Now that the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is almost fully phased in, guidelines for food companies aren’t just recommendations or even best practices—they’re the law. Companies who don’t comply could potentially be hit with more than just federal fines—they could face long-term damage to brand equity and financially catastrophic lawsuits.

Technology responds to regulations

In response to heightened regulatory requirements and litigation surrounding food poisoning, the manufacturing equipment and processes used in the food processing industry have become significantly more sophisticated. A prime example of this can be seen in the ongoing improvements in doors made for washdown applications.

Today’s high-performance fabric doors fit virtually anywhere and are uniquely designed to address the need for environmental control, productivity, safety and cleanliness. They are used to prevent cross-contamination and ensure optimal operating efficiency.

High-speed roll-ups are more than a trend

High-performance doors have evolved in recent years, and are a viable option for various food applications. The primary function of most industrial doors is to provide tight environmental separation, yet allow occupants and equipment to quickly and safely move from one area to another. High-speed fabric roll-up doors (also called upward-acting doors) are becoming more popular in food processing facilities, most notably due to fast cycle times and their easy-to-clean surfaces and setups.

Easy cleaning

High-speed doors are a key component for maintaining cleanliness in the food industry. New food industry-specific variations have been developed to meet USDA and FDA standards for clean-up. Doors made of smooth polypropylene (PP) will provide higher resistance to acids and bases and a lower water absorption rate than vinyls and urethanes, making them highly resistant to mold and providing superior washdown durability.

Other food-specific enhancements include:

● washdown-rated sealed drive systems and controls;

● 1-piece ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) polyethylene plastic radial headers; and

● non-corrosive polycarbonates and UHMW side frames, which stand off from the wall to minimize surface-to-surface contact and reduce pockets where bacteria can grow.

The USDA and FDA provide guidelines are based on Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) best practices. Thus, designers should seek out products that specifically cite their compatibility with these protocols. Whether it’s HACCP, FSMA or the Global Food Safety Initiative, cleanliness is at the heart of all these food safety regulations.

Speed vs. R-value

Recent improvements in door technology combine fast cycling with high-efficiency insulation and sealing. These innovations contribute to low long-term energy costs, improved efficiency and increased safety. In short, high R-value is no longer the main driver in door selection.

The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) now recognizes the importance of high-speed doors. The most recent edition, released in 2015, includes a revision to Table C402.4.3, which describes the maximum air infiltration rates for fenestration assemblies. At 1.3 cfm/sf high-speed doors have the largest rate of infiltration in the table. A draft copy of the table states that this is because the high-speed nature of these doors provides for minimizing of “air exchange,” a valuable and predominant characteristic of minimizing overall energy losses through a door opening.

New, advanced doors have the ability to withstand forklift impact, which minimizes maintenance and downtime while maintaining a tight seal over the life of the door. Some impactable doors offer higher R-values, reducing the need for heated panel defrost systems. Other models even offer torque-sensing reversing capability, which eliminates safety and maintenance concerns with doors that use pneumatic or electrical reversing edges for the same purpose.

Choosing the right door

Regardless of the door’s configuration, food facility managers need to look at two main factors when choosing a door—ease of cleaning and durability. A new generation of roll-up doors feature anti-microbial materials and other upgrades for food applications. These new features – along with their ability to operate at high speeds and provide tight sealing capability – will help food facilities meet FSMA, FDA and USDA protocols and avoid becoming the target of a foodborne illness lawsuit.