A solid rule of thumb in food safety is the less human interaction with a product, the less chance there is of contamination. Todd Wallin, chief operating officer of Ellison Bakery, Fort Wayne, Ind., said removing human contact with food not only increases food safety but also increases consistency and quality of the product.
“For most food suppliers, hair is the No. 1 issue as it pertains to food contamination,” he said. “By putting in an automated process for stacking the cookies, we eliminate our employees having to stack the cookies, which reduces handling and in turn reduces the likelihood of hair contamination.”
At Pan Pepin, Bayamon, P.R., automated technology has reduced human interaction.
“We also added an automatic tray washer that feeds clean trays to the packaging lines without the need for human contact, ensuring the integrity of the tray and the product in it all the way to the delivery truck,” said Mario Somoza, president and chief executive officer, Pan Pepin.
The danger lies in the fact that people are unpredictable. Spiro Sayegh, managing director, International Delights, Clifton, N.J., said the less human movement in a plant throughout a day, he added, the cleaner the plant remains.
“People can touch a rag or a table or tray, and there’s always a risk of them touching surfaces that might not be 100% clean, then taking that to the product,” Mr. Sayegh said. “With automation, you just have to worry about the equipment that touches the product. It offers more control.”