Coming Clean

by Allison Bardic,
Senior Editor
Heightened emphasis on food safety raises sanitary equipment design to the top meat and poultry processors’ wish lists.
Principles of Sanitary
Equipment Design
Addressing heightened concerns for food safety, the American Meat Institute (AMI) in 2001 established the AMI Equipment Design Task Force to develop principles of sanitary design, defined as "the application of design techniques which allow the timely and effective cleaning of the entire manufacturing asset.\" The Task Force’s 10 Principles of Equipment Sanitary Design for Ready-to-Eat Equipment include:
1. Cleanable to a Microbiological Level: Food equipment must be constructed and be maintainable to ensure that the equipment can be effectively and efficiently cleaned and sanitized over the life of the equipment…This includes product and non-product contact surfaces of the equipment.
2. Made of Compatible Materials: Construction materials used for equipment must be completely compatible with the product, environment, cleaning and sanitizing chemicals, and the methods of cleaning and sanitation.
3. Accessible for Inspection, Maintenance, Cleaning & Sanitation: All parts of the equipment shall be readily accessible for inspection, maintenance, cleaning and/or sanitation. Accessibility should be easily accomplished by an individual without tools.
4. No Product or Liquid Collection: Equipment shall be self draining to assure that food product, water, or product liquid does not accumulate, pool or condense on the equipment or product zone areas.
5. Hollow Areas Hermetically Sealed: Hollow areas of equipment (e.g., frames, rollers) must be eliminated where possible or permanently sealed (caulking not acceptable). Bolts, studs, mounting plates, brackets, junction boxes, name plates, end caps, sleeves, and other such items must be continuously welded to the surface of the equipment and not attached via drilled and tapped holes.
6. No Niches: All parts of the equipment shall be free of niches such as pits, cracks, corrosion, recesses, open seams, gaps, lap seams, protruding ledges, inside threads, bolt rivets, and dead ends. All welds must be continuous and fully penetrating.
7. Sanitary Operational Performance: During normal operations, the equipment must perform so it does not contribute to unsanitary conditions or the harborage and growth of bacteria.
8. Hygienic Design of Maintenance Enclosures: Maintenance enclosures and human machine interfaces such as push buttons, valve handles, switches and touchscreens, must be designed, to ensure food product, water, or product liquid does not penetrate of accumulate in and on the enclosure or interface. Also, physical design of the enclosures should be sloped or pitched to avoid use as storage area.
9. Hygienic Compatibility with Other Plant Systems: Equipment design must ensure hygienic compatibility with other equipment and systems such as electrical, hydraulics, steam, air, and water.
10. Validate Cleaning and Sanitizing Protocols: Procedures for cleaning and sanitation must be clearly written, designed, and proven effective and efficient. Chemicals recommended for cleaning and sanitation must be compatible with the equipment and the manufacturing process.
Source: American Meat Institute
While statistics show that food-borne-related illnesses are declining in the United States, concerns over the safety of meat and poultry products are ever present with consumers and industry officials. As a result, preventing such events at all points in the food supply chain has become more important than ever.
Among other challenges, the difficulties inherent to cleaning and sanitizing processing and packaging equipment have become more pressing over the years, prompting processors to increasingly seek designs that combine simplicity with sanitation.
“For many years we have been promoting sanitary design as a competitive difference in our equipment, and today we’re seeing that sanitation and the ability to clean equipment is near or at the top of the list of processors’ purchasing decision criteria,” observes David Wildes, director of sales and marketing for Lodi, WI-based Alkar, RapidPak, and Sani-Matic, three combined equipment manufacturing companies.
Aiding processors in their efforts to achieve the highest possible sanitation standards have been such initiatives as the American Meat Institute’s (AMI) establishment in 2001 of an Equipment Design Task Force (EDTF) charged with creating operational and equipment design guidelines to assist both the use and standardization of sanitary processing equipment. The EDTF also created a checklist tool to help processors and equipment manufacturers apply the principles.
“Prior to AMI’s efforts, sanitation was defined differently by different processors and vendors,” Wildes adds. “[AMI’s] Ten Principles of Sanitary Design have been helpful because they have created a benchmark for which sanitation is defined industry-wide.”
For their part, Alkar, RapidPak, and Sani-Matic operate an internal task force to continually develop new equipment design ideas for the sake of improved food safety. And while Alkar and RapidPak have established themselves as leading manufacturers of food-safety designed thermal processing and packaging machinery, respectively, Sani-Matic is a leading specialist in sanitation technology.
RapidPak, a supplier of horizontal thermoform, fill, and seal vacuum packaging systems, for example, boasts that its machines have earned Dairy 3A, 23-04 sanitation standard compliance. New equipment guard designs are among its latest improvements to enhance food safety. “The guards open by tilting out,” says Wildes. “They are completely accessible — but not removed from the machine — to ensure effective cleaning.”
Additionally, Sani-Matic cleaning technololgy, including automated washers for vats, totes, racks, and meatsticks, improves cleaning while reducing labor, water, and chemical costs. “Using sanitation techology to aid your sanitation process completes the whole picture,” Wildes notes. “By eliminating as many variables in the cleaning process as possible, you achieve the highest possible level of control.”
Wildes stresses that cleaning equipment is not only about food safety, but also directly related to capacity and productivity. “If it takes four hours a day to clean equipment, then how many pounds per day can you manufacture?,” he explains. “The engineering people understand that. If they can reduce their cleaning time by ‘x’ number of hours, they will have that many more hours of available uptime.”
Kansas City, MO-based Multivac Inc., meanwhile, has a long history of engineering packaging systems conducive to sanitation. Its R530 was first introduced with all stainless-steel surface construction in 1991, launching the company’s sanitation initiative, Bob Koch, director of sales, food division, Multivac, observes, adding that, “Today, Multivac’s full line of rollstock systems, tray sealers, and chamber equipment features stainless-steel construction, full wash-down capabilities, and other design engineering to facilitate easy cleaning.”
Multivac’s latest model R530 thermoform rollstock packaging systems feature the latest advancements in easy-to-sanitize design. The enhancements include reduced flat surfaces, hermetically-sealed hollow components, and one-piece construction of many parts to avoid crevices and water collection points. Based on AMI’s 10-point guidelines, USDA standards, 3-A standards, and feedback from Multivac customers, Koch says these new features are designed to help processors maximize their food-safety practices.
In fact, Multivac worked closely with AMI members at companies to evaluate its R530 rollstock system according to the association’s sanitary design guidelines. “As part of the design and development process of this system, Multivac invited customers and AMI sanitary design committee members to review the system,” recalls Koch. “After this review, Multivac further enhanced current systems, and the review will be the basis for future Multivac designs.”
Multivac also has embraced USDA’s voluntary program [USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service in 2001 developed a voluntary, user-fee-funded program to review and certify equipment and utensils used to process livestock and poultry products] by engineering the R530 to address USDA’s stringent sanitation requirements. The company says it is currently the only horizontal form, fill, and seal manufacturer to gain acceptance in the USDA program. In addition, the company has received authorization to apply the 3-A Symbol.
“Safety and sanitation are a top priority for food processors and packagers from plant design to cleaning procedures. New design elements of packaging equipment are a vital part of this continuous evolution of food safety and sanitation,” Koch stresses. “These new elements help plant managers more effectively implement cleaning practices and, in many cases, the new designs also create a more efficient overall process … Packaging equipment designed around sanitary standards can help maximize cleaning efforts and minimize the possibility of error. Choosing packaging equipment that accomplishes these goals helps food processors remain profitable as well as maintain very high standards for sanitation.”
Derrick Mashaney, director product development for Fairbanks Scales, Kansas City, MO, notes that his firm also has applied AMI’s Principles of Sanitary Design as guidelines and specifications for all its scale equipment designed for use in food-processing applications. “We believe these standards provide a clear road map for product design to ensure the products we manufacture meet the needs of the customer,” he says.
Fairbanks Scales’ QuickSilver bench scales are the latest Fairbanks products to reflect the Principles of Sanitary Design. In addition to their open, easy-to-clean design, they are available with an optional FDA-approved antimicrobial coating called AGion. QuickSilver features all-continuous welds, preventing materials and moisture from accumulating and forming colonization points for harmful bacteria, and a completely sealed scale and frame to prevent moisture penetration, among other food-safety features.
“Sanitation and CIP [clean-in-place] abilities are crucial in all products designed by Fairbanks Scales for use in scale equipment designed for use in food-processing applications,” explains Mashaney. “These are incorporated in our design criteria at the front of the development cycle, not at the end as an after thought.”
Similarly, Steve Federspiel, senior engineer for Huntington, IN-based conveyor manufacturer Shuttleworth Inc., stresses that eliminating machine elements that offer bacteria a place to hide is the first step in designing a cleanable piece of equipment, with the choice of materials such as antimicrobial plastics and stainless steel being the second step.
“Adhering to a well-written and easy-to-follow cleaning procedure is the front line of defense to controlling bacteria,” Federspiel says. “If cleaning is the first thing the designers think of when designing each part of an assembly, the whole assembly is likely to be cleanable.”
To prove Shuttleworth’s conveyor design was as cleanable as the company had hoped, Federspiel says a sample Easy Clean conveyor was submitted for review to the Department of Food Science at Purdue University. A team headed by Arun Bhunia, Ph.D, conducted cleaning and sanitizing tests on the conveyor following the Shuttleworth Cleaning Procedure. Results stated that “the Easy Clean conveyor appears to be very good for effective cleaning with sanitizers, as bacteria was NOT found in suspected problem areas. Bacteria were always cleaned satisfactorily in critical areas between standard rollers and roller shafting.”
“We at Shuttleworth Inc. are keenly aware of the potential sanitation problems that can be created if close attention to sanitary design criteria is not adhered to … There are no shortcuts when it comes to adhering to the design we’ve found to work,” adds Federspiel.
For its part, Londonderry, NH-based Wire Belt Company of America notes that the stainless-steel construction, cleanability, and hygiene features of its belting and drive components make them ideal for use in the food-safety-conscious meat industry. “The round wire, open mesh, flex-hinge, woven design of Flat-Flex® conveyor belting makes it the safest, most hygienic conveying media available to the food processing industry,” says Richard Spiak, vice president of sales and marketing, Wire Belt Co. “It resists buildup of biofilms, and it can be picked up by standard metal detection devices before the final product is packaged, reducing the risk of product recalls associated with foreign inclusions in product.”
Wire Belt also takes pride in its ability to design customized drive components like the hygienic, Sani-Drive™ system, a one-piece integrated shaft / drive component assembly that can be custom built for any conveying system in an end- user’s facility. Having the drive shafts and components all machined from one single piece of metal improves cleanability, and eliminates the possibility of propagation of pathogens between a shaft and gear, or other hard-to-clean areas of the drive system.
Technology suppliers participating in this feature include:
- Alkar/RapidPak/Sani-Matic, phone (608) 592-3211, fax (608) 592-4039, or visit, or
- Fairbanks Scales, phone (816) 471-0231, or visit
- Multivac Inc., phone (816) 891-0555, fax (816) 891-0622, or visit
- Shuttleworth Inc., phone (800) 444-7412 or (260) 356-8500, or visit
- Wire Belt Company of America, phone (800) 922-2637 or (603) 644-2500, fax (603) 644-3600, or visit