Production Technology: To serve and protect

April 13, 2009
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It comes as no surprise that most all food-processing plants are plagued by the proliferation of mold, fungi and bacteria. One of the primary breeding grounds for these dangerous microorganisms exists on the facilities’ walls and food-storage areas. In facilities dealing with high-risk food products, such as poultry and meat, the most common offenders include Listeria, E. coli and Salmonella, which can yield ruthless stomach infections and devastating symptoms.

In addition to threatening the physical product, many contaminants can injure a plant’s financial health. Many facilities with contamination problems must be temporarily shut down and safeguarded, possibly causing the company to lose millions per day in lost work, legal fees and decontamination costs.

With the many issues concerning pathogens, there are several additives processors can use to paint and coat walls, floors and even equipment, designed to inhibit any bacterial growth.

According to Paints and Coatings Industry (PCI) magazine, a sister publication of The National Provisioner, current methods for safeguarding food-processing facilities include the application of plastic paneling, fiberglass or steel onto porous surfaces to provide a smooth, waterproof surface. At the end of each day, workers must thoroughly wipe down these areas with a disinfectant to eliminate any residual contaminants.

While this labor-intensive process is marginally effective at eliminating surface contaminants, mold, fungus and bacteria often settle into areas behind the installations. In fact, the removal of this paneling in many facilities reveals a visible concentration of potentially dangerous mold and fungi, says PCI. And the surge of technology that has been sweeping the global business community has now found its way to the architectural- and industrial-coatings market.

Floor coatings in a processing, manufacturing or commercial facility are not always the top concern for an engineer, line worker or facility manager, says PCI. More likely, they are products that are simply relied upon and taken for granted as invulnerable and permanent. One might not even realize that the concrete in a facility even has a coating on it — yet it does. And the coatings are implemented and applied for a reason — to protect the nation’s food supply and its workers.

Suppliers of paints and coatings help meat and poultry processors keep their facility floors safe and clean.

That said, to protect a plant’s concrete floors and walls from potential contaminants and corrosive and harmful agents, while enhancing its ability to withstand chemicals, it is crucial to select the appropriate protective flooring and wall system.

Concrete is one of the most common building materials used in meat, poultry and prepared-foods processing facilities. Also, despite it’s rigidity, it is a porous barrier that has absorption abilities. Therefore, it is invariably subject to a variety of extreme exposures, including rapid temperature changes during steam or hot-water washdowns, exposures to natural food acids, such as lactic, citric and acetic acids, frequent cleanings with caustic disinfectants, dampness from humidity, steam and condensation, contact with oils, dirt, grease, blood and foodstuffs, and constant traffic from feet, carts and forklifts.

An impermeable protective coating applied to the concrete not only prevents the migration of chemicals in and through the concrete, it also prevents any moisture from traveling out of the concrete.

Safety is another area of concern for meat and poultry processors, as slips and falls are a major liability for any company, especially where wet conditions and residual fat, for example, provide opportunities for accidents. Anti-slip coatings can be used on ramps and docks to provide traction for forklift traffic.

To serve the unique needs of the meat- and poultry-processing markets, many suppliers also offer environmentally friendly coating solutions that are engineered to meet all of the needs of USDA-inspected meat, poultry and prepared-foods processing plants — floor to ceiling, front office to tank interiors.

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