Sanitation crews should follow the plant’s sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOPs) and the recommendations from the chemical suppliers, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the US Department of Agriculture.

“FDA is mostly concerned with transfer of chemicals and elements from one product to the next or when the sanitizer didn’t get completely rinsed off the conveyor,” said Jonathan Lasecki, Ashworth’s chief engineer.

Such contamination isn’t as big of an issue on nonabsorbent, FDA-compliant materials such as stainless steel or plastic.

“The biggest challenge is doing the cleaning,” Mr. Lasecki said. “That comes when bakeries are being pushed to get the product out to the market. You can’t skip the cleaning process and say, ‘I’ll go two or three days without it.’ It is too big a risk. You need to make sure people are conducting sanitation on their required schedules.”

At the beginning of a production line, plants must first consider where freshly mixed dough might be sticking or clinging along conveyors to makeup equipment.

“Here, the dough is sticky and then dries out, making it difficult to remove from equipment,” said Cari Rasmussen, food safety specialist, Commercial Food Sanitation, an Intralox company.

To identify potential wrongdoers, operators also need to watch for carryback and spillage in the makeup area.

“When conveyed materials fall to the floor or stick to the belt or conveyor components, this creates carryback, which causes sanitation issues,” said Kevin Quinn, sales manager, Douglas Machines Corp. “Traditional cleaning methods that involve caustic chemicals and large amounts of hot water can lead to excess moisture, which is not optimum in the baking industry.”

Bobby Martin, executive product manager, AMF Bakery Systems, suggested that operators remain diligent in wiping off debris from the belt and conveyor structure on bread and bun lines.

“AMF’s Raw Dough Conveyors are designed to provide as much access as needed to clean belt surfaces above and below the conveyor structure,” he said.

Ms. Rasmussen said best practices include understanding current and potential future risks when making a belt selection. When conducting an allergen changeover, tensioned flat and fabric belts used in the makeup area are often wet cleaned to ensure dough removal. However, she noted, the equipment is not always designed for wet cleaning, so it’s critical to validate and consistently follow SSOPs.

It’s also vital to understand when dry cleaning and wet cleaning are most effective.

“When water and some chemicals are introduced, it can lead to accelerated decline in the condition of the equipment, such as rusting and mold growth,” Ms. Rasmussen explained.

To secure as long a running time as possible for a proofer, Scanico developed a new system for air handling that controls humidity and temperature. Søren Andersen, managing director, Scanico, a Middleby Bakery company, said this proofing process avoids free droplets of water in the air, giving the end-product a longer shelf life of up to 10 days with less need for cleaning due to humidity control.

Hard deposits on oven bands and conveyors also pose a challenge.

“It is preferred not to allow it to get to this stage,” said Brian Brown, vice-president, Berndorf Belt Technology USA.

Use manual cleaning or try dry ice to remove carbon layer buildup. However, he noted, keep in mind that dry ice has logistic challenges related to the pellets and the noise level can be an issue.

Bob Harrington, vice-president of sales and marketing, Capway Automation, pointed out that bakeries may also need to use harsh chemical cleaning, steam cleaning, sodium bicarbonate and carbon dioxide-blasting along with hard scraping by hand to remove hard deposits and get the cleaning done.

To keep a carbon belt running smoothly, rely on professional belt laser alignment and maintain consistent tensioning. Ensure scrapers and rotating brushes have uniform pressure and are kept free of debris.

Ms. Rasmussen advised dry cleaning ambient spiral or racetrack coolers using vacuums and brushes with periodic wet cleaning as necessary for buildup.

Use water for freezers with drains and a clean-in-place bar for the belt. Alcohol-based sanitizers are effective and dry more quickly than other sanitizers. Make sure belts are dry prior to startup to prevent spoilage microorganisms from growing and ice formation in the freezer.

Although dry cleaning has always been the standard for post-baking equipment, sometimes using detergents — some even recommend Dawn to cut the grease — and water is the best way to do it.

Mr. Harrington said that’s why Capway’s conveyors and Provident Depanner are designed to the higher IP 66 and IP69 cleaning standards that protect them against water projected from a nozzle.

This article is an excerpt from the March 2020 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire feature on conveyors, click here