Feature by James Miller, Director at Dustcontrol UK

Innovative solutions to health, safety & hygiene in the food processing sector

Our Managing Director, James Miller, recently contributed a feature to Innovations in Food Processing and Packaging, on innovative solutions to health, safety & hygiene in the food processing sector. You can read the full piece below.

Dust is a major issue in the food industry due to the prevalent presence of harmful airborne particles, which, while problematic for workers' long-term health when inhaled, can also pose serious risks further down the line for consumers.

Falling short of undertaking the appropriate cleaning measures in a food processing environment, as well as failing to tackle dust in hard to reach areas, will almost certainly affect product quality, while also running a high risk of cross contamination. In such cases, consumers could face potentially fatal consequences in the event of an extreme allergic reaction.

Poor cleaning regimes can result in the workers themselves being exposed to fine dusts from a variety of food sources such as flour. These can cause inflammation of the airways, which can then develop into serious infections such as bronchitis and other long-term health conditions. Overexposure to hazardous dust particles, which are invisible to the naked eye, for a prolonged period of time can also cause permanent disabilities, and even death.

Therefore, it is essential that efficient and effective measures are put in place within the food processing sector to ensure workforces and the quality of products being made are protected from such hazards, while also adhering to the relevant and up-to-date health and safety regulations.

It is widely recognised that the food industry has special requirements and control of components and equipment used in food production is extreme, with specific areas focusing on migratory risk, surface finish and antistatic properties.

We continue to gauge a deeper understanding of the harmful properties of dust, and more and more businesses are taking steps in the right direction to control and confine areas in the workplace where excessive dust is created. Unfortunately, while being aware and attempting to address areas that need to be thoroughly cleaned and maintained regularly, the actual cleaning required often results in businesses using up a considerable amount of time, money and resources.

At Dustcontrol UK, we carried out research on the issue and found that where companies were taking cleaning seriously, it was often sporadic and in practice inefficient. This was due to outdated methods such as sweeping or equipment often involving poorly functioning and non-classified mobile vacuums.

What's more concerning is that only one in five decision makers in the food and drink processing, packaging and logistics industry admitted to not combating dust despite acknowledging it as an issue. The main problem is, dust is often underestimated and seen as a nuisance rather than a genuine hazard, which it very much is.

We also found that of the 100 food businesses we surveyed, as many as 24 per cent admitted to not having dust extraction equipment, with a further 10 per cent not even being sure if their company used such equipment. This suggests that as many as one in three businesses either don't have extraction procedures in place or, if they do, it's practically unnoticed.

Ultimately, it's a never-ending snowball effect as not having the correct equipment to effectively capture dust at its source, both where and when it's created, leads to an accumulation of dust, which in turn will naturally increase the time and money required to combat it.

The entire food processing industry needs to understand that by streamlining cleaning processes and using the optimum equipment for each scenario, it will pay dividends in reducing time consumption, as well as unnecessary costs.

Comprehensive source extraction systems are one of the most effective ways of achieving safe and hygienic food production, as they are designed to ensure food processing areas are the cleanest they can be – virtually eliminating the potential hazard of dust inhalation and cross-contamination.

With hygiene requirements within the food industry being extremely stringent for the aforementioned reasons, a complete source extraction system can be fully integrated into the food production process, where it can be utilised for recycling or as a centralised vacuum cleaning system.

At Dustcontrol, we've recently launched an innovative range of Good For Food (GFF) process extraction and general cleaning equipment that, when integrated with all our GFF components, includes flap valves, suction brushes, flat nozzles, hose connectors, tubing system, joints, pre-separator, automatic shutter valves, and filter units. In addition, all the range's material is approved for food contact and several have been designed to be installed in Zone 22, according to ATEX Directives 2014/34/EU.

The GFF brushes, in particular, have been developed specifically for the needs of the food industry. For one, they are antistatic and ESD certified, being both FDA compliant and the European equivalent. The brushes' colour coding – covering five handle colours and two interchangeable brush colours – also allows for different applications in the food processing area, or even for different days of the week depending on need. The use of colour-coded accessories is also beneficial in helping to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

Furthermore, the brushes material composition makes them detectable via metal detector as well as being autoclavable up to 121 degrees Celsius, allowing for high-pressure saturated steam cleaning.

By combining and integrating these components into the production line, food processing companies can yield higher quality products, whilst making savings on factory-wide cleaning costs.

Overall, with companies spending a considerable amount of time and money on cleaning, it pays to make sure they're doing it right. Streamlining cleaning processes and using the optimum equipment ensures that those in the food processing sector are utilising resources and saving valuable time and costs on creating a safer working environment.

Innovative solutions to health, safety & hygiene in the food processing sector
For further information on our Good For Food brushes and centralised vacuum systems, please call 01327 858001, or visit http://dustcontrolfood.com/.