How to choose a food-safe freezer
Food safety is a non-compromising aspect for food processors. Not only do processors need to keep the freezing equipment bacteria-free, but also a wave of new and even higher expectations are emerging in the food market. Trends such a continuous increase in the demand of frozen halal meat, for example, is creating the need to clean on microscopic levels, ensuring no trace of pork meat in the production of halal meat. Similar pressure is put on the companies processing meat for Hindu consumers, where no trace of beef meat is allowed.
Nonetheless, today’s food safety regulations in freezing equipment are often seen to be insufficient in ensuring a truly reliable food safety system. A lack of clear regulations defining cleanability or recommended cleaning time is currently lacking in the legislation. Therefore, a number of aspects/recommendations should be taken in account when looking for food-safe equipment.
Cleaning time is a crucial factor when it comes to profitability, especially during high production season. When picking the right freezing equipment, closer attention should be given to the freezers with a shorter but efficient cleaning time. The cleaning cycle should not only be fast, but more importantly, as ample as possible. All walls, floors, ceilings, transportation beds and fans should go through a thorough cleaning with both water and sanitizing solutions.
Because cleaning time is crucial during peak production in order to ensure reliable food safety without compromising the production capacity, it’s best to aim for equipment with best ratio cleaning times vs. cleaning results. Any inefficient cleaning systems will threaten the food safety of all production, as fans will keep circulating bacteria contamination over and over throughout the production batches.
2. Elevated housing
An elevated housing of the freezer can avoid the accumulation of water under the equipment; water created through condensation due to high temperature changes in between production and defrost. The water accumulated under the freezer can become a contamination hazard.
- Minimizing the amount of moving parts
Many freezing technologies still present designs where electrical cables and boxes are inside the freezer. All of these parts, together with transportation trays, are “bacteria nests,” and almost no cleaning cycle can achieve acceptable results when so many parts are in the production zone. However, there is the option of choosing freezing equipment designed with a minimum of moving parts inside the freezer. For optimal food safety, electrical boxes and cables should be placed outside the freezer, while designs that don’t need reusable trays for product transportation must be prioritized.
- Easy-to-clean transportation plates
Another problem is a thorough cleaning of transportation belts. It is almost impossible to clean these at high standards without stopping the production for many hours. However, an advisable alternative is use of freezers with exchangeable bed plates. These are easy and fast to exchange with another set of bedplates in the middle of production with a downtime of less than 5 minutes for the exchange itself. This way, the bedplates can be washed outside the freezer with high-pressure water, ensuring an excellent level of food safety on the transportation bed. At the same time, a great benefit is provided by fast product change and close to zero downtime.
- Coil cleaning systems
The coil inside a freezer can obviously become a hazardous part of the freezer, due to all product particles circulating by the fans. However, it is possible to increase their cleanability by choosing equipment with a coil cleaning system that rinses the coil during the cleaning cycle.
- Easy access
Designs with easy access to all parts should be aimed for. This is important not only for easy cleaning purposes, but also for reliable food safety inspections.
- Mono-block designs
When it comes to the body of the freezer, there are a multitude of designs, however it is recommended to opt for a hermetic mono-block unit, as joints and groves are the areas that present a great risk of bacteria accumulation. At the same time, the insulation used for the freezer should be made of non-hydroscopic materials to avoid water absorption and through extension bacteria growth.