When food processors sign a contract with an OEM, they’re expecting the OEM to provide them a machine and/or service that meets their product needs and helps them remain compliant with all the regulations they’re subject to. And when that machine is delivered, the organization may sit down with the OEM to get insight into disassembling it for cleaning, how to properly and safely use it and how to maintain it. One thing food processors won’t get from the OEM is how to sanitize that machine, or really any information about sanitation in general.
Why is that? Do the companies that make the machines have an obligation or responsibility to their clients to provide details on how to sanitize the equipment they build and sell?
Short answer: No.
Here are two of the main reasons why.
OEMs are equipment manufacturers first and foremost. That’s their forte. If a food processor wants to know how a high-shear blender will combine ingredients into a smooth-as-silk product, an OEM is a great place to turn. If a food processor wants to know how to disassemble a machine and what places to really pay attention to while cleaning, the OEM can help. Or, if a food processor needs information on what wear items they need to watch for down the road and how to replace them, the OEM can help there, too.
The OEM’s expertise ends there, with the machine itself.
To properly clean and sanitize a machine or equipment, an organization needs detailed knowledge about the product that is being run on the machine, including whether there’s a kill step involved, what microorganism risks are present and what chemicals can and should be used to clean and sanitize the product. All of those things are really exclusive to each food processor.
Instead of turning to the machine experts, food processors should turn to sanitation and chemical experts.
For sanitation, Commercial Food Sanitation (CFS) is a great organization that is replete with information on how to properly dry- or wet-clean machines for proper sanitation. Not only can they help processors with a wealth of information, they also offer in-depth sanitation training events where an organization’s team members can get first-hand training experience in a facility set up exactly like a food processor’s.
In regard to chemicals, an organization should always go to the source, i.e., the chemical supplier and/or manufacturer. They will be the ones best equipped to advise on which chemicals would be best for removing product residue, how to mix and make the cleaning solution and which chemicals should or shouldn’t be used on certain types of materials. This will help ensure that an organization is able to clean a machine to the required levels without harming sensitive materials and parts.
The second reason OEMs aren’t suited to advise on sanitation is regulations.
President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law in 2011, giving the U.S. Food and Drug Administration new authorities over how foods are grown, harvested and processed. The law was prompted by several instances of foodborne illnesses in the early 2000s–tainted food was resulting in billions of dollars in recalls, lost sales and legal expenses for a variety of organizations ranging from manufacturers to retailers.
Under the law, the FDA uses comprehensive, science-based preventive controls to help ensure a safe food supply. One way is to require that every food processor has a written food safety plan, something that applies specifically to that processor but is approved by higher powers.
Now, think about how many food processors one OEM might serve. It’s not feasible to expect that manufacturer to know all the food safety plans at all its food processors.
On top of the FSMA regulations, food processors also must meet guidelines established at the state, regional and possibly even local levels. In addition, many food processors are subject to regulations set in place by third parties they themselves serve, such as retail stores or industry-specific organizations.
In the end, it would be extremely hard for an OEM to be completely versed in all those regulations for all their clients.
Instead, OEMs adhere to regulations specific to them–regulations that guide their design and production efforts.
One set of principles OEMs like EnSight follow are the American Meat Institute’s 10 Principles of Sanitary Design.
These principles guide OEMs in how to design machines and equipment in a way that makes it easy for them to be cleaned and sanitized–not HOW to clean and sanitize them though.
The 10 principles are:
- Cleanable to a microbiological level – Food equipment must be built for effective and efficient cleaning over the life of the part.
- Made of compatible materials – The materials used to build the equipment must be entirely compatible with the product, environment, cleaning/sanitizing chemicals and processes.
- Accessible for inspection, maintenance, cleaning & sanitation – All parts need to be readily accessible without the use of tools.
- No product or liquid collection – Equipment should be self draining so liquids can’t accumulate and harbor bacteria.
- Hollow areas should be hermetically sealed – Hollow areas, e.g., frames and rollers, must be eliminated where possible or permanently sealed. In addition, bolts, studs, mounting plates, etc., must be continuously welded to the surfaces, not drilled or taped.
- No niches – Parts shouldn’t have any niches, e.g., pits, cracks, recesses or open seams.
- Sanitary operational performance – During normal operations, the equipment should not contribute to unsanitary conditions or harbor bacteria.
- Hygienic design of maintenance enclosures – Enclosures and human interfaces, e.g., push buttons, switches and touchscreens, must be designed so product residue or water won’t penetrate or accumulate in or on them.
- Hygienic compatibility with other plant systems – Look at the equipment and supporting systems together, not individually, to evaluate how they function as a system.
- Validated cleaning and sanitizing protocols – Cleaning and sanitation procedures must be clearly written, designed and proven to be effective and efficient.
By adhering to these principles, OEMs help food processors with cleaning and sanitation without not actually telling them how to clean or sanitize their machines.
Even though OEMs aren’t responsible for providing cleaning and sanitation information to their food processor clients, the good ones can help with the processor’s efforts in other ways. For one, they can adhere to the 10 Principles of Sanitary Design mentioned above. By doing so, they can ensure they’re designing and building machines that are as easy to disassemble, clean and reassemble as possible.
In addition, OEMs can work in partnership with their food processor clients. That means instead of just building the requested machine, delivering it and being done, the OEM can sit with the food processor to discuss their product, their pain points and opportunities for improvements. Then, the OEM can solicit feedback from the processor via design reviews and test runs. That will help the OEM design equipment solutions, rather than just equipment, and assure processors that the OEM has their needs in mind as well.
EnSight Solutions would be honored to be that trusted partner for food processors. Our team will work with you to understand your processes and products, identify your pain points, brainstorm opportunities for improvements and design, build and integrate solutions that meet your needs.
If you’re interested in learning more about our solutions-oriented process, click here to locate and contact your sales specialist.