The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was created to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply. This act shifts industry focus from responding to contamination, to preventing it, thus making food processors take a more proactive approach to eliminating and preventing food-borne contaminants from entering their plants.
Under FSMA, food processors are required not only to identify known and potential hazards, but also to prevent the occurrence of them.
Thus, conventional methods of cleaning and sanitizing are being re-evaluated, as hand-washing operations, including power spraying, cannot uniformly eliminate contaminants and pathogens, nor achieve water temperatures hot enough to properly sanitize large containers such buggies and bins.
In the case of GoldCoast Salads, a Naples, Florida–based producer of seafood spreads, the goal was to acquire an automated washing system that would improve productivity and efficiency while maintaining maximum food safety.
Director of operations, Adam Radno, says, “Hand washing is a very tough job that is still widespread throughout the industry, and our employees have worked very hard to maintain our high standards of food safety.”
As part of an expansion into a new processing facility, GoldCoast Salads has installed a customized washing tunnel that will further ensure that its food buggies will be cleaned and sanitized.
“Not only does the new system completely wash and sanitize, but it helps prevent contaminants or bacteria from reaching the food-processing area,” Radno says.
“Food safety is critical throughout our industry, but it is even more critical for us because our products are RTE (ready-to-eat), and there are no post-production safety measures such as post-pasteurization,” he adds. “This new tunnel washing system helps to ensure that we continuously maintain our stringent safety standards.”
He visited with CM Process Solutions in Corona, California, a manufacturer of hygiene and food processing equipment that services large and small food companies.
Radno became interested in the concept of a tunnel washer, which is designed to offer a continuous, in-line washing solution for buggies, trays, bins, and other containers. This type of system not only cleans and sanitizes thoroughly, but also offers a wide range of options, including various different heating methods including gas, steam coils, live steam injection, and electric.
“In the end, we chose the ET75 Tunnel Washing System. But while it was a highly customized system, the cost was in no way exorbitant.”
The system is also designed to handle up to 75 buggies per hour, a volume that would take a large crew and a lot of equipment to handle manually.
GoldCoast Salads’ new tunnel washing system automatically lifts and mounts each buggy in an inverted position, to enable the most thorough washing of internal surfaces.
Both 400-pound and 600-pound buggies are recognized by the system and handled according to size.
Each buggy is transported through the system’s tunnel by a stainless steel chain conveyor. After the wash process is completed, the buggy is then automatically unloaded and delivered to the floor level, allowing the operator to remove.
In the main wash chamber, each buggy is washed by a traveling jet system. The buggy stays still inside the chamber while a set of jets wash up and down the length of the buggy at high speed.
The jets make 30–35 passes on the stationary buggy, spraying backward and forward, to ensure that all surfaces are thoroughly cleaned.
In addition to saving on time and labor, the ET75 tunnel washing system also offers green benefits.
The system is supplied with a recirculated hot wash and hot rinse tanks, providing a savings on water and energy. A fresh sanitizing rinse can also be employed.
The system is designed with sloping exterior surfaces where possible, and electrical interlocked service covers to allow for efficient cleaning.
“The new tunnel washing system will help us save in a lot of ways,” Radno says. “In addition to water usage, it will cut down on water treatment and cleaning chemicals. Plus, because it’s an automated system, we have ongoing control over the washing process, and that makes us more efficient.”