Food safety is one of the most important aspects for processing plants around the nation. Each year, facilities try to prevent any food illness outbreaks or bacterial contamination by following the strictest sanitary regulations, but sometimes facilities lack awareness of the simplest safety measures.
More awareness on organic products
For food processing facilities, there's a lot of emphasis on creating healthy, nutritional and safe products for consumers. The organic market in the U.S. has completely skyrocketed in the last decade as more consumers look for healthier products. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, organic products are sold in approximately 20,000 natural food stores in the nation.
Additionally, organic products are now offered in roughly 3 of 4 standard grocery stores, and overall organic sales accounts for 4 percent of the total food sales in the country. With the demand for organics only rising, food processing plants have to put more emphasis on safe, healthy and nutritious products.
The 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines Committee claimed processed food is anything other than a raw agricultural commodity, which is most prepackaged or canned foods. The committee added that processed foods typically undergo chemical or mechanical operations to preserve the food items and keep them safe for consumers.
Since organic food items have increasingly become a large portion of Americans' diets, the attention paid to creating a safer product is critical for any food processing plant. According to the Albuquerque Journal, food processing prevents items from spoiling through canning, drying, freezing, or self-curing methods.
The importance of heat
One of the most important steps to performing these processing methods is heat, the Albuquerque Journal reported. Food processing facilities depend on heat treatment equipment such as shell and tube heat exchangers to kill harmful microbes and to deactivate plant enzymes that would make the food spoil.
However, there's a fine line between heating a food item to kill microbes and ruining the taste or texture of the product. According to the source, if the heating process is performed improperly, the food product can severely lose nutritional value. Vitamins and nutrients are an essential part of why people consume food and too much heat can ruin these elements.
Need for custom heat exchangers
Custom shell and tube heat exchanger equipment is vital for keeping the maximum nutrients in a food product through the processing method without allowing harmful bacteria to grow. Because each food product is unique in its own way, facility operators need to use custom equipment that ideally works better with the type of food product being processed. Custom heat exchangers give processing plants more options for heat treatment on different products rather than standard equipment that is only supposed to be used on certain items.
Creating safer products
The demand for safer products can be addressed with new equipment such as custom shell and tube heat exchangers to create safer products. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency enforces food processing facilities to have a control plan if they handle any one of the eight major food allergens. These products include: fish, shellfish, milk, eggs, soybeans, tree nuts, peanuts and wheat.
To create the maximum level of safety in processing plants, facilities must then address six key issues:
- Training and supervision to make sure all employees in the facility are up to date on hygiene and contamination issues.
- Separating food items in storage and handling processes to limit cross contamination in other food products in the facility.
- Updating cleaning procedures so equipment is completely fit for food processing.
- Acknowledging all cross contamination issues within the facility to ensure products are handled in appropriate areas.
- Making sure all items are properly labeled with appropriate allergens or USDA guidelines.
- Implementing a supplier control program to ensure all ingredients are properly labeled on the food item.