Easy to sanitise - the best way to ensure cleanliness
The highest level of sophistication in production processes is required for the manufacture of confectionery products. In particular, manufacturers assign the highest priority to hygienic design for open processes - processes where the product comes into contact with the production equipment. Machines designed in a way that improves process safety and product shelf life are given preference.
Well-thought-out plant design should ensure that stainless steel housings provide maximum hygiene, ‘dead zones’ are avoided and the entry of dust and moisture prevented. The sealing material should guarantee a level of protection up to IP66 and the surface of the housing should have roughness of less than 0.8 µm and be finely brushed in the drip direction - the best conditions for the safe draining-off of liquids.
Certifying the highest hygienic standards
But as simple and self-evident as it sounds, hygienic design is not easy to achieve in practice. The European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) provides assistance in this area to confectionery producers. The Group defines criteria for easy-to-sanitise design in a large number of guidelines and certifies components that meet the standards. The certificate is considered a quality seal - an accolade for achieving the highest hygienic standards - and is becoming increasingly popular. “We have seen a steady increase in the number of certifications,” says Dr Jürgen Hofmann, an expert from Weihenstephan and head of the German group within the EHEDG. Pipeline components such as sensors, valves and pumps were prominent among the first elements to be certified. Now, increasingly complex components such as rotary feeders and diverter valves for pneumatic delivery systems are arriving at the test centre.
The decisive factor, in addition to the selection of materials, is the design of the components to make them easy to sanitise. This is because intensive and regular cleaning of all of the equipment used is mandatory. Another factor is that this regularly repeated working step must be kept as short as possible, because “whoever designs the cleaning process to be as efficient as possible has the most profitable production”, says Hofmann. Taking sensors, for example - they require significantly less cleaning time if they are integrated in the pipeline with a flush front in a globe housing.
Cleaning-in-place as the best solution
In this context, cleaning really means cleaning-in-place (abbreviated to CIP). This royal road to cleanliness has become an essential part of the modern process environment in confectionery production. It is a process in which the cleaning solutions circulate within the production equipment, cleaning it completely automatically, without the need to disassemble any part of the system. To guarantee effective rinsing, it is essential that the tanks, pipelines and pumps are designed without any dead zones and can be completely emptied. In addition, the surface properties of all of the components that come into contact with the product must be as smooth as possible, to prevent the adhesion of soiling, product or microorganisms in joins and niches.
On top of all of these considerations, it is also essential not to lose sight of the big picture. Hygiene-conscious producers are always confronted with the question of how the individual machines making up the production line are connected with one another. The chocolate in the coating machine passes through hygienic pumps and pipelines, neither of which exhibit dead zones. But what’s the situation in the self-contained unit? Does it have any corners where product residues could remain for longer periods?
Hygienic design will be one of the central themes at ProSweets Cologne, which will take place in January 2013, in parallel with ISM, the International Sweets and Biscuits Fair. From 27 to 30 January 2013, approximately 350 exhibitors from around 30 countries will present their goods and services in the Cologne exhibition centre. The entire supplier product range for the manufacture, processing and packaging of confectionery and snack items will be on display and solutions for the challenges faced at different stages of production will be presented. For further information, visit www.prosweets-cologne.com or www.ism-cologne.com.
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