It should be. But that doesn’t mean you can’t and shouldn’t be speaking about it on a daily basis. In the effort to comply with food labeling regulations and mandates developed to provide consumers with specifics on ingredients used in foods, cross-contamination is a hot topic.
According to a recent article on foodsafetytech.com, “almost half of food recalls are the result of undeclared allergens, and often these at-fault allergens were not only undeclared, but unintended.”
Obviously, cross-contamination is a common challenge. But what is the solution?
Cross-contamination and food safety
There are two types of cross-contamination to worry about in a baking environment ... on-site allergens transferred within the operation and outside contaminants coming in via people and equipment.
Internal contamination can happen simply by moving from one room to another. For example, let’s say a baking facility has a room that is specifically used for gluten-free products. That bakery needs keep in mind that equipment that is used to fix the conveyor belts, like splice presses, could be bringing gluten products with them from room to room or building to building.
Allergens, like peanut dust, could infiltrate a nut-free facility through an outside contractor’s equipment and can be transferred onto the conveyor belt pretty much anywhere the contractor travelled with the contaminated equipment. When an outside contractor is providing belt splicing service, allergens could still be present on their belt splicing press from a job performed at another worksite.
But cross-contamination isn’t just about allergens. It’s also about bacteria, viruses, and toxins, or even the remnants of a simple cleaning product. Consider the splice press we just talked about bringing allergens into your bakery during a simple service visit. If it is a water-cooled press, it could also harbor bacteria in the water or from another source because it was not properly cleaned between visits.
Because of these factors, we have to be especially wary when using equipment from other parts of the plant and from outside contractors. Consumer illness, product recalls, and production shut-downs can be debilitating to a food operation’s finances and reputation.
What you can control ...
Policies outlining proper hand washing, appropriate footwear sanitation, jewelry removal, etc. can go a long way towards keeping cross-contamination at bay for your own employees, but how can you ensure that the splicing equipment used on your belts is nut-free, egg-free, shellfish-free, and free of bacteria?
Purchase your own splicing press.
|In-house belt splicing equipment can be stored and sanitized by your maintenance team, limiting the chances of cross-contamination in your bakery.
When you control the equipment, you can sanitize and store it to your standards. In some cases, it makes sense to purchase different splicing presses for different parts of your operation. That is the only way you can ensure that equipment used in an allergen-free zone is free of contaminants. The press never leaves the allergen-free food manufacturing zone.
Flexco’s Novitool® Aero® Splice Press has set the industry standard for quick cycle, air-cooled conveyor belt splicing, and is easy to use. Having the press on-site will also significantly reduce your downtime, with repairs being done by your own maintenance team when you need them, instead of waiting for an off-site crew.
Known and used by many belt splice contractors, the Aero Press is a safe bet for your company to own.
The advantage to you is that if you choose to use an outside splicing crew, they can follow all of your sanitation protocols and come into your facility to use your splice press, which you know is free from contaminants. How’s that for peace of mind?
Visit Flexco at IBIE
We’ll be showcasing our product solutions at IBIE 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada USA this fall, so stop by and visit us at Booth 7253. We will personally give you a demonstration of the Aero Press and help you solve any other conveyor challenges you may have with your operation.
Authored by: Michelle Graves, Product Manager and Todd Stewart, Industry Manager
Graves manages the overall global business, market plans, technical support, and activities associated with the light-duty belting market for the Novitool® product line, including new product development, market analysis, and global strategy. Graves holds a bachelor’s degree from Albion College as well as a master’s degree from Grand Valley State University.
Stewart has been with Flexco for 30 years, working in various roles from customer service, to manufacturing, to training and new product development. As Industry Manager, Stewart thoroughly researches target industries, creating programs to support each industry and identifying customer issues, as well as potential product solutions. Stewart currently leads the development of the Industrial Baking Industry Program and is responsible for ensuring that Flexco is positioned to serve the needs of our global customers. Stewart earned a bachelor’s degree in Marketing with a B2B specialty from Davenport University.