Food and beverage lead the way in COVID-19 hygiene solutions

Whether it be a hospital, aged care facility, catering or any other commercial kitchen, the way these premises will be designed and built has changed forever according to Total Construction’s Tony Tate and Rob Blythman. Tate, the company’s general manager of Food and Beverage, and Blythman, who is the general manager of Total’s Engineering Construction Group, both know that the pandemic has altered the way processes are carried out in order to make sure customers stay healthy.
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Lubrication dispensing systems with safety in mind

Efficiency and cost savings are two of the key benefits to having a centralised lubrication system, but there is also a third and important reason – safety.

JSG Industrial Systems (JSG) is a company that has many strings to its bow, including its centralised lubrication systems technology supplied by SKF Lincoln for the food and beverage industry among many other sectors.

As in many industrial factories, food and beverage processing and manufacturing plants have a lot of critical machinery that need to be kept running, sometimes 24-hours a day. In order to keep the machinery in peak condition there are many facets that need to be taken into consideration, and good lubrication is critically important.

“A central lubrication system is key if you have equipment that is large and the lubrication points are spread out, and difficult to access,” said Marcantonio. “If the lubrication points are difficult or unsafe to access when the machine is running, it is easier to service these points via a lubrication distribution system serviced by a centralised pump. The system is then programmed to run at pre-determined intervals usually prescribed by the OEM.

“Every lubrication point needs a certain amount of grease each day and the most efficient way to deliver this is in small increments over regular intervals in order to keep the bearings running at optimum levels of performance.”

According to Marcantonio, one of the biggest advantages with such a system is that each lubrication point is provided with an exact quantity of lubricant at regular frequency, keeping the bearings lubricated optimally. To get the best results, it is ideal to apply the grease while the machine is running as this ensures uniform coverage.

He also pointed out the aforementioned safety issues when lubricating machinery manually because sometimes the lubrication points are deep inside a machine and therefore maintenance staff find access an issue when equipment is running.

“From a hygiene point of view, if you can only access that machine once a week when it’s not running, the tendency is to go in there and overlubricate the bearings,” he said. “They apply as much grease as they can, which is detrimental to the bearings. If you apply too much grease into a bearing, it won’t run efficiently and you are potentially shortening the life of the bearing. Even worse, what you typically find is that you will get a lot of spillage and contamination because of over lubrication. Bearings will leak grease over the floor and equipment and potentially contaminate the goods that are being manufactured. In a food environment, that can be disastrous.

“You can also cause a bearing to fail if over lubricated, particularly on high-speed machines where the rolling elements have to work against excess grease which causes heat and increased bearing load.”

SKF Lincoln’s centralised lubrication systems come in at a reasonable cost, and are easy to use. A moderately complex system can start between $5,000 to $10,000 and will cover 50 to 100 lubrication points. Marcantonio said if a company is lubricating those points manually then they will employ someone to do the work by hand which could take them up to half a day.

“You’re saving on labour and you are also extending equipment reliability,” he said.

There are two main systems SKF Lincoln produces that are ideal for the food and beverage industry. The first is the Quick Lube Progressive System for grease.

“It tends to be the most prominent system used in the food and beverage industry because the volume of grease you need to reach each bearing isn’t huge, unlike heavier applications such as mining conveyors. You are generally not delivering grease further than 20 to 30 metres and as such the system tends to be more compact. So, this technology is more suited to smaller, more compact machines.”

Then there is the Chain Lubrication System, which is basically an oil lubrication system, similar in principle to the Quick Lube Progressive System and applies finite quantities of oil onto the pins of chain. This is different to some manual systems, or more agricultural systems, which are semi-automatic – oil is applied to the whole chain, which may lead to spillage and oil wastage, and can cause contamination issues in the surrounding environment.

“Lincoln SKF systems will accurately control the quantity of oil to the part that needs to be lubricated – the pins on the chain. This minimises contamination and spillage and optimises lubrication, extending the life of the chain,” he said. “Some of the chains that are used in ovens and other applications cost 10s of 1000s of dollars – they are specialised and quite highly engineered. A simple $5000 lubrication system can greatly increase the service life of these chains when set up properly, reducing unplanned down time.”

The SKF Lincoln systems are easy to install by qualified tradespeople and once installed are simple to operate.

“You just set the run and pause time for the system to suit the amount of oil you want to apply over the time period and the system does the rest,” said Marcantonio.

“In recent times we have seen more companies move to using food grade lubricants in order to minimise risks associated with contamination of product by lubricants. The industry is very sensitive to contamination of product and equipment reliability.”

The other thing that is intrinsic in the food and beverage industry are frequent washdowns of plant and machinery. Most companies will use water or steam to clean equipment down on a regular basis and this practice can potentially wash out the lubricant from the bearings.

“The benefit of a centralised lubrication system is that when the equipment is put back into service the system immediately begins to apply more lubricant into the bearings replacing any grease that was removed during the wash down procedure. Potentially this lubricant is only replaced on a weekly basis if done manually,” said Marcantonio. “You could be running the bearings dry for days. The only way you will know if a bearing is running low on lubrication is via the use of condition monitoring technologies such as vibration or temperature sensing. If the plant is not using these technologies then there is no way of knowing when that bearing is low on lubricant. That is why a centralised lubricant can be so important.”

JSG Industrial Systems provides access to products and solutions from SKF Lincoln Lubrication within the Asia Pacific region.

Food manufacturer switches to hand sanitiser

One of Queensland’s oldest family-owned companies and best-known food manufacturers Trisco Foods is fighting back against the COVID-19 pandemic by developing and launching its own brand of clinical-grade hand sanitiser in just three weeks.

The company, which normally produces syrups and thickeners, today completed the first bottling of its new hand sanitiser that will be sold to aged care centres and health departments across the country.

About 35,000 litres of hand sanitiser will be produced every week at the company’s Carole Park factory with volumes to increase over coming weeks as safety systems and processes are expanded. The product will initially be available in 3lt bottles and 500ml flip cap bottles.

Trisco Foods CEO Mike Tristram said the company had been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and had been looking for new opportunities to utilise their product R&D and mass production capabilities.

“To effectively fight COVID-19 now and into the future we are going to need a lot of hand sanitiser and after some initial feasibility studies worked out we could quickly ramp up production of a product that met the highest standards and could be used in a range of clinical situations,” he said.

“Businesses all over the world are adapting and evolving to the new world and this is one we can not only strengthen our business and retain jobs, but also help fight the outbreak.”

Trisco, which was named Premier of Queensland’s Exporter of the Year last year, normally produces world class food ingredients, such as syrups and sundaes, that are used here and abroad by leading food companies.

The company also produces the highly successful Precise Thick-N range of instant liquid thickeners that helps maintain the health of people suffering from swallowing problems and neurological-related dysphagia. Last year, the company expanded to the US with a new factory at Colorado Springs.

The sanitiser, which will be produced under the Precise Defend brand, is 80% ethanol and provides antibacterial hand cleansing without the need for water.

Tristram said the high level of Ethanol required a range of stringent health and safety protocols to protect staff during the manufacturing process.

“Unlike a lot of sanitising products, clinical solutions used in hospitals and aged care facilities require a high level of ethanol which can be a dangerous product in its purest form,” he said.

“Developing a formula, training staff and re-working some of our production equipment has been a massive undertaking and our staff have done an incredible job to get us to the point where our first product is rolling off the line.”

The product will initially be distributed through aged care centres where the company has exiting relationships but will eventually be available to hospitals and government health authorities.

The Tristram family is well known among older Queenslanders as the name behind the soft drink with the marketing slogan, “Say Tristrams Please”. The brand and soft drink business were sold to Cadbury Schweppes in 1970 when the Trisco Foods company began and the family concentrated on the ingredients business.

After more than 140 years manufacturing a range of food and beverage products in Brisbane, the company earlier this year unveiled plans for its first offshore facility in Colorado Springs.

The Precise Thick-N range of instant liquid thickeners make soft food and liquids easier to swallow without impacting the nutritional benefits or taste. After just six years Precise Instant has become the dominant design and is the market leading product and has displaced traditional powder-based thickeners in most aged care facilities and hospitals around the country.

 

Food safety expert: how to keep premises safe during pandemic

A leading expert in food safety standards is calling for all relevant businesses in the food industry – restaurants, manufacturers, packaging companies, retailers and transport providers – to meet Australian and global food safety standards to help reassure consumers in the current pandemic. The call comes as the industry faces the challenge of quelling customer fears about the potential transmission of COVID-19 via food. 

Maidie Wood is a food safety expert at SAI Global, a provider of food safety certification and training, which has audited thousands of businesses to ensure they comply with industry regulations.

There is currently no evidence to suggest that coronavirus is transmitted through food. COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, which is spread almost exclusively through person-to-person, or person-to-surfaces-to person contact – as was the case with earlier strains, including MERS and SARS. On the other hand, food contamination risks are typically microbial,” said Wood.

“As we learn more about the virus, there may be a slim chance that COVID-19 does present some cross-contamination concerns. It is contracted by inhalation or a similar mechanism, such as breathing in infected droplets from another person’s cough. As a result, it might be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching the food or food package that has had the virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose. However, any trace of the virus would be destroyed by proper cooking.”

Although any food safety risks of the virus continue to be evaluated, Wood warns that it is extremely important that food businesses have hygiene systems in place that meet Australian standards, and where necessary, take additional measures to keep the risk levels low. “In times of increased pressure on businesses within food and packaging supply chains, it is imperative that correct hygiene, sanitisation, and pre-operating procedures are strictly adhered to. For business owners, excluding ill workers from your premises is also a necessary prevention measure.

“Although it’s a legal requirement that all food businesses in Australia are trained in food safety, more in-depth Food Safety Supervisor training, such as HACCP certification, should be considered during – or following – this challenging health and safety crisis. SAI Global encourages food manufacturers, retailers and food services to get certified to meet internationally recognised food safety standards such as SQF, FSSC, ISO 22000, BRCGS and IFS – which all incorporate HACCP – to enable them to improve their processes, increase efficiencies, and ultimately, communicate to their customers they have robust food management systems in place.”

 The five tips are:

1.       Ensure your team are aware of the COVID-19 situation and take it seriously. The scale of COVID-19 is unprecedented. Therefore, managers need to check in with staff regularly to review their welfare and address any concerns as quickly as possible. For instance, staff should be encouraged to be open about their symptoms if they suspect they’re unwell and express any concerns about their circumstances, such as job security. There is a risk that food handlers may continue to work while infectious if they believe their job security is threatened. The best way to monitor staff is to check their body temperature as this cannot be hidden.

2.       Review the social interaction of your workforce. In the current social distancing environment, separation of shifts will allow greater time for cleaning and sanitisation of equipment, services, or common dining areas. Food businesses should also consider minimising the number of staff in production areas and position them in all areas of the premises so that they are an appropriate distance apart. Minimising the overlapping of shifts or rosters as much as possible is also vital. 

3.       Ensure adequate sanitisation facilities with instructions are provided, so that food handlers thoroughly and frequently wash their hands. Though good hand hygiene is common practice among most food businesses, consider increasing it under the current circumstances – according to guidance from the Department of Health. Additional handwashing and sanitisation points should be set up throughout food businesses. Handwashing and then sanitisation should be considered as the new normal routine.

 4.       Supervise all areas in which food is exposed to ensure it is not contaminated. While COVID-19 can be destroyed by cooking, it can survive on surfaces, such as benches, for several days. If a food handler has been unwell, and there’s concern that a surface might be contaminated, all food packaging should be removed from that surface and effectively disposed of.

5.       Advise staff that they can refuse service to any customers who appear unwell, providing this meets the necessary standards and regulations. According to Australian food regulators, businesses have the right to refuse service to customers if they display notable COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever or coughing. The ability for food handlers to exclude patrons underpins a fundamental social responsibility measure outlined by the Australian Government Department of Health, which has demanded members of the public stay home while displaying any symptoms.

Food manufacturing cleaning: best practices

In hospitality and food manufacturing environments, cleanliness is essential, especially in an era where traceability is coming under more scrutiny. However, many production floor managers and hospitality staff find it difficult to set up a cleaning process that is cost-effective, efficient, and gets the job done.

There are many cleaning challenges that face food and beverage manufacturers and processors, but there are also solutions that can make sure a factory is kept up to scratch in the cleanliness stakes.

Ensuring health and safety standards are met
When working with food, it is important to prioritise cleanliness and food safety at all times. Unlike some environments where it is possible to clean up at the start or end of the shift, a workspace needs to be clean and hygienic round the clock.

Different spaces that have different cleaning needs
It is important to realise that different spaces have different cleaning requirements, whether it is a large open floor area, small space with tight corners – or a mixture of both.

Plus, it might be necessary to deal with a range of floor types – from smooth-coated flooring and concrete to tiles (with or without grout), bricks, stone, slate, and more. This is an important consideration when choosing cleaning equipment and machinery.

Cleaning needs to happen during operating hours
Most food manufacturing and hospitality environments deal with long opening hours, continuous production, and even 24/7 service. That usually involves cleaning with customers and/or staff in the area. This means they need to carefully consider how they can make the area safe and minimise slippage/fall risks.

Many food manufacturers operate at a large scale with hundreds of staff. That can come with extra challenges – they’ll need to identify who is in charge of the cleaning, then ensure proper training, accountability, and machine care.

A lot of the time, the staff who are responsible for cleaning also have other responsibilities and demands on their time, such as serving customers or working on the production line.

They need to be able to work efficiently when cleaning so they can also keep on top of other areas.

Budget constraints
Most hospitality and food manufacturing organisations have a lot of expenses – rent, wages, materials, ingredients, suppliers, and equipment.

In some cases, it’s not an option to hire dedicated cleaning staff, or increase hours so existing staff can improve cleanliness.

Hospitality environment cleaning best practices and solutions
What’s the answer to the above challenges? Most of the time, it comes down to improving cleaning practices and using the best available technology.

The best cleaning technology
The best way to boost efficiency and effectiveness, and get a better clean done in the same amount of time (or less) is with better cleaning technology.

For example, a food production factory might replace its existing mop and bucket setup for a walk-behind scrubber.

That means they could potentially get a better job done in less time (meaning less wages to pay) with less chemicals and water (meaning improved safety).

Tracking technology

One way to improve accountability in large organisations is with smarter technology that tracks equipment operation, maintenance, and location.

With Tennant’s IRIS Asset Manager, you can see how a machines is being used, where they are located, and whether they are being properly maintained.

Cleanliness tests

Another way to improve food manufacturing cleanliness is with regular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) tests.

ATP is a type of molecule that exists in or around living cells, which (if present) can be an indicator of unsanitary or contaminated surfaces.

It is a good idea to conduct regular cleaning audits to ensure all surfaces are being properly cleaned and also try and identify areas that need improvement.

Safer methods

One of the biggest safety risks with regular cleaning (especially with staff/customers around) is slippery/wet floors. The best way to reduce this risk is to minimise slipping with methods that use less water and/or self-dry.

Tennant’s scrubber-dryers use minimal water and come with built-in drying mechanisms. Plus, users can choose the battery-operated version to remove the risk of tripping over cords.

Another benefit of reducing water usage in floor cleaning is users can avoid getting water or floor cleaning solution on surrounding equipment, which can be damaging.

Good operational procedures

A lot of cleaning challenges can be solved by reviewing operational procedures, including cleaning schedules.

Create a clear schedule that ensures everything is cleaned regularly and on time.

Create a checklist to ensure that the most important cleaning processes happen continually throughout the day, as needed, to keep operation lines safe and clean.

Better training

Help people know what to do and how to do it for a safer, more effective clean.

This goes with all cleaning processes, but especially cleaning equipment.

Tennant’s  touch screen ProPanel comes with built-in training features to help onboard a team and guide them through the steps to use and maintain your equipment.

Bespoke flooring solutions available for small and large beverage plants

Food hygiene and safety are critical in an industry where traceability is a key plank on which some brands live or die. And it’s just not the source of the product where traceability comes into its own, there are the processing aspects, too.

Australian food and beverage manufacturing and processing have a good worldwide reputation when it comes to the quality of its processing plants. As well as having high-end technologies, the country’s safety and hygiene standards are up there with the best in the world. There is a reason the rest of the world covets produce made on these shores.

This reputation doesn’t come by accident. It is due to diligent, and sometimes overbearing government standards and regulations that make Australian-made food and beverages popular around the globe.

It is also due to the commitment by service providers who build the plant and machinery that make up this important primary industry.

Flooring is a key component of any food or beverage plant, but it’s not just a case of laying a concrete slab and hoping for the best. There are many considerations that need taking into account.

“First, the flooring, will have to be safe underfoot,” said Tony Miller, who is director of flooring specialist, Roxset. “In other words it has to be a finish that’s slip resistant.

“Second, it needs to be graded to floor waste because they’ll have a lot of liquids about, not only during the cleaning process, but for general processing, too.

“Third, the floor should conform to Food Safe Australia regulations. From the point of view it needs to be seamless, impervious, and have a radius cove at the floor wall intersection.
“Finally, there is the aspect of cleaning depending on what sort of chemicals they use. If they use a CIP, or caustic solution for cleaning, then they need a floor that doesn’t wear away.”

Miller has been in the flooring business for 35 years and knows the pitfalls that customers – especially those who are starting on their manufacturing and processing journey – can fall into if they don’t get the right type of flooring in place. When Roxset first visits clients, usually there is a general awareness about the regulations and standards that need to be met, but it still pays to get expert advice.

“Not only is there an expectation from regulators that standards are met, but end-users and customers – the like of Coles and Woolworths – that are going to buy a product from a particular beverage manufacturer might send in their own auditors. They will come in and make sure these standards are being met. They will also have an audit trail, which goes through and looks at all aspects of what the manufacturer is doing and they would expect it to meet and certain standard. If it doesn’t, they are not likely to buy it.”

Traceability is where the audit trail comes in. According to Miller, these companies would expect manufacturers to be able to demonstrate that they have followed procedures and at various demarcation points it has been signed off.

“There may be a recording made of things like temperatures and bacteria counts and all sorts of things could be incorporated into the audit trail,” he said. “And that is where a HACCP system is good. It details the various aspects of an audit that need to be met so that management has a guideline and something to follow.”

While the type of flooring that Roxset produces is top-end, it is the outcome that is important. Miller knows that when it comes to building a plant that is up to state or federal standards then it is the whole package that is important – and that can come at a cost.

“Every aspect of the building is going to be expensive, but they are upfront costs,” he said. “You can’t operate a business without drainage, without proper equipment and it just falls into that category. You can’t be expected to run a business without proper ceiling, wall and floor finishes.”

When it comes to beverage manufacturing such as boutique breweries and distilleries, Miller not only can supply the right type of floor for the environment, but also give advice on how to make it last as long as possible.

“In beverage manufacturing, we have a client whose floor we laid over 20 years ago and they have never had to replace it,” he said. “It comes down to a couple of things. One is maintenance – if they are using the correct cleaning procedures and are maintaining the floor correctly, the floor will last a lot longer. If they are abusing the floor, and they do have to drive traffic on it and people are wilful in their actions, of course they can damage it.”

In a working environment like a beverage manufacturing place, Miller recommends the epoxy floor be a minimum of 6mm in depth, and that will give users in excess of 20 years of life. Roxset also puts an extensive warranty on it that can range from about seven to 10 years depending on what it assesses the activity is occurring on the floor and the state of the existing building. Miller also said that the type of surface that the floor is going to be is something Roxset can design for the customer. Roxset tailors the slip-resistance of that floor to meet the requirement of the individual customer.

“For example, if someone is involved in completely dry production then they don’t need the same level of slip-resistance as some of them where there is a lot of liquid on the floor ,” he said. “If you don’t have a sufficient slip-resistant medium on the floor, and you’ve got something like a banana skin on it, you are going to have a problem.”

Roxset specialises in epoxy finishes, which look smooth and easy to clean. Is that the reality?

“Epoxy is very easy to clean,” said Miller. “Inherent in a slip-resistant finish is the fact is what you need to do the requirement of how you clean the surface as opposed to something that is completely smooth. It is not something you are going to go around with a mop and bucket and mop. That is not compatible with a slip-resistant surface. Captivating scrubbing is.”

One thing that Miller is keen to push is that Roxset is not a company that’s products are a one-size fits all. It designs bespoke floors for a range of different environments in the food and beverage industry.

“We’re not an off-the-shelf product,” said Miller. “What we are doing is tailoring the floor in situ to meet their individual requirements. They are bespoke solutions.

“What we decided to do was make our own product to suit the requirement that we see in the individual operation depending on what they are doing. We look at what liquids might go on the floor; what contaminant might go on the floor; and what chemicals might go on the floor. We design to their circumstance so they are getting the best possible for finish for their particular requirement rather than give them a generic product that might not suit what they are doing.”

Miller said it is important to differentiate between different types of flooring because the requirements for say, an abattoir over a gin distillery, are far apart – different chemicals are needed.

“If it is a lamb abattoir for instance, they can have solid particles of fat on a floor,” he said. “Well, if you don’t have a certain degree of non-slip there, you are going to have major problem. There is going to be a lot of blood going on the floor.

“However, in a beverage manufacturer, it may be just constituent parts of whatever the product they are making. It might have high sugar content but it hasn’t got any fat, so the slip resistance doesn’t need to be to the same extent. That is why we tailor the floor to meet the expectation.”

Finally, Miller said if customers were to remember one thing when putting down a new floor, it’s this: “It needs to reach a certain standard from the point of view of beverage safety, which in other words it can’t harbour bacteria. That practically means it needs to be impervious, which is what we offer.”

Bespoke flooring solutions available for small and large beverage plants

Food hygiene and safety are critical in an industry where traceability is a key plank on which some brands live or die. And it’s just not the source of the product where traceability comes into its own, there are the processing aspects, too.

Australian food and beverage manufacturing and processing have a good worldwide reputation when it comes to the quality of its processing plants. As well as having high-end technologies, the country’s safety and hygiene standards are up there with the best in the world. There is a reason the rest of the world covets produce made on these shores.

This reputation doesn’t come by accident. It is due to diligent, and sometimes overbearing government standards and regulations that make Australian-made food and beverages popular around the globe.

It is also due to the commitment by service providers who build the plant and machinery that make up this important primary industry.

Flooring is a key component of any food or beverage plant, but it’s not just a case of laying a concrete slab and hoping for the best. There are many considerations that need taking into account.

“First, the flooring, will have to be safe underfoot,” said Tony Miller, who is director of flooring specialist, Roxset. “In other words it has to be a finish that’s slip resistant.

“Second, it needs to be graded to floor waste because they’ll have a lot of liquids about, not only during the cleaning process, but for general processing, too.

“Third, the floor should conform to Food Safe Australia regulations. From the point of view it needs to be seamless, impervious, and have a radius cove at the floor wall intersection.
“Finally, there is the aspect of cleaning depending on what sort of chemicals they use. If they use a CIP, or caustic solution for cleaning, then they need a floor that doesn’t wear away.”

Miller has been in the flooring business for 35 years and knows the pitfalls that customers – especially those who are starting on their manufacturing and processing journey – can fall into if they don’t get the right type of flooring in place. When Roxset first visits clients, usually there is a general awareness about the regulations and standards that need to be met, but it still pays to get expert advice.

“Not only is there an expectation from regulators that standards are met, but end-users and customers – the like of Coles and Woolworths – that are going to buy a product from a particular beverage manufacturer might send in their own auditors. They will come in and make sure these standards are being met. They will also have an audit trail, which goes through and looks at all aspects of what the manufacturer is doing and they would expect it to meet and certain standard. If it doesn’t, they are not likely to buy it.”

Traceability is where the audit trail comes in. According to Miller, these companies would expect manufacturers to be able to demonstrate that they have followed procedures and at various demarcation points it has been signed off.

“There may be a recording made of things like temperatures and bacteria counts and all sorts of things could be incorporated into the audit trail,” he said. “And that is where a HACCP system is good. It details the various aspects of an audit that need to be met so that management has a guideline and something to follow.”

While the type of flooring that Roxset produces is top-end, it is the outcome that is important. Miller knows that when it comes to building a plant that is up to state or federal standards then it is the whole package that is important – and that can come at a cost.

“Every aspect of the building is going to be expensive, but they are upfront costs,” he said. “You can’t operate a business without drainage, without proper equipment and it just falls into that category. You can’t be expected to run a business without proper ceiling, wall and floor finishes.”

When it comes to beverage manufacturing such as boutique breweries and distilleries, Miller not only can supply the right type of floor for the environment, but also give advice on how to make it last as long as possible.

“In beverage manufacturing, we have a client whose floor we laid over 20 years ago and they have never had to replace it,” he said. “It comes down to a couple of things. One is maintenance – if they are using the correct cleaning procedures and are maintaining the floor correctly, the floor will last a lot longer. If they are abusing the floor, and they do have to drive traffic on it and people are wilful in their actions, of course they can damage it.”

In a working environment like a beverage manufacturing place, Miller recommends the epoxy floor be a minimum of 6mm in depth, and that will give users in excess of 20 years of life. Roxset also puts an extensive warranty on it that can range from about seven to 10 years depending on what it assesses the activity is occurring on the floor and the state of the existing building. Miller also said that the type of surface that the floor is going to be is something Roxset can design for the customer. Roxset tailors the slip-resistance of that floor to meet the requirement of the individual customer.

“For example, if someone is involved in completely dry production then they don’t need the same level of slip-resistance as some of them where there is a lot of liquid on the floor ,” he said. “If you don’t have a sufficient slip-resistant medium on the floor, and you’ve got something like a banana skin on it, you are going to have a problem.”

Roxset specialises in epoxy finishes, which look smooth and easy to clean. Is that the reality?

“Epoxy is very easy to clean,” said Miller. “Inherent in a slip-resistant finish is the fact is what you need to do the requirement of how you clean the surface as opposed to something that is completely smooth. It is not something you are going to go around with a mop and bucket and mop. That is not compatible with a slip-resistant surface. Captivating scrubbing is.”

One thing that Miller is keen to push is that Roxset is not a company that’s products are a one-size fits all. It designs bespoke floors for a range of different environments in the food and beverage industry.

“We’re not an off-the-shelf product,” said Miller. “What we are doing is tailoring the floor in situ to meet their individual requirements. They are bespoke solutions.

“What we decided to do was make our own product to suit the requirement that we see in the individual operation depending on what they are doing. We look at what liquids might go on the floor; what contaminant might go on the floor; and what chemicals might go on the floor. We design to their circumstance so they are getting the best possible for finish for their particular requirement rather than give them a generic product that might not suit what they are doing.”

Miller said it is important to differentiate between different types of flooring because the requirements for say, an abattoir over a gin distillery, are far apart – different chemicals are needed.

“If it is a lamb abattoir for instance, they can have solid particles of fat on a floor,” he said. “Well, if you don’t have a certain degree of non-slip there, you are going to have major problem. There is going to be a lot of blood going on the floor.

“However, in a beverage manufacturer, it may be just constituent parts of whatever the product they are making. It might have high sugar content but it hasn’t got any fat, so the slip resistance doesn’t need to be to the same extent. That is why we tailor the floor to meet the expectation.”

Finally, Miller said if customers were to remember one thing when putting down a new floor, it’s this: “It needs to reach a certain standard from the point of view of beverage safety, which in other words it can’t harbour bacteria. That practically means it needs to be impervious, which is what we offer.”

Food and bev fit out brought in on time and under budget

Most construction builds have challenges. But when there are a few hardcore caveats attached that will have an impact on getting the job completed on time and within budget, it is important to have people on the ground who are not only experts but can perform under pressure.

Food and beverage construction specialist Total Construction found this to be the case when it tendered and won a contract to complete a considerable alteration at an infant milk powder processing plant.

Total Construction’s national manager for food and beverage, Tony Tate, knew it would be a hard job, but one that the company and its staff would be up for. It would also prove that the commercial building specialist had what it took to turn a job around quickly and to the client’s specifications.

Tate and his team knew from the outset that if the job wasn’t finished on time, it would cost not only the client, but Total Construction, a lot of money. This was due to the penalty clauses in the contract. The main issue of concern was that the plant might become contaminated during the build, which means it would not meet Australian standards when it came to producing foodstuffs. This entailed a whole raft of restrictions to be put in place that meant Total Construction had to carefully plan and execute the build so as not to be liable for any overruns or contamination of the factory.

How does a company meet strict criteria, all the while completing a job to its own high standards?

Experience and planning were the two main components, according to Tate. They also had to persuade the milk powder manufacturer that Total’s methods of tackling the job were the best way forward.

“The plant had a shutdown period of only one month. For them to shut down for a month, meant they were losing a lot of revenue. It was a big deal for them,” said Tate. “The key driver for us was the plan of action. We had to incorporate building work, which can get messy, in a pharmaceutical area, which has to be spotless. The last thing that we want is any dust or contamination in a milk powder plant.”

There were five work zones at any one time with each of those work zones going from low to high care. Workers could walk around the low-care part of the facility – the warehouse – which was where the milk powder was already in sealed packaging, so there was little chance of contamination. It was the high-care areas where caution needed to be taken.

“Every day we were to make sure all the foreign matter – cable clips, cable ties, any debris that was left on the floor – was cleaned away thoroughly,” said Tate. “We had to captive vacuum every day and had to wear captive footwear. Even the builders had to change from safety boots to captive safety boots.”

When it came to making sure the project was going to come in on time some lateral thinking was required. Tate’s initial scope said the job would take 42 days. Even the independent design consultant could only see the job being completed within 46 days. The client initially thought that throwing more bodies into the project would help bring the alteration in on time. But as the Total Construction team pointed out, there were restrictions on space. Tate and his team came up with a solution that would make the job a little more costly, but not as costly to the client if they took an extra two weeks to complete.

“We started working with the design consultant and said we could expedite the process by putting two shifts on,” said Tate. “That is when we really started working with the client. You want to make sure you can take the client on the journey and build confidence with them. As you build confidence, you know what you are doing and you are then helping the client. So, we got the two shifts going as well as working Saturdays and Sundays.”

And while it was a precise process, there were a few issues that did arise along the way. At one stage, they managed to be three days ahead of schedule but the client delayed sign off on the HVAC installation, which put them back to the original schedules timeline. When the sign off was sorted out, there was an issue with the digger that was going to be used to dig out the new floor. It wasn’t cleared as a hygienic piece of equipment. It wasn’t until the Total team pointed out that the soil they would be removing would not be hygienic that it was decided that the digger – under amended conditions – could be used.

Another lesson learned was that even working under stringent conditions, the unexpected can occur. It pays to think laterally, and help the client out the best you can, said Tate.
“After we started, the client realised that once we finished up, they would only have five days to train on the new plant,” said Tate. “The staff not only had to be trained in the new equipment, but they had to validate the new equipment, too. They realised that the time they had allocated themselves to do this was not long enough. They then had to clean the facility and make it suitable to occupy.”

The client asked Total if they could use certain areas of the facility to do the training, but the penalty clauses in the contract made Total reluctant to do so. Total was within their rights to refuse but knew that it could cost the milk processing plant literally hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“So, we came up with a sequence on how to do the job and accommodate them,” said Tate. “First, we did the epoxy floors in the different areas on different dates. Once we completed certain areas, the hygiene teams went in and cleaned them up so they could be utilised. They then taped off the finished areas and they could go from there.”

And when it came to commitment, nobody was more invested in the project than site manager Craig Harkins.

“Craig lived and breathed it from six in the morning until eight at night,” said Tate. “There were times when we had to make sure that he was given time off because he was getting fatigued. When you’re struggling with fatigue, you get injuries and there are mistakes.”

It was a closely monitored build. The site manager knew at each stage exactly where the build was up to. If they weren’t up to where they should have been, all parties agreed on an action plan for the following day so they could catch up. They also had daily tool box talks to discuss contaminants and hygiene.

And the client’s reaction to the final product?

“If you look at the hygiene standards of the build, you could eat your dinner off the floor – it is that clean,” said Tate. “I think that because we have been retained for Stage 2 of the project means they were happy. It was a hard job, but we learned a lot from it. More importantly, we came in on time and on budget in what was a challenging build, so it was good news all around.

Light curtain saves time and safeguards worker wellbeing

Light curtains can be the last line of defence in a food and beverage manufacturing plant, especially in operations that require cutting, chopping and packaging of produce.

Jack Wheatley is the product manager for safety, sensing and signalling for NHP, an electrical engineering company that specialise in electrical and automation products, system and solutions. NHP offer unique products such as Allen Bradley GuardShield light curtains that help to improve the safety in food and beverage manufacturing plants. He knows how they can be used best within factories that produce food and beverages.

The Allen Bradley GuardShield range of light curtains has a few special features that are designed to make them not only cost-effective, but also reduce the investment required in maintaining spare parts.

Typically, a light curtain is used on machinery or production lines where regular access is required. Operators don’t want to be restricted by having to constantly open and close guards. They want to have access to the area, whether it is during production or during a downtime.

Being a transceiver and receiver, many light curtain installations require two separate light curtain sticks. The Allen Bradley GuardShield curtain leverages patented plug in transceiver technology where each stick can be used as a transmitter or receiver via the innovative plug-in modules.

“The concept of this design is to minimise on parts required,” said Wheatley.

“This new design reduces the number of parts required and will allow customers to better maintain production facilities with fewer spare parts. Additionally, for a supplier to keep stock, it’s about having the ability to hold a single length curtain, plug in module, and better service the market.

“Additionally, the patented plug design has embedded functions which are configured quickly and easily via DIP switches or software, significantly reducing engineering effort. These include: muting, blanking, start mode, external device monitoring (EDM) and scanning ranges” said Wheatley.

Another feature that Wheatley has highlighted is the laser alignment capabilities, which give the user an enhanced Integrated Laser Alignment System (ILAS) for quick installation and reliable operation.

“This cuts installation alignment labour time significantly, which is a significant benefit across multiple installs,” said Wheatley. “Prior to having this embedded technology, it was a tedious task for customers”.

Wheatley said that the most exciting feature is the Allen Bradley GuardShield being the first safety light curtains on the market to be Ethernet-enabled.

“With the release of the 450L-ENETR Ethernet adapter, detailed diagnostics and status information will be conveniently available to customers when integrating into a networked PLC system,” said Wheatley.

“At NHP, we understand that all equipment as part of a food or beverages manufacturing process is critical to its operation and maintenance crews require reliable components along with product support. This is one of NHP’s key values when going to market,” said Wheatley.

“NHP has a product technical phone service that all customers can access for engineering support,” he said. Further to that, Rockwell Automation, who manufacture the product, also have a paid service technical support hotline.

The units come in different lengths ranging from 150mm up to 1950mm – in multiples of 150mm in both 30mm and 14mm resolutions. There are no dead spots (passive zones) at the top or bottom of the stick, which means they can be installed inside a machine frame and do not have be mounted outside/on the machine like a traditional light curtain system.

Romer Labs APAC Solutions Centre offers all-in-one solution for allergen testing

For almost four decades Romer Labs has been listening to the needs of customers in Australia, New Zealand, and the entire APAC region by delivering innovative diagnostic solutions for the food and beverage industry. Romer  Labs realised that its customers were interested in three core areas – analytical services, technical support and customer training.

Romer Labs has established itself in the region for providing accredited mycotoxin analytical services, which is expanding in the form of multi-mycotoxin analysis 50+. This means a single report can give specific information on more than 50 mycotoxins that can be present in any one sample.

In response to demand from countries like Australia, the company has also integrated full-service food allergen testing facilities into its analytical offerings. It will serve the region with analytical services that cover gluten testing and the broadest range of allergenic analytes on the market including specific nut species.

To complement these new capabilities, the Romer Labs APAC Solutions Centre provides enhanced technical support, such as sample validation, troubleshooting and insight into best practices to Romer Labs’ customers.

The APAC Solutions Centre is bringing a new service to the region in the form of customised training programs, which includes workshops and webinars. It is designed to adapt to when, where and how often customers test. Romer Labs issues training certificates and other documentation that may be necessary for audits and accreditations.

Both Australia and New Zealand have stringent regulations on allergenic content in food. With its new centre, Romer Labs can provide these products to businesses who do not have access to analytical services. It can also help those customers who need training programs to help them stay efficient and compliant.

For analytical testing services, customers can expect to receive their test results in five business days for food allergen testing and six business days for mycotoxin testing. These turnaround times are based on the date of receipt of samples in the company’s laboratory. For an extra cost, customers can receive their results within a day. Customers are emailed their analytical test results in a certificate of analysis. Other communications can be directed to the APAC Solutions Centre or through a local sales representative.

Technical support is another primary service provided by Romer Labs. At times, the Centre collaborates with industry bodies for seminars or webinars to help professionals keep up with the latest trends in food safety and analysis.

Romer Lab clients include government and independent commercial consulting laboratories as well as global food manufacturers who it has helped to verify results for specific matrices that proved problematic.

One food manufacturer producing food coatings and spices used Romer Labs’ allergen test kits with positive results. A technical specialist from the Centre was engaged to examine the matter; the analysis of samples from a similar batch confirmed the results. Following discussions with the customer, the technical specialist suspected that the source of the allergen was the ingredients that were supplied to them. Tests performed on several batches of the goods confirmed this original suspicion. The company was satisfied with the result and has used the test kits on several other occasions for in-house testing.

Customers have also received technical training from Romer Labs on how to improve their capabilities for detecting ergot alkaloids using LC-MS/MS. The Romer Labs APAC Solutions Centre provided them with hands-on training in the method, and staff showed them how to apply Biopure reference materials and clean-up columns for use in their own laboratories. This is one example of customised training programs that help customers keep their food supply chain safe.

 

 

 

 

Reasonable adjustments at work: when and what to consider

Employers have an obligation to make any reasonable adjustments necessary to help an employee or job candidate perform the inherent requirements of their role.

Reasonable adjustments may be required for workers with a disability, recovering from an injury or illness, or for those suffering from a chronic health condition.

What is a Reasonable Adjustment?
A reasonable adjustment in the workplace is any form of assistance or possible adjustment in a process, practice, procedure or environment to minimise the impact of a worker’s disability, injury or illness, enabling them to effectively and safely perform the inherent requirements of their role.

Before making changes, employers must understand the inherent demands of the worker’s role, including the physical and health demands with a focus on WHAT needs to be accomplished rather than HOW.

Adjustments should be tailored to meet the individual’s needs and circumstances and should be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure the worker remains safe and effective at work.

When might you consider making reasonable adjustments in the workplace?
Under the Disability Discrimination Act, employers are required to consider making reasonable adjustments for a person with a disability who:

  • Applies for a job, is offered employment, or is an employee
  • Requires adjustments in order to participate in the recruitment process or perform the genuine and reasonable requirements of the job

However, if doing so would cause great disruption to the workplace or comes at a very high cost, this may be classed as unjustifiable hardship. Examples of unjustifiable hardship may include unreasonable financial burden, restrictions to the amendment of a building, or an adjustment that would disadvantage other employees.

Reasonable adjustments may not be limited to physical changes
This doesn’t just stop at purchasing new equipment and PPE. Reasonable adjustments may include changes to work hours, additional rest breaks, job rotation, technological assistance or training and education to address attitudes and culture in the workplace. Changes may be temporary or long term and should be tailored to the individual.

Making changes should be beneficial for both the employer and worker/job candidate. There are a host of benefits which could include:

  • Preventing health conditions and injuries from worsening
  • Improving and maintaining a safe and positive culture
  • Recruiting and retaining a skilled workforce

Reasonable adjustments form an important part of the rehabilitation process, and should be strongly considered as part of an ill or injured worker’s return to work plan.

 

Onsite injury prevention and management: beyond the treatment room

According to the latest update from SafeWork Australia, body stressing injuries topped the list as the most common injury resulting in a claim (36 per cent).

Taking a proactive and preventative approach to musculoskeletal injuries onsite is proven to affect the duration of an injury, while also reducing the risk of it going to claim. This is great not only for your employees, as they remain productive and at work, but also for your business.

READ MORE: The four steps of food safety systems

“The World Health Organisation (2008) has clearly identified the workplace as an important area of action for health promotion and disease prevention.” – Comcare, Effective Health & Wellbeing Programs

What should you look for in an onsite health provider?
An onsite healthcare provider is more than just ‘the person who comes to you’ for injury treatment. A qualified and experienced allied health professional will partner with you, fully integrating with your workplace.

With a focus on injury prevention and management, an onsite health provider will:

  • Identify how a worker is using their body to perform their role
  • Understand the injury and health risks associated with each task being performed
  • Identify underlying health conditions that may affect injury recovery and outcomes (diabetes, for example)
  • Develop tailored return to work programs

Learn more about Work Healthy Australia’s approach to Onsite healthcare here.

A physical presence onsite, dedicated treatment / rehabilitation space and key stakeholder engagement are key to a successful onsite program. But the proactive and preventative elements of an onsite system of care will be informed by the valuable treatment data and health insights that are gathered along the way.

Data example: Body region by length of service
In this example you can see that the top 3 body regions being treated are shoulder, lower back and neck.

Data Source: Work Healthy Australia

If we look closer, we can see that 85 per cent of these injuries have occurred in workers who have been with the business for under three years.

Data Source: Work Healthy Australia

Why is it important that an onsite health provider records this information?
A skilled onsite provider will be able to use and interpret treatment data to help you improve your processes, programs and ultimately help you reduce your risk of injuries in the workplace.

The example given above could form the basis for your approach to your induction program, a targeted strengthening and exercise program, or it may even inform your pre-employment medical process.

“Work health and safety improvements are best achieved when health and safety is supported by the organisation’s culture and embedded in its procedures and processes.

–SafeWork Australia, Australian Work Health & Safety Strategy (2012-2022)

Everyone wins with an onsite program
Engaging workers is key to maintaining a healthy and productive workplace. When a successful onsite system of care is implemented, workers can:

  • Better understand the importance of adhering to health & safety processes
  • Contributed to a positive safety culture
  • Utilise treatment services at the appropriate times
  • Safely perform their duties; and
  • Feel valued in the workplace

By utilising specialist onsite services to develop an effective system of care, businesses can experience positive change in the health and safety of their workplace.

Onsite care, including the integration of onsite treatment, provides:

  • Easy access to allied health professionals
  • Less disruption to worker schedules
  • A close-up and unique understanding of the workplace environment
  • Positive employee morale and workplace culture
  • Direct communication lines with relevant safety supervisors and management
  • Tailored data driven solutions
  • A focus on productivity efficiencies

If you’d like to find out more about implementing an onsite system of care in your workplace, contact the team Work Healthy Australia.

Listeria: How to win the war that never ends

Risk. It’s an inescapable part of life that’s always around us, invisible … until it’s not. In the food industry, safety risks, such as listeriosis – a pathogenic bacterial infection – can threaten the strongest of brands, people’s health and even their lives.

According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand, each year in Australia around 150 people are hospitalised with listeriosis and about 15 people die. Recent tragedy provides another reminder that the war against human pathogens goes on and on. Although the rate is declining, Australia has seen eight Listeria-related product recalls in the past 18 months.

The tactical warfare waged by the global food industry against food safety threats is multifaceted and grows increasingly sophisticated. Manufacturing facilities take ever-greater measures to ensure that equipment is as sterile as possible and pathogens don’t enter the processing stream. Molecular diagnostic pathogen test kits are getting shorter time to results. Packaging solutions such as antimicrobial sachets, films, coatings and high-pressure processing (HPP) also contribute to the cause. Foods are formulated to include antimicrobial ingredients that inhibit microbial outgrowth.

Food safety is complicated
“It’s difficult for manufacturers to know when the safety measures they’ve taken are truly sufficient,” said Andrew Pearce, ANZ country manager at Corbion, an ingredient solutions provider known for its expertise in food preservation. “When hygienic practices and ingredient solutions are in place, and no problems are detected, it’s easy to believe that there are no problems.”

Corbion works with food manufacturers to implement high-performance safety and shelf life solutions in a wide variety of applications, including bakery, meat, culinary, confectionery, dairy and beverage products. Although the company has been honing its expertise in this area for 80+ years, Pearce said finding the best solution to a given customer’s challenge is never a simple matter.

“Food safety may start with minimizing the microbial load in the raw materials and equipment used to process a food product,” Pearce said, “but then it comes down to the conditions in the product itself and whether those conditions support or inhibit the growth of pathogenic bacteria. It’s next to impossible to create a perfectly sterile product, so making sure you make it difficult for unwanted microbes to grow is crucial in food safety.”

The composition of the product is everything, Pearce explained. It’s not just that the right solution for a salad dressing is different than it is for a deli ham product; the best answer for a cured deli ham may be quite different from what’s needed in uncured deli shredded chicken. Protein and water quality, sodium content, and other ingredients all impact the chemistry of the food matrix. The lower the pH (i.e., higher acidity), the less hospitable the product is toward microorganisms. If the product’s storage temperature isn’t low enough, bacteria are better able to grow.

Listeria monocytogenes is a major concern for food regulators and manufacturers in part because it can grow even at refrigerated temperatures and in products with low water activity. While Listeria is inactivated at cooking temperatures, it can often re-enter the food supply following heat treatment.

Rising to the reformulation challenge
Adding another level of complexity to the challenge for manufacturers is the fact that incorporating a food safety solution has the potential to wreak havoc with important aspects of product quality and sensory appeal – things like flavor, texture, and shelf stability.

Thinking about what it takes to make consumers happy, in addition to keeping them safe, can also put limits on the kinds of ingredient solutions that can be considered. An increasing number of consumers check ingredient labels before purchasing foods in an effort to avoid ingredients they don’t understand or aren’t comfortable with. This challenges manufacturers to deliver the same product attributes (including safety) using more “natural” solutions they may never have worked with before.

“Reformulating food products is a complex undertaking because every part of a food matrix is connected to every other part,” Pearce said. “It takes an in-depth understanding of those interdependencies to be able to change one component of a formulation without losing important product characteristics.”

The process of reformulation is iterative, involving a sometimes lengthy series of sensory and microbial tests, each including small changes in dosages, ingredient composition and other factors. Corbion uses a combination of experience and advanced, data-driven modeling tools to quickly identify the optimal solution that meets the manufacturer’s food safety requirements while preserving the attributes of product quality that are so important to creating success in the marketplace. The Corbion Listeria Control Model, for one, leverages data from more than a decade of clinical studies, internal challenge studies, and external validation studies in real food matrices  to estimate the effectiveness of various pathogen control solutions, considering moisture level, pH, water activity, and levels of sodium, potassium and nitrite.

The right ally can make the difference
For food manufacturers, a dedication to achieving hygienic conditions within their own facilities and supply chains is an important part of what it takes to create foods that begin the journey to the consumer as microbiologically safe. But maintaining non-pathogenic integrity throughout that journey – including the product’s lifespan on the customer’s shelf – requires a level of know-how that can’t be taken for granted, even among ingredient suppliers, according to Pearce.

Having access to outside ingredient knowledge and microbiological expertise to complement in-house strengths can speed product development, result in a superior end product and dramatically reduce food safety risks that could threaten the public and the manufacturer’s brand. Choosing the right partner can improve outcomes by combining strengths in innovation, formulation, modeling, manufacturing, quality testing, market insights and other industry best practices.

Since producers prioritize their product safety programs, the outlook is good, Pearce said. “The food industry will never be able to stop fighting against Listeria and other pathogens, but with the help of food safety experts and state-of-the-art ingredient solutions, manufacturers – and consumers – can keep winning.”

Néstle recall roll-ups over metal fears

Nestlé Australia today announced the immediate recall of certain batches of Uncle Tobys Roll-Ups due to the possible presence of small metal fragments.

The affected products are being recalled because an ingredient supplier has advised Nestlé that equipment failure in their facility has led to the possible presence of small metal fragments in an ingredient supplied to Nestlé used to manufacture the products.

The products being recalled are:

Uncle Tobys Roll-Ups Passionfruit, Rainbow Berry,  Rainbow Fruit Salad and Funprints Strawberry, all of which were produced between 29th June and 14th July.

General Manager Snacks, Susan Catania, said these batches have been sold in major, independent and online retailers since early December.

READ MORE: Barcode trial promises to cut product recalls

“If you have purchased any of these products, please do not consume it, but return it to the place of purchase for a full refund,” Catania said.

Catania confirmed that other batches and products are not affected, and that Nestlé had not received any complaints from consumers regarding metal in Uncle Tobys Roll-Ups.

“As soon as we were made aware of the issue we made contact with authorities to conduct a recall and notified all relevant retailers,” Ms Catania said.

Food products containing foreign matter may cause illness or injury to consumers. Anyone who is concerned about their health should seek medical advice.

Consumers seeking more information can contact Nestlé on 1800 152 126

Putting the best floor forward

The word “hygiene” is critical in the meat processing industry; mandatory Hazard Analysis and Critical Control point (HACCP) controls were introduced into meat abattoirs in 1996, these requirements are set out in the New South Wales Meat Food Safety Schedule, which the Food Authority and abattoirs jointly manage. Plants are subject to fines, and even plant shut downs for failure to comply with regulations. It is critical that facilities that deal with meat deigned for human consumption not only keep up to these standards but also make sure that everything is in top condition throughout the whole meat processing process.

Meat processing facilities provide some the most challenging and harsh environments for concrete flooring, which are subject to significant thermal recycling.

Key considerations are:
1) cleanable – constant high-pressure washing;
2) chemical resistance – a range of chemicals and PH variations;
3) high compressive strength – flexibility to handle heavy loadsand abrasion; and
4) hygienic conditions – cannot contribute to growth of bacteria, mould or mildew.
Challenging issues for plant floors

Ambient Conditions
The ambient conditions in a meat processing plant are at two ends off the extreme. The “clean” sides of meat processing plants are generally cool during production, while the “dirty” sides are generally warm. Most areas on both sides are constantly wet or immersed in water or water slurries of animal waste, animal blood, fat and other by products. Further processing areas include cooking operations and/or cryogenic processes that can subject flooring to major temperature variations. Cleaning and sanitation operations can also subject the floor to thermal cycling.

Chemical exposure
Strong alkaline cleaners are used in most meat processing plants due to their effectiveness on grease, oil and organic matter. Some plants use live steam to clean and degrease, which can subject the floor to thermal shock and spalling of concrete – this can be costly for the processor.

Animal fat, sugar, vegetable oil, animal and vegetable proteins, wheat gluten, and countless other foods and flood additives will attack exposed concrete due to their acidic nature. These acidic compounds react with the alkaline cement paste, which is a binder for the concrete. This weakens the concrete and makes it more susceptible to damage from impact, abrasion, thermal cycling and further chemical attack. Over time, all these inputs can lead to degradation of the concrete.

Anti-slip requirements
Another consideration is that meat processing floors present constant slip hazards for process workers. They are almost always wet or damp, and combined with animal fats and/or oils, can compromise the safety of the working environment. Plant personnel must have a secure footing, particularly when working around hazardous equipment and/or heavy moving loads.

The floor topping must provide the required anti-slip properties in order to prevent slip and fall accidents. Processing floors are also subject to heavy forklift and pallet-jack traffic. Most damage occurs near isolation joints, construction joints and similar cross-sections of the floor. Heavy traffic will also degrade non-slip performance of a floor system over time due to wearing.

Roxset HACCP Flooring Systems offers a whole range of solutions that can address these issues and has the best coatings to handle all the complex and harsh challenges of dairy and meat processing plants. The specially formulated resin system offers a fast-cure, moisture-tolerant solution with no strong odours or flammability hazards. To top it is all off, these solutions can withstand organic acids and common cleaning and sanitation chemicals.

SMC’s smart thermo-chillers for peace-of-mind this summer

SMC’s smart range of thermo-chillers come in an array of sizes and deliver on precise and accurate temperature ranges for peace-of-mind.

According to Guiomar Fernandez, product marketing manager for SMC ANZ, the company’s range of chillers offer proactive control, improved performance and are backed by world-class service.

“With things heating up in Australia and New Zealand, now is the perfect time to order a thermo-chiller for your plant. Industries making use of heat generating devices such as machine tooling, printing and packaging are at risk of high rejection rates, poor product quality and a lack of overall process reliability,” Guiomar said.

In terms of how it works, the recirculating fluid of the chiller removes the heat from the customer’s device. The heat is then removed from the fluid by an air-cooled (or water-cooled) refrigeration circuit. The coolant temperature stability is ±0.1°C within a set temperature range.

“Correct temperature control is vital for productivity,” said Guiomar. When properly sized and selected, a thermo-chiller improves the quality of the final product, protects valuable process equipment, and reduces costs.

SMC offers a variety of solutions ranging from our standard type to our basic types and our high-level type triple inverter type chillers that adapt to the variable heat and flow requirements, achieving substantial power savings of up to 53 per cent.

Answering to the call for Industry 4.0 solutions, SMC’s range of thermo-chillers put the power in its customers hands. “Thanks to proactive controls via a remote control, these units offer self-diagnosis readings so that customers can anticipate and easily manage any incidents.

Environmentally resistant type: The HRS-R series 

  • resistant to dusty environments or environments with water splashing;
  • cooling capacity of up to 5000 W (60 Hz);
  • IP54 rated;
  • large capacity tank of 12L;
  • features a metal panel and a stainless-steel panel can be selected on request; and
  • ambient temperature of 5 to 45°

Series HRR (rack mount)

The temperature control device is mountable in a 19-inch rack, which is great for space savings:

  • temperature stability: ±1℃;
  • temperature range of 10 to 35°C;
  • cooling capacity: 1.2/1.8/2.4/3.0 kW (60 Hz);
  • easy front access; and
  • easy to operate without removing the unit from the rack.

Add-ons such as flow switches, pressure switches, filters, fittings and tubing are also available to order.

Getting the specifications right for an F&B build

For food and beverage facility owners, navigating compliance requirements when building or renovating a new building can be tough at the best of times, especially in a constantly changing regulatory environment. Bill Franks is a founding shareholder of food and beverage construction specialist Total Construction and is also member of the Australian Institute of Building. He has been involved in the industry for more than 30 years, and has some interesting insights on how some of these pitfalls can be avoided, especially for some of the smaller, up-and-coming food and beverage enterprises.

“Whereas a big multinational company has a team of people checking compliance, if you’re a mum-and-dad business, or own an industrial unit where you want to produce food for sale, you don’t have access to that kind of resource,” he said. “For starters, it’s important to understand which regulations you need to comply with. A commercial building comes under the Building Act and National Construction Code (NCC); what was known as the Building Code of Australia.”

A couple of regulations in particular, can cause issues because people don’t know some of the minute details – the fine print – that can be hidden in the regulations.

“For example, Section J (energy efficiency) of the NCC, along with essential fire services, have been catching people out for a number of years now,” said Franks. “Plus, with the ‘Access to Premises’ standard, a minor addition or alteration to a commercial building can now involve some serious upgrades to services like water, electricity and insulation just to mention a few.”

Franks adds that, while a lot of people know that buildings require fire sprinklers, there are other accessories that need to be added, too. “For example, water pressures have changed, and sprinklers now require water storage tanks and a set of pumps, which can sometimes cost around a half a million dollars.”

Then there is disability that needs to be added to the mix of potential changes some sites that are being renovated. In some cases, councils will require a lift to be installed, doorways and corridors widened and disability amenities added to satisfy current building codes.

Other considerations that need to be considered when planning to convert a brownfield site into a food and beverage facility include the noise and odour impacts. Many councils insist on obtaining noise and odour statements as part of the any submission. Although the consultant fees to produce these statements can be relatively low, the resulting adaptions to the building can be significant. In one instance a client was required to install 6.2m high exhaust flues to ensure that odours from their cooking processes were dispersed effectively and not impinge on neighbouring residential properties.

“You may say that is fair enough,” said Franks, “however, the residential properties were almost a kilometre away, yet the odour report indicated that with the right conditions the cooking odours could travel that far.”

Any new facility in the industry will need to comply with a Council’s Health Department requirements, so this means effective drainage, washing and waste disposal areas need to be well-defined to comply. Generally, to accommodate new drainage runs and wash areas in brownfield sites, a company needs to cut into the slab. Also, depending on the amount of drainage required, the existing slab could end up looking like “swiss cheese”. These drainage runs will then need to be reinstated and pinned back into the existing slab. In some instances, combining this with set down areas for any freezers, it can be cheaper to lay an entire new slab.

Apart from Council and NCC requirements, brownfield sites can also have issues with the roof weight capacity, as the majority of industrial units available are only designed to support roofing sheets and not much else. To enable the roof to support numerous services and insulated panel ceilings etcetera, the roof structure generally needs to be strengthened – sometimes dramatically.

Then there is another set of key criteria in deciding on premises to convert – power and gas availability. Again, the majority of industrial units only have access to approximately 100amps supply and no gas feed. Food and beverage facilities can require in excess of 500amps and a reliable gas supply to effectively run their operations. The time and cost associated with upgrading and installing these feeds can be exorbitant, and have caught out many proponents, causing delays in establishing operations.

So, what can you do to make sure your building ticks all the boxes? “The first thing is to establish the scope of the development, then work out where it might be non-compliant and if your budget stretches to bringing it up to standard,” said Franks. “You can find a copy of NCC online, but it can be difficult to make sense of it if you’re not a lawyer or building professional. My advice would be to get a report from a building certifier and engage an appropriate food and beverage builder to advise. By enlisting theservices of professionals, you can avoid a host of problems in the future.

“The key to ensuring you mitigate risks in your project is to involve your builder early in the process commonly known in the construction game as early contractor involvement or ECI.”

According to Franks, having a builder involved during the scoping and design stage can allow critical cost items in any build/fit out be identified and alternatives discussed.

“For instance, you may have a plan to construct a mezzanine level in your operations, this although perfect for the intended process flows can be extremely costly to construct,” he said. “Sometimes, a client cannot see the forest for the trees so to speak – they are so intrenched in their business that they only see one aspect of the project – being to increase efficiencies in their production.”

Involving a builder with process engineering capability in the food and beverage industry, such as Total Construction, can allow a different set of eyes to see the requirements and suggest alternatives to the building layout that just don’t reduce the need for costly building works, but can improve the process flow overall.

How ECI works to develop an achievable budget.
First, a site investigation is carried out by the builder on the existing and proposed facilities to detail and identify all services required and what is available at the new site (power, gas capacities). It is important to note that to increase power or gas supply to a site can be very costly to the project and create delays. Another area that needs consideration in the case of an existing building to be fitted out is the structure’s integrity. Having to strengthen this to cope with the additional weight of fit out and services can often blow out project costs.
Then a workshop is carried out with all stakeholders to identify required efficiencies, confirm proposed outputs and flag any potential limitations. As part of this workshop, all production processes are mapped and detailed for both the existing and proposed operations.

A list is made of the capacities and dimensions of all equipment both existing and new is developed. This helps to identify all utilities and services that are required. It also sets the benchmark for power and gas requirements at the proposed site.

This process helps identify potential bottle necks in current processes and helps highlight any potential hygiene requirements in the new fit out. Getting all this data captured is critical in maximising efficiencies of the new facility.

A review of the buildability of the facility is done and sketch design layouts are completed to optimise process flows to best fit the client’s objectives. A building/fit out SWAT analysis is carried out and build/fit-out costs are derived. Through close consultation between the builder and client, this process allows savings to be identified early on in the design and layout of the facility.

A detailed design including all services and requirements is then developed and put to the market for live market costing. This will give the client a firm understanding of what they can get for their dollar.

Finally, this is where working to a budget comes in – once the ideal building and fit out costs are established it is possible to derive further reductions in the overall project spend through rationalising the design. This includes, but is not limited to, reducing the number and sizes of rooms, freezer/cool room capacities and locations, and finishes in the design. This can be done while keeping future expansion capability intact in the design and maintain the client’s required production output for the new facility.

Aplex’s FABS-1XX series food safety standard industrial display

Backplane Systems Technology has released the FABS-1XX series food safety standard industrial display, engineered to meet the guidelines of strict hygienic environments.

FABS-1XX series includes flat front panels in seven different sizes 7-inch, 10.1-inch, 12.1-inch, 15-inch, 17-inch, 19-inch, and 21.5-inch, with projected capacitive touch or protected glass models. The displays are designed with an IP66/IP69K stainless-steel, front bezel and feature a variety of I/O connectivity. These rugged displays have been designed for factory automation and other food and beverage processing environment applications.

These monitors feature SUS304/316 grade stainless-steel, front bezels and offer resistance to oxidation, corrosion, and bacteria. In addition, the optimised bezel has a perfect chamfered edge whereby water and detergent can directly flow down the front panel. This display series supports IP66/IP69K ratings for water and dust resistance to withstand high pressure and hot water wash-downs for easy cleaning.

This series is equipped with hygienic material that is designed to meet EN1672-2 certification. The sealing material meets the international food safety grade requirement, FDA 21CFR 177.2600. The FABS series is a hygienic solution for the need of food and beverage industry and can be installed in automatic packaging production lines in the food processing industry.

The FABS series of industrial displays features an elegant, slim design and true-flat P-CAP glass screens that support both 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios. The new industrial display also gives users access to VGA, DP and DVI-D/HDMI interfaces for comprehensive graphic input requirements and built in speakers are optional. FABS 1XX Series is a robust, reliable and stylish industrial display for food and beverage applications and can facilitate making the business transmission toward to IIoT.

Key features:

  • Stainless-steel front bezel display
  • Flat front panel touch screen
  • IP66/IP69K (option) compliant front panel
  • VGA, DVI-D/HDMI, and DP input
  • Wide range DC 9~36V power input
  • High brightness LCD and auto dimming for option
  • Projected capacitive touch or AR glass for option
  • OSD at rear side
  • System power LED light

CSIRO working hard on African swine flu

African swine fever (ASF) is a fatal pig disease. And it’s on Australia’s doorstep with confirmation of outbreaks in Timor-Leste, 680 kilometres from northern Australia.

The disease is found in sub-Saharan Africa and has been detected in countries in Eastern Europe, including Russia and Ukraine. This year we have seen the disease sweep down through Asia and towards Australia.

ASF kills about 80 per cent of the pigs it infects and there is no vaccine or cure. Some estimate a quarter of the world’s pigs will be dead by the end of this year from ASF.

The consequences cannot be understated as pork and other red meat prices are already seeing an increase in Europe and Asia. There is also talk of a global protein shortage for 2020 as a result of ASF.

READ MORE: Western Meat Packer appoint new Australian sales manager

Australia, which has a $5.3 billion pork industry and 2700 producers, continues to be free from the disease. The CSIRO is working with the Australian government and industry to keep it that way.

ASF on our doorstep
The Department of Agriculture has implemented tight biosecurity measures. This maintains strict controls over imported products, which could be contaminated with the ASF virus. It also has heightened surveillance and increased screening for banned pork products.

Recently, Australia deported a Vietnamese tourist after border officials found 10 kilograms of banned food products in her luggage. This included a large amount of raw pork. She was the first tourist to have her visa cancelled and be expelled from the country over breached biosecurity laws.

In September 2019, researchers at our Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) tested pork products, seized at international airports and at international mail processing centres, for ASF virus. AAHL is Australia’s leading high-containment laboratory for exotic and emerging animal diseases. It has unique facilities and expertise to manage the biosecurity risks of testing samples for the virus.

The results from AAHL’s testing last month showed 48 per cent of seized products were contaminated with ASF virus fragments. This is an increase from 15 per cent in the testing AAHL undertook earlier this year.

Detection of these virus fragments does not necessarily mean they can cause infection. But it does highlight the need for Australia’s strict biosecurity measures. Authorities are now using these results to refine and strengthen Australia’s border measures.

ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly
ASF is harmless for humans but spreads rapidly among domestic pigs and wild boars through direct contact or exposure to contaminated feed and water. For instance, farmers can unwittingly carry the virus on their shoes, clothing, vehicles, and machinery. It can survive in fresh and processed pork products. It is even resistant to some disinfectants.

With no vaccine available, controlling the spread of the virus can be difficult. This is especially so in countries dominated by small-scale farmers who may lack the necessary resources and expertise to protect their herds.

For example, swill feeding—giving pigs kitchen and table waste in which the virus can persist—is a common practice throughout Asia. This is a major factor contributing to the spread of ASF. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to enforce a ban on this practice. Especially across so many small holder farms in resource-poor countries affected by the disease.

But, action is being taken.

Australia’s domestic biosecurity network
many Australian agencies are  working together to manage surveillance and monitoring as the risk of ASF entering Australia is on the rise.

In addition to testing, these agencies continue to strengthen our national biosecurity network. The CSIRO is working with quarantine services, agriculture and human health organisations to build awareness, assessment, resilience, preparedness and response.

Our researchers are working on understanding how ASF infects pigs as well as looking at novel approaches to producing a vaccine. With no vaccine currently available, outbreaks of ASF are difficult and costly to contain and eradicate.

In the policy space, a round table meeting at Parliament House was recently held. Along with other leaders, scientists and governments, the CSIRO shared the work currently being undertaken and the actions needed to keep ASF out of Australia.

Plans are underway for a simulation exercise later this year. This will test Australia’s disease response capabilities to make sure the country is as prepared as it can be.

Helping our international neighbours
AAHL has an important role to play in the Asia-Pacific region. Its international team work with partner agencies and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide expertise, training and laboratory skills to rapidly identify disease.

This support enhances the region’s capacity to manage emergency disease outbreaks. It also assists Australia’s pre-border security through better threat assessment and management of viruses circulating in neighbouring countries.

It also provides regional expertise to the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Food and Agriculture Organization (a specialised agency of the United Nations) for emergency preparedness missions to the number of countries at risk of virus.

We can all help
Fortunately, Australia’s pig industry is better equipped to manage the necessary biosecurity measures. And producers are willing to put strict controls in place to keep the disease at bay. Hobby farmers must also be careful to follow the rules.

Nobody wants to see images of dying pigs and farmers struggling to make ends meet on our screens. Everybody can play a role in good biosecurity.

Be aware of the risks and, most importantly, please don’t import illegal meat products or feed pigs with food scraps.