Listeria may get all the press, but did you know that almost half of all food recalls are the result of undeclared allergens? Food allergies necessitate emergency medical care for 200,000 people every year, and they’re responsible for about 150 deaths.
Allergies are one of the drivers behind the current free-from food trend — consumers want to be sure that their foods don’t contain any trace of something that could cause an allergic reaction.
Another major driver of this food trend is the growth in the gluten-free market. More and more consumers are turning away from products that contain gluten for medical reasons, health reasons, or simply preference.
In either case, if you manufacture allergy-friendly or gluten-free foods, it’s absolutely essential to keep any trace of these contaminants out of your products. This can be a challenge if you make those products in a facility where non-allergy-friendly or gluten-containing foods are also made. In these situations especially, cleaning and sanitation are your best friends in the fight against cross-contamination because your food can’t be free-from unless your facility and your processing equipment are as well.
This article looks at three ways an industrial vacuum cleaner can help you keep your facility allergy- and gluten-free.
Removing allergen- and gluten-containing dust from the processing environment
If you process any ingredients containing allergens or gluten in your facility, there’s no way to keep these substances out of the environment entirely. What’s important is that you collect all of them before they have a chance to cross-contaminate any other products.
This goal is difficult to accomplish using traditional cleaning products like mops, brooms, and even compressed air. These cleaning methods can’t efficiently collect all of the contaminant-containing dust from the processing area. What’s worse, they tend to kick the dust up into the air, redistributing it to other parts of your facility.
Your best bet for removing contaminants from your environment is a food processing vacuum, preferably one fitted with a HEPA filter, as described below.
Preventing allergen- and gluten-containing dust from re-entering the processing environment
A second way your vacuum helps you avoid cross-contamination better than mops and brooms is by keeping the allergen and gluten dust contained until you dispose of it.
Any food processing vacuum worth its salt will have a HEPA filter on the exhaust outlet to keep the particles you’ve worked so hard to collect from being exhausted right back into the air.
All of Nilfisk’s vacuums come with a multi-stage filtration system. In most cases, that includes a HEPA filter as the final stage to guarantee contaminant-free exhaust.
Why a HEPA filter?
HEPA filtration isn’t required for food processing environments. However, it’s usually a good idea, especially in critical applications where any amount of contamination is too much.
Why? Because food dust particles can be very small.
Grain dusts can be as small as 5 microns, starches as small as 3 microns, and milled flour down to 1 micron. Particles this small aren’t easy to capture and retain.
A true HEPA filter is individually DOP-tested and certified to capture 99.97% of particles down to 0.3 microns. When you evaluate different vacuum solutions, make sure the filtration system is up to this challenge.
Using a color-coding scheme to designate cleaning tools for different applications
Finally, you can keep cross-contamination at bay by using different cleaning tools for different types of products. You can accomplish this with an industrial vacuum via color-coded accessories, like hoses, nozzles, and conical tools.
In a color-coding program, each specific production area has a designated tool color — for example, yellow for products containing peanuts, green for gluten, and so on. This allows operators to easily confirm that they’re using the right equipment, without relying on memory or written language. It’s a simple and effective system that anyone can learn and use starting from Day 1.
If you make allergy-friendly or gluten-free food products, there’s simply no room for error. People’s lives depend on your continuing commitment to preventing cross-contamination in your plant.