The complexity of production processes is a growing challenge for compliance with hygiene requirements. Hygienic Design gets to the root of the problem. Impulses come from machine builders and food manufacturers.
Above all, hygienic design means reducing the risk of contamination by means of machine design. Example packaging of powdery materials: Here it is necessary to build machines without open threads and right angles and to provide them without exception with continuous weld seams. In addition, these must be designed in such a way that no product residue can accumulate, especially not in areas that are difficult or impossible to access.
“These are actually basic hygiene concepts,” says Karl-Heinz Bahr, consultant at Thales Consult Berlin and an EHEDG member. There is a good reason why the EHEDG regularly organises seminars and courses on the subject, explains Bahr: “Many of these basic concepts, which have been incorporated into the EHEDG guidelines, have not yet fully established themselves. This is also due to the fact that machine builders are more inclined to optimise existing machines, where in terms of hygienic design the machines actually have to be completely rethought.
Hygiene requirements, process optimization and automation, are just some of the many issues that decision-makers and stakeholders in the food sector sector have to manage. From process to product, FachPack has all the right answers. More information can be found here.
Food manufacturers increase the pressure on machine builders
Despite this limitation, Bahr sees an increase in awareness of hygienic design. “There is more pressure from the market: hygiene safety is an aspect that is on the list of requirements. More and more food manufacturers nowadays demand that machine components be EHEDG-certified.” The reason for this is obvious: incidents in the food sector are now penetrating much deeper into public awareness than they did 15 or 20 years ago; they are being addressed more openly, not least via social media channels. The standards have gone up. The big food companies are generally the pioneers, development is running from the top of the pyramid downwards. Medium-sized companies would then follow suit at a certain distance.
But not only corporations set standards, also certain industries, as Bahr explains: “The highest demands must traditionally be met in the pharmaceutical industry. The methods of quality assurance have slowly but surely moved from the pharmaceutical industry to the food sector”. First of all, this has had an effect on the methods used in the production of infant and baby food. Then similar requirements were generally defined for production in the food industry.
European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group (EHEDG) The EHEDG is a community of experts consisting of experts from machine and component manufacturers, the food industry, research institutes and health authorities. The organisation was founded in 1989 with the aim of raising awareness of hygiene in food processing and packaging. EHEDG's aim is to contribute to hygienic design and construction in all areas of food production, thus ensuring safe food production. The EHEDG supports European legislation and its demand for hygienic handling, processing and packaging of food with hygienic machines in a hygienic environment. Further information: www.ehedg.org
Overall, the dairy industry is more developed than other areas of the food industry. This is due to the fact that dairy products are much more microbiologically sensitive than powder products. In order to control the residual risk, hygienic concepts of liquid processing are used in powder processes, albeit in a modified form. In New Zealand, this can be observed particularly well: 40 percent of the country’s milk production is exported as milk powder, and the economic factor has contributed to the hygienic design of New Zealand milk powder production setting standards worldwide. One example: Normally, large bags of 25 kilograms are gripped from above during filling in various process steps. In New Zealand, on the other hand, large paper sacks are filled free-standing, which prevents something from falling from the gripper into the sack.
Marc Mauermann rates the development of the last ten years as “very positive”. The deputy head of the Processing Technology department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Process Engineering and Packaging in Dresden observes that many companies implement fundamental criteria. One of the most important aspects is that all areas of the machine are easily accessible for automatic and manual cleaning. Because: “Machine areas that cannot be reached by automatic cleaning processes are not cleaned!
"EHEDG has been developing hygienic design guidelines for almost 30 years, but as far as the extensive application of these standards in production lines is concerned, the history of hygienic design has actually only just begun." Karl-Heinz Bahr, Consultant at Thales Consult Berlin and EHEDG Member
Hygienic Design applies to all players along the value chain
But even if a machine meets all hygiene requirements, this is of no use if contamination could occur in other process steps. Therefore, the entire process must always be kept in mind and the entire value chain must be considered – and this consists of machine manufacturers, packaging service providers, packaging manufacturers and the customer. Although the thinking of everyone involved is moving in the right direction, there is still a lot to do, according to Bahr: “EHEDG has been developing hygienic design guidelines for almost 30 years, but as far as the extensive application of these standards in production lines is concerned, the history of hygienic design has actually only just begun.