Once upon a time, an outbreak occurred, and the game was never the same. There probably isn’t a member of the baking industry who doesn’t remember the salmonella outbreak at Peanut Corp. of America. And Bill Kehrli, vice-president, sales and marketing, Cavanna Packaging Group, will never forget: Cavanna supplied around 30 packaging lines to a major North American bakery plant that received a tainted shipment of peanut butter.
“The plant shut down and basically tore apart the entire factory trying to clean it. Our equipment was in pieces,” Mr. Kehrli recalled. It took more than a dozen technicians to reassemble the equipment, and from that moment, the idea of “clean” for Cavanna — along with nearly every food production facility and equipment manufacturer in the country — changed forever.
“We partnered with our customers and attended seminars put on by the American Meat Institute about what it means to be clean and how to build equipment that’s sanitary design,” Mr. Kehrli said. “Today, we’re preaching the ‘Gospel of Sanitary Design.’ ”
In this Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) era, sanitary design is a top priority for the baking industry. “Food safety not only affects brand awareness and the health of end users, but it also influences overall equipment effectiveness,” said Kelly Meer, product manager, Bosch Packaging Technology. “In order to achieve higher production efficiency, reduce cleaning time and prevent product contamination, it is essential for bakers to invest in a hygienically designed packaging solution.”
The meaning of clean
There’s no disputing that every facet of bakery production has to be clean. But words such as clean and sanitary, while vital pieces of a baker’s lexicon, can often mean different things to different people. To make sure that packaging equipment meets sanitary design standards for both the baker and supplier, communication is crucial, and that should start at the training level.
“The same diligence a bakery puts into training staff to make the product should go into cleaning equipment and preparing it to run the next day,” said Dennis Gunnell, vice-president, sales and marketing, Formost Fuji. “Identifying standards and understanding what ‘clean’ means is critical because ‘clean’ to one person might not mean the same thing to someone else.”
Mr. Kehrli echoed that sentiment. “Someone else’s definition of clean might not be my definition,” he said. “My definition of clean is that it’s spotless. You can swab it anywhere, and all the bacteria are killed. It goes beyond wiping something down with a damp rag or blowing with compressed air.”
Visibility is often the key to identifying a standard of clean. Remember the adage, “If you can’t see it, you can’t clean it” — the same goes for confirming that it’s clean. “We design our equipment with guides that come off quickly without tools and decks that pivot out of the way so you can see underneath,” Mr. Gunnell said. “Not only do these features make the equipment easier to clean, but it also helps an operator see it’s clean as well. For example, if you don’t allow a deck to be removed, or at least pulled out of the way, an operator might think it’s clean, when in fact, there could be bacteria growing underneath.”
For food safety purposes, Bosch designs its packaging equipment so that stationary parts are below the process belt. “This ensures that products cannot become contaminated by dust and other residue, and it prevents parts from falling down and jeopardizing products or consumer health," Mr. Meer observed. That said, Bosch’s packaging equipment’s observation windows, transparent casings and other accessibility features allow operators to inspect or clean it at any time.
Continue reading to learn about the importance in collaboration when pursuing food safety.