Andrew Knowles of JBT FoodTech told FoodProductionDaily the ever-increasing emphasis on machine hygiene is thanks to Listeria and E. coli contamination, and stricter safety regulations.
“If processors do not commit to improving equipment hygiene, the outcome can mean product recalls, decreased throughput or product quality or wasted water and energy and can potentially lead to equipment breakdown,” he said.
However, Knowles said, keeping equipment clean, notably in freezer environments, presents an obstacle, which manufacturers can help overcome.
“It’s always been a challenge for food processing plants to clean their equipment effectively,” he said. “Pressure is increasing for manufacturers to design food-processing equipment to be easier to clean and to maintain.”
Spiral freezers, Knowles explained, are particularly problematic. Most use a drum or cage device to drive the belt on top of track supports; the belt cage and support structure are composed of stainless or galvanized steel, and these components can make up a large portion of the spiral mechanism.
“There are generally thousands of linear feet of metal inside the unit that must be cleaned, and the more surfaces there are in those areas, the more challenging the task,” Knowles told FPD. “These structure-supported systems are even more difficult to clean because of the thousands of linear feet of drive bar caps on the cage/drum, and the track caps on the tracks supporting the belt.”
JBT FoodTech engineers created structure-supported spirals by designing a self-stacking belt with links on each side. The Frigoscandia FRIGoBELT design creates self-contained freezing zones and a tiered stacking belt approach.
“We were able to eliminate the drum and support structure and use a vertical countercurrent airflow concept, which provides uniform airflow throughout the tiered levels,” Knowles said.
Heat exchanger coils also are prone to contamination, Knowles said. Small particles can gather in curves and crevices, which are hard to clean and inspect inside a shallow or deep coil.
According to Knowles, the evaporator coil and conveyor system represent the two most critical systems in a hygienic freezer design.
“Choosing the wrong freezer design can result in the purchase of a freezer with a total heat exchanger overlapping surface area, as large as a basketball court,” he said.
JBT FoodTech has developed the High Hygiene (HH) coil, designed to eliminate crevices and overlapping surfaces. The HH coil—designed for the firm’s IQF freezer and USDA-approved for dairy use, improves safety while cutting down sanitation labor, water, and chemical use.
The HH coil’s fin is extruded from the tube in a single piece. According to Knowles, the construction eliminates bacteria-harboring areas by removing all crevices and overlapping surfaces.
“The HH coil complies with 3-A Sanitary Design and strict dairy industry standards,” he said. “It also delivers a high heat transfer rate, which saves valuable factory floor space.”
The HH coil is available as an upgrade on all JBT FoodTech freezers, refrigerated coolers, proofers, and dryers.