Processors can turn to new freezers, packaging machines and conveyors to win the food safety battle.

At a time when consumer confidence in food safety is wavering, suppliers are zoning in on sanitation. In fact, at the Worldwide Food Expo last fall it was clear that the focus was sanitation - an issue that’s top of mind with many operations managers. Exhibitors showcased new sanitation equipment that literally covers the entire plant floor - everything from process freezing to packaging and even the conveyors that connect one machine to another.

Mark DiMaggio heads the North American Food & Beverage business of Linde Inc., Murray Hill, N.J.

“The European [food] industry has been slightly ahead of North America as it relates to [food processor] and government demands for hygienic processing equipment,” he says. “Our parent [Linde AG, Munich, Germany] recognized this - and during the past 14 months - has redesigned its process freezers for the U.S. market. The first in that [U.S.] portfolio is a tunnel freezer, which is a staple in Europe. . . . With so much interest in the market, we will continue this program and launch other products from our freezing portfolio during 2008 and 2009.”

Another U.S. subsidiary showcasing its European technology is Multivac Inc. A unit of Multivac GmbH, Wolfertschwenden, Germany, the Kansas City, Mo.-based business debuted “the industry’s first” thermoform packaging machine with enhanced sanitation design and an integrated clean-in-place system at last year’s Worldwide Food Expo.

“We’re thrilled to make our formal North American introduction here at the Worldwide Food Expo,” said Multivac President and CEO Jan Erik Kuhlmann.

Clean conveying

Ready to connect these new clean machines are ultra-sanitary conveyors, which have been on the market for at least two years, suppliers say.

Dorner Manufacturing Corp., Hartland, Wis., used the Worldwide Food Expo to showcase its two-year-old AquaPruf 7400 Ultimate line (designed for plastic, modular chain applications) and newer AquaPruf 7600 Ultimate line (designed for belt applications). To date, both lines have met sanitary design specifications from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (meat and poultry equipment approval), NSF International and the American Meat Institute.

“Our AquaPruf Ultimate Series models are the lowest profile sanitary conveyors on the market today,” says John Kuhnz, Dorner food marketing manager. “Both lines feature a very hygienic design that can take high-pressure washings with water, soap, bleach, chlorine, alcohol or foaming chlorine cleaner without the worry of bearings or other important components corroding.”

Of note, Dorner’s 7600 Series conveyor comes with a USDA-approved belt from Mol Industries.
“This feature gives customers more options to operate their conveyors in wet environments because the positive-driven urethane belt will not stretch - despite the humidity - and has no bacteria-harboring hinges or pins,” Kuhnz says.

Both of Dorner’s modular conveyors claim such design features as (1) solid stainless steel rounded cross-members with no hollow tubes, (2) complete tool-less disassembly for sanitation, (3) a smooth, machine weld on the bearing housing assembly and (4) threadless, stainless steel support stand feet.

Making a stand of its own in the sanitary field is Ashworth Bros Inc. This month saw the Winchester, Va., company launch a unique clean-in-place (CIP) system for its equipment. Officials say the CIP system uses a unique mixing chamber - paired with a spray bar and nozzles - to complete thorough belt cleaning.

The mixing chamber first mixes water and air to create microscopic water droplets, then expels the droplets at very high speeds resulting in water droplets moving at more than 600 miles per hour. The water droplets penetrate every opening and crevice in the belt while also minimizing the possibilities of belt damage or aerosol contamination.

Clean freeze

Although new to the United States, Linde’s Cryoline HT freezer has been in use (and problem free) since 2005 in as many as 40 installations throughout Europe, Asia and South America, DiMaggio notes.

“There’s not another freezer today in North America that has the hygienic sanitation features to the degree we do in the Cryoline tunnel,” he continues.

The 10-foot modular unit handles either liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide applications and is versatile enough for everything from basic meat, poultry and seafood applications to further prepared items such as meat balls, pizza toppings, bakery foods and prepared entrees.

Meanwhile, Cryoline boasts the following features: (1) no flat internal or external surfaces, (2) no machining threads, ridges or niches, (3) no exposed external motors, valves or other machinery (it’s encased within the unit’s covering but shielded from freezing zones), and (4) internal plumbing to channel all internal fluids (anything from excess water to grease) directly into floor drains and (5) flat, touch-screen controls.

Most importantly, the unit opens up entirely (no tools required) for complete access and cleaning as well as visual / swab inspection.

While the freezer has other benefits (modular design, increased efficiency and throughput, according to DiMaggio), another food safety-related attribute is that Linde customer service reps can monitor a freezer’s performance - as well as any variable set points - from anywhere in the world. Linde not only can assist in troubleshooting a problem, but help customers capture and prepare performance data for up to two years.

That's a wrap!

After process freezing, there’s a new option in sanitary packaging equipment as well. Officials say Multivac’s new R535 thermoform machine is the first of its kind to come equipped with an integrated CIP system, which automates the cleaning of component groups inside the machine.

After a pre-cleaning, operators can start the cleaning program with the push of a button. The standardized, logged process ensures adherence to predetermined cleaning cycles and dosages/mixtures of sanitizing chemicals. This way, Multivac says, the internal component groups are cleaned automatically by an extensive system of jets and pipes. Exterior cleaning is executed manually with an attached spray gun, and also is integrated into the CIP procedure for process control.

At a pre-convention press conference, Multivac officials also highlighted machine design features. For example, they noted that all machine surfaces (inside and out) are angled to allow liquids to drain. Moreover, the machine was entirely redesigned to eliminate dead spaces and inaccessible niches.

The same attention to detail applies to the machine’s interior where cables, hoses, motors and pumps - as well as the chain and chain guide - are repositioned for optimal cleaning. Last but not least, the machine comes apart quite quickly and easily (without tools) for open access and inspection.

Kuhlmann summed up the new machine’s abilities best.

“In respect to tool sizes and the number of packages per minute, the R535 is the clear market leader in its category,” he concluded. “This powerhouse machine not only blows the competition away in terms of sanitary design, but it is also the fastest and most reliable horizontal thermoformer on the market.”