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An important decision early in the equipment design process

Cleaning procedures for feeders

Choosing the right cleaning procedure is mandatory for feeders as well – to ensure minimal downtime for cleaning and product changeover, and to ensure that the entire feeding system is completely cleaned and safe. The correct cleaning method can make production of food more economical without sacrificing food quality or food safety.

Feeder designs can be tailored to a variety of cleaning procedures, including high-hygienic wet cleaning, and high or basic hygienic dry cleaning procedures. The optimal cleaning procedure is highly dependent upon the type of material being fed, the process requirement and environment. In addition, many food manufacturers are developing or utilizing cleaning protocols that avoid any wet cleaning. In these cases, feeding systems that include interchangeable product contact modules with quick-disconnect clamps, which allow for quick and easy changeover between product runs, may be preferable.

View into the bowl of a Coperion K-Tron screw feeder

In cases where wet cleaning is acceptable, the use of retractable spray balls can be incorporated into the feeder hoppers and material contact components. When requesting these types of designs, the end user should also request that the feeding system manufacturer provides confirmation of cleaning via riboflavin testing. This testing provides assurance to the end user that all product contact surfaces are sufficiently wetted during cleaning. Finally, in some situations, different surface finishes and stainless steel grades must be reviewed for materials in contact with certain food products to make sure they prevent the start of microbial growth.

For this reason, it is imperative that detailed cleaning requirements be discussed in depth between the feeder system supplier and the food processor, as some hygienic requirements may be overkill for the design of the process, thus making the design cost inefficient. It is also important to note that regulatory design standards which apply to cleaning may differ between countries, such as between the United States and Europe. US standards, like USDA or 3A, focus on construction and design, while European standards, like EHEDG, focus on validation tests providing cleanability.

Due to the variety of options available, discussions regarding cleaning must be held early in the equipment design process. For example, during the request for quote and project definition stages, open communication between the food manufacturer and feed-system supplier to discuss all options available for cleaning and product contact accessibility are key. By designing these features into the system at the forefront of the project stage, many of the issues which occur due to contamination and subsequent food safety can be avoided.

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