Pneumatics in the food sector
13 June 2012
Machinery used in the food and beverage processing and packaging sectors has to operate under some of the toughest conditions found in industry. Equipment has to be efficient, reliable and easy to maintain, while being suitable for extensive cleaning and in some cases high-pressure wash-down.
It also has to comply with a range of legislation that includes directives such as:
ISO14159:2002 Safety of Machinery, which specifies the intended use of
EN1672 Food Machinery- Basic Concepts, that focuses on the common hygienic requirements for food processing machinery.
EN1672 is perhaps the most encompassing and sets out to define three areas for hygiene requirements: Food Area, covering surfaces in contact with food where there is the risk that contamination can be transferred back to the process; Splash Area, covering surfaces with which the food product can come into contact, but where there is no risk of contamination returning to the process; and Non-Food Area, which essentially covers all surfaces not included in the preceding categories.EN1672 has some interesting implications for companies manufacturing equipment for the food sector, as it effectively controls the materials of construction and the design and configuration of the components. For example, products used in Food Areas must have surfaces that are smooth and self draining, with corrosion resistant, non toxic and non absorbent materials. Even in the Non Food Area, exposed surfaces should be corrosion resistant and both easy to clean and disinfect. In practice, this means that stainless steel is widely used in Food Areas, along with plastic materials manufactured from PVC, polythene, PTFE or silicone rubber. In less demanding areas, chrome or nickel plated steel, or anodised aluminium is used, along with Polyamide, Nitrile rubber and NBR, while in Nonfood Areas zinc plated steel, bronze, zinc and polycarbonate are common. It’s also worth noting that food processing and production facilities are generally designed around the Internationally recognised HACCP(Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point)system for food safety management. This defines seven key principles that should be followed, from initial hazard analysis, through the determination of critical control points, to identification of control procedures, monitoring and record keeping. As pneumatics is a widely used technology for controlling many different processes, along with handling and positioning operations in food production and packaging, it is important that pneumatic products both conform to standards such as EN1672 and do not create any potential risk to production inline with the HACCP principles.