More stringent measures in the production process have led to a greater emphasis on the hygienic design of production line equipment. The trend in the general food sector is to purchase equipment that has been smartly designed to incorporate both hygienic construction and the challenges they face in terms of product handling.
Many of the applications are in the meat and poultry industry—predominantly because in many cases other types of foods go through secondary processes prior to the product reaching the consumer. These processes, that may include cooking, reprocessing, or significant alteration of the raw material, often help to sterilize the product.
For meat and poultry, a large percentage of products are provided to the consumer in the raw state. They will go through a series of processes that will alter form, such as grinding for hamburgers, or deboning and trimming chickens, but those items that are reaching consumers are still raw and haven’t usually been secondary processed.
What is Hygienic Design?
The latest guide from the Foundation for Meat and Poultry Research and Education, which was produced from their Equipment Design Task Force in 2014, can be found on the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) website. In terms of sanitary design principles, it is an ideal workmanship style document that outlines what sanitary design should mean both to a customer and a manufacturer. It is a good roadmap for suppliers to be able to look at the design and to quantify whether a system is going to be compliant with these design best practices.
Machines built using sanitary principles such as those provided by NAMI and the Sanitary Equipment Design Taskforce are designed so they meet a set of industry driven criteria that quantifiably defines sanitary construction. This includes such topics as the types and finishes of materials to be used and elimination of harborage areas where product can accumulate and create a microbiological risk. But the specifications are also very operations-centric providing guidance on best practices for inspection, maintenance, and cleaning protocols. The continuing challenge to manufacturers is to define what is the right amount of hygiene and sanitation for their specific operation and environment while still being profitable, protecting the consumer and the brand while complying with governmental standards and regulations.
In theory, every supplier of product inspection equipment should be able to design a device to perform a certain way at a specific point of time in a given environment. What’s difficult is to keep that performance consistent and within specification for long periods of continuous operation. Hygienically designed systems must be built to last—especially given the rigors and conditions of the meat and poultry industry and they also must perform their inspection tasks as specified throughout their useful life. Therefore, the overall robustness of the entire system is extremely important.
Where inspection is concerned, precision X-ray technology performs best when applied in a well-defined and controlled manner. When the necessary robustness required for the environment and operational longevity is added in, these two things may appear to be in conflict. Robustness and precision do not necessarily go hand-in-hand but are not mutually exclusive either, they must be balanced carefully with each specifically addressed. In an X-ray system, for example, there is a generator, which produces a beam that is shot through a window, through the product, through the conveyor, and then through to the detector, all contained within a housing to prevent X-ray emissions. When addressing sanitary design both inside and out with the need to clean machines rigorously every day, it should be done while maintaining the integrity, the technology, and its safe operation. Good design practices take these varying requirements into account with the manufacturer integrating them into a solution that effectively satisfies the needs for hygiene, longevity, and precise inspection.