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Explore This IssueOctober/November 2017
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To say that TreeHouse continually embraces cutting-edge technology would be an understatement.
“As technology changes, we change and strive to be a leader in the industry,” Bishop relates.
“Each year during the capital planning process, management identifies the latest food safety and quality improvement technologies available. TreeHouse feels that putting money towards these improvements gives us a competitive advantage and is necessary to meet and exceed customer demands.”
One key example is implementation of X-ray technology to improve food safety. “In recent times, we have enhanced our existing protocols with additional X-ray on many product lines as a primary foreign material screening process, and many times as a last point of detection on the line,” Bishop notes.
This is no small undertaking, since TreeHouse offers finished products in many different packaging materials, including flexible pouches from individual size to food service size, metal cans from retail size to food service size, glass of varying sizes, paper for aseptic products, rigid poly containers, tubs, totes, pails, clam shells, fiber tubes, laminated films, plastic jars, single serve beverage pods, tea bags, and fiberboard, just to name a few examples.
Using the latest pest control technology also greatly benefits TreeHouse, Bishop mentions. “Many of our facilities are dry facilities and have stored product pest prevention as one of their largest sources of fumigation costs,” she points out. “Installation of Indian meal moth mating disruption technology reduced fumigation costs by more than $100,000 in just one facility.”
Solid vulcanized belting material has replaced most fabric-back belting materials in TreeHouse’s agricultural product facilities. “While there are no cost savings associated with this, sanitation effectiveness results improved by a substantial 10 percent,” Bishop relates. “Also, relative to sanitation, we strive to implement the most up-to-date technologies as new chemicals come to the market each year. Chemical technology opportunities identified by our sanitation partners have delivered more than $22,000 in savings in the Bay Valley sector of the company.”
The use of pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), a molecular fingerprinting technique used to classify bacteria based on restriction sites within the bacterial genome beyond the species level, has been an effective prevention tool for TreeHouse.
“Through PFGE sequencing we have been able to make decisions regarding our environmental program, leading to pathogen prevention,” Bishop explains. “We have been able to identify areas that needed capital funding like flooring and drain replacements, elimination of trench drains, and roofing refurbishment—all driving pathogen prevention in our facilities.”
Bishop says the older TreeHouse equipment that was not designed with cleaning in mind has been redesigned to facilitate cleaning. “New equipment goes through a full sanitary design review before it is ever placed in a facility,” she notes.
The TreeHouse Food Safety Team has created a list of sanitary standards for the engineers to use when planning projects, Bishop adds. “Facilities have installed floor foaming devices, dry shoe treatment mats, and broadcast spraying devices for dry sanitizer in high-traffic areas to also aim at prevention,” she relates.
TreeHouse Foods also recognizes the potential risks of having raw versus ready-to-eat processing in the same building, Bishop continues. “While there has not been any cross-contamination within our facilities, we have put capital funding behind projects to ensure separation,” she says. “Instead of relying on items like control of traffic patterns or temporary barriers, we have chosen to modify rooms and place actual brick and mortar walls for physical separation.”
As a result, dedicated raw and cooked causeways have been established between plant and warehouse in these same facilities. “This minimizes the risk of cross-contamination from raw to ready-to-eat areas, eliminating a potential food safety risk,” Bishop points out. “Add to these measures roofing refurbishment and new flooring, plus water filters to prevent foreign material contamination from main city water lines.”