While food may be used to treat us at our sickest and weakest, it can just as quickly harm us if proper sanitation efforts aren’t taken at the stage of production. Sanitation in food manufacturing is beyond essential now and will only continue to grow in importance as time goes on. And food manufacturers are no stranger to that fact as they constantly strive to improve not only sanitation of their product, but of equipment such as their industrial computers as well as their production plant as a whole. 

Unfortunately, you can never be too safe when dealing with sanitation in food manufacturing. According to the CDC, 1 in 6 Americans get sick with a foodborne disease a year. Of those who get sick, 128,000 are admitted into hospitals and 3,000 of them die due to those illnesses. In the face of these rather concerning numbers, food manufacturers and producers need to constantly be improving their approach to food and beverage sanitation. 

Here are a few pieces of tech that are being used today, to resounding success, to improve sanitation efforts across the entire production process. 

Industrial Computers

There’s a reason a distinction is made between commercial grade and industrial grade computers and it’s not just a matter of durability. An industrial grade computer built with the production plant in mind also takes into account the need for sanitation in food manufacturing.   

Take a fanless rugged computer for instance that opts to remove fan cooling in favor of a heat sink. In an environment where bacteria can spell infection for hundreds if not thousands of people, that design choice is one that can save several lives. This is because fans draw in bacteria along with air into the computer. Inside the warm computer body, bacteria, (such as salmonella that takes less than 5 hours to reach harmful levels) can fester and grow before being pushed back into the environment. 

A heat sink, like those found in many fanless industrial grade computers, avoids this by having a metal plate that absorbs heat from the computer’s internals. No fans, no circulation of air, no spreading of harmful bacteria. 

Industrial computers with an IP65 rating are also sealed against outside debris and moisture. Not only does this mean less hardware failure, it means you can sanitize the device more effectively without having to worry about cleaner getting into the computer and damaging it. 

RFID Tracking Documents Sanitation in Food Manufacturing

When a forgotten step in sanitation can spell wide-spread infection, it’s hardly enough to rely on spotty human memory. Hard evidence that a tool or machine has been cleaned can optimize the sanitation process by cutting down on seeking confirmation that a tool has been cleaned. Furthermore, it allows an item to be scanned and marked during each step of the sanitation process, ensuring every item has been thoroughly cleaned and made safe to use. RFID tracking delivers on both those fronts, making it an invaluable asset to sanitation in food manufacturing. 

By having essential tools marked with a barcode, floor workers can scan them into a nearby industrial panel PC and mark them as either in need of sanitation or sanitized. If the workers are regularly on the move, you can even have a portable rugged windows tablet equipped with scanning hardware so users can mark assets without having to run over to the nearest workstation.  

Tracking the sanitation process, of course, implies you already have a process in place. Before investing in more hardware and technology, ensure your team has a deep understanding of how sanitation should be conducted at your facility. Document a list of standardized steps for cleaning essential tools that your employees can follow. Once that process is set in stone, technology like RFID scanning can fine tune it.

High-Pressure Processing

High-pressure processing (HPP) is a rather new sanitation process. It’s not ubiquitously used across all food and beverage manufacturers but it’s effectiveness has been proven. Unlike pasteurization, which is when heat is used to treat food products and kill off bacteria, HPP subjects a packaged product to high levels of pressure. By sealing the product in a basket with water, pressure is transmitted uniformly across the product’s surface, killing off harmful bacteria and increasing shelf life.

What many have found is that HPP is much more effective at killing off these bacteria without sacrificing the nutritional value of a food or beverage product. That, coupled with the fact that it doesn’t rely on heat, makes the process perfect for sanitizing fresher, more nutritious products such as fruits, vegetables, and juices. The issue many have faced, however, is that adoption of HPP can take a pretty hefty investment of capital, one that many smaller facilities may not be able to afford. 

If high-pressure processing is something you’re interested in incorporating but the upfront cost is daunting, consider reaching out to a “toller”, companies that have access to HPP hardware and sell that capability to other’s on a fee-for-service basis. If you’re a smaller operation or only have a few ingredients that require HPP, this might be a cost-effective means of empowering your sanitation efforts.    

Manufacturing Execution System (MES)

A manufacturing execution system is an information system that monitors the entire process of creating manufactured goods on the factory floor. Not only does this process, often called serial tracking, track production of the good, it also records the parts and, in the case of food and beverage, ingredients that go into that product, where they were delivered from, and what batch they’re from. 

As far as sanitation in food manufacturing is concerned, this information can be immensely helpful in the case of a recall. If a batch of food product was recalled, the MES can quickly be referenced to see a commonality in how those defective goods were produced. Once a problem ingredient has been found, users can trace where that ingredient came from and from what batch, allowing them to halt production of any product that included an ingredient from that batch.

The best part is, since data is recorded in real time on an MES, your team’s reaction time with product recalls are sure to be much more responsive, ensuring the issue is remedied before anyone has had a chance to consume the faulty product. Also, because you can catch problem batches like these before they have a time to be used in more product, you’ll be able to recall a much smaller amount, meaning less of a hit to your finances and productivity. 

Sanitation in Food Manufacturing Needs to be Constantly Improving

As long as we’re eating food and drinking beverages, certain precautions will need to be taken to ensure proper sanitation and the safety of consumers. Fortunately, as more and more technology and enhanced sanitation methods become available, sanitation in food manufacturing is sure to become more and more effective. With enough time, we may just see a drop in the CDC’s foodborne infection rates. For more information about how you can improve your food manufacturing process’ sanitation efforts, contact Cybernet today.