a real threat to consumer safety and the potential for outbreak of illness as a result of eating the recalled food.
Many of the recalled products include packaged food, such as frozen meals and snacks, and ready-to-eat (RTE) meats and the majority were removed from store shelves because of the presence of dangerous bacteria, including Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC), Listeria monocytogenes, and Salmonella. Just as hazardous to some consumers, other causes for recall in 2013 included the presence of undeclared allergens and foreign materials that found their way into finished food products. In addition to the primary importance of product and consumer safety, recalls are also extremely costly to brand owners and can result in irreparable damage to brand reputation resulting from a loss of consumer confidence.
As food and beverage brand owners know, manufacturing consumer packaged goods is a complex process involving many steps, equipment, and personnel. In an extremely crowded and competitive marketplace, brand owners need to bring products to market in a hurry. However, from processing and packaging to storage and shipping, there are many potential sources of contamination that can jeopardize the safety and integrity of consumer products.
This November, processing and packaging equipment suppliers will help brand-owners by showcasing solutions that make sterilization easier, minimizing the risk of human error and preventing the cross-contamination of ingredients. PACK EXPO International 2014 (McCormick Place, Chicago; Nov. 2-5, 2014) will allow manufacturers to explore the latest packaging technologies and insights to meet safety demands and prevent contamination.
While food safety programs and zoning principles are key tools in maintaining a contamination-free facility, it is equally important to take a close look at where most of the direct food contact in a manufacturing facility takes place—the processing and packaging equipment itself.
Occam’s Razor, the well-known problem-solving paradigm, asserts the simplest answer is often the right one. Maintaining a contamination-free facility often comes down to a simple, yet key, factor—keeping equipment clean. While it might sound obvious, food and beverage manufacturing equipment can be large and complex with many difficult-to-reach areas. In keeping with Occam’s Razor, equipment design and material specification can play a major role in making required cleaning easier to accomplish effectively. Several recent advances in manufacturing technologies are specifically geared towards helping brand owners deal with the issue of contaminants in their processing facilities. Equipment is being designed with sanitation in mind, resulting in processing and packaging machinery that is easier to disassemble and clean with little operational downtime.
For example, the re-designed RPF Rotary Piston Filling Machine from Cozzoli Machine Company (Booth #S-2541) features a quick-change format, allowing operators to easily remove its pistons and fillers for cleaning.
“Changeover can take about 15 minutes,” says Jeff Ringel, director of sales and marketing at Cozzoli. “The simple removal and replacement of components can help manufactures streamline their cleaning process, minimizing downtime on the line, while ensuring proper sanitization and preventing any cross-contamination of ingredients between batches.”
The automatic rotary piston filler accommodates a range of containers and products of most viscosities at high production speeds of more than 600 units per minute. This series is available in different frame sizes and models; from four to 36 filling nozzles. To further prevent instances of cross-contamination, the machine can come equipped with an automatic clean-in-place feature to flush out product and safely move onto the next run without residue from the previous batch.