Proofers: Controlling critical conditions

by Laurie Gorton
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A paternoster proofer moves pans up one tower and down the next.
Requiring agile cleanability

Regulations in the US and Europe now impose more stringent food safety requirements upon bakers than ever before. Every machine on processing lines must now be readily cleanable. Different forces are involved. In the US, it’s the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that shapes the approach to cleaning and Z50/BISSC that offers voluntary criteria; in Europe, it’s the recommendations of the European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG). Standards such as those written by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), among others, set additional expectations.

“In the past, proofing systems were never a focus in terms of hygienic design,” Mr. White said. Baking provided the kill step. “However, with today’s demand for superior process hygiene and the increase in proofed dough pieces being sold for later process, this focus has changed considerably.”

IJ White reengineered its systems to eliminate drive chains, oiling and grease in the product zone. It added a belt-washing package. It switched from ductwork with a square or rectangular cross section to round styles, thus getting rid of difficult-to-clean corners and facilitating automatic cleaning. Air filtering, now controlled by PLC, is done mechanically and electronically. The company upgraded to open-frame design with all stainless construction, a change from closed end tubing, according to Mr. White.

Ducting got a makeover at Pfening, too. “The ducts typically have cleanout doors,” Mr. Doan noted. “And they are located away from the wall to give sanitary access.” He described custom projects with bolt-together ducting, all-welded stainless steel ducts and ducting with drains to reduce condensation and standing water.

Then there’s the choice of lubricant. Mr. Kauffman noted that food-grade oils for use on endless main chains are now available that meet food safety inspection. “Many bakers have changed over from older lubricants,” he observed.

At Middleby, the need to meet higher hygienic performance levels led to the introduction of a euro-SASSI line of equipment this year. Mr. McCally explained that SASSI is an acronym for safe, accessible, sanitary, sustainable and intelligent. “These critical areas have been the focus of the European equipment market for over a decade,” he said. Changes in the proofer included a complete washdown interior and exterior and a remote high-definition video system to allow an operator to monitor operations.

For Koenig, an EHEDG member, this translates into frame designs that minimize surface contamination, mechanical drive components isolated from the dough area and sealed bearings. Mr. Breeswine also described features such as conveyor belts that can be slackened for cleaning purposes and easy removal.

At Rademaker, also an EHEDG member, Mr. Riggle observed, “We can say that hygienic design is a main design focus [for the new proofer].” Built of food-grade stainless steel and completely washdown in design, it features tilted upper surfaces and open sheet-metal frames, among other things. Operator safety is also considered.

“Hygienic design, safety and maintenance are always on a balancing act,” Mr. Riggle said.

The engineering and design of final proofers will continue to change as long as bakers push for more and better automation. The job of final proofers is to manage dough pieces so they will leaven properly and achieve desired flavor, volume and quality characteristics. But proofers may need to transform even further. “The baker can request direct transfer from moulding to the ovens using pre-proofers that bypass the final proofer altogether,” Mr. Breeswine suggested.
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