Chances are you, or someone you know, is allergic to one or more of the "Big Nine" food allergies. Peanuts. Soy. Milk. Eggs. Fish. Shellfish. Tree nuts. Wheat. And now Sesame.
Allergic reactions can vary in severity. Some experience mild symptoms, like congestion and temporary swelling, while others experience more moderate symptoms, like transient abdominal pain. In the most severe instances, an allergic reaction can become life-threatening.
Having a plan to manage allergens in the food production process is best practice, and with the right equipment, it doesn't have to be a large undertaking. However, without proper systems and processes in place, removing allergens can be costly in terms of labor needs and equipment downtime.
We spoke with Evan Reyes, Global Director of Sales Sanitation Division and Product Specialist for the food industry at Goodway Technologies, to help provide insight to ensure you maximize your sanitation team's time and minimize production equipment downtime. Reyes recommends a two-step approach.
The first step involves surface cleanup of solids, and HEPA vacuums are a highly effective way to capture food particles that can cause allergen contamination in production areas. "Our industrial HEPA filtered vacuums capture food particles down to the micron level," he says. "Once it's in the vacuum, it's not returning to the production environment."
Reyes added a vital tip. Although one vacuum can capture multiple allergens, you can't use the same attachments. "You have to dedicate one set of attachments for one allergen," he explains. Processing plants will typically color-code or label attachments for specific uses. "You can't use an attachment that's been used on peanuts to vacuum up wheat," he cautions. "You typically will also have dedicated attachments for floors and walls."
The next step involves how facilities approach cleaning and sanitizing conveyor belts used to transport food through the plant. "I've seen conveyor belts that are a mile long. Imagine what kind of a project that would be to remove for cleaning," Reyes says. Implementing conveyor belt cleaning systems is necessary to minimize downtime and labor needed to manually clean belts. "Clean-in-place (CIP) is essential for any belt cleaning - large or small."
The impact on ROI is clear as he continues, "To be cost-efficient, you must remove 100% of the allergens without removing conveyor belts and dismantle the equipment. There's virtually no other way to ensure product purity and produce an affordable product."
Goodway offers unique conveyor belt cleaning solutions with their PureBelt™ Conveyor Belt Cleaning Systems line. These CIP solutions utilize a manifold that sits over the conveyor belt. The PureBeltTM system utilizes super-heated or "dry steam" to loosen stuck-on food particles and other soils as the belt passes through. It then has a vacuum line that connects to the HEPA-filtered system to remove the loosened debris. The dry steam cleans and sanitizes the belt; the simultaneous vacuum extraction removes loosened particles.
"This technique has been proven in the market to be an effective way to remove peanut, soy, and egg allergens from flat, solid, homogenous, polyurethane belts," explains Reyes. A belt typically requires six complete passes for cleaning. "We've cleaned shorter belts in five minutes," Reyes says. A longer belt may take up to 30 minutes to clean, depending on the length of time that the belt takes to make six circuits.
Employing Reyes's insights for efficient allergen removal will help facilities achieve cost savings and the assurance of safe, quality products for customers.
"Your customers rely on accurate product labeling," says Reyes. "Goodway Technologies helps you be 100% accurate and cost-efficient simultaneously."