“Hygiene is a basic expectation from food producers, with food safety quite rightly a non-negotiable element of meat processing,” says Mark Bishop, joint md of Interfood.
Indeed, hygiene is often among the key features highlighted for new kit, such as Ishida’s RobotGrader, which combines weighing and pick-and-place technologies to grade products of varying weight into fixed weight trays.
All parts of the RobotGrader are of open plastic or metal design, enabling rapid wash down.
Liam Smith, processing product specialist at Multivac UK, says: “We recently supplied a number of Laska bowl choppers into the pâté manufacturing market.
‘Highest product quality’
“Strict hygiene requirements and the highest product quality were among the drivers that enabled us to win the business.”
Holchem, meanwhile, claims to be one of the biggest suppliers of chemical hygiene solutions in the UK and Ireland, in addition to training, support systems and auditing services, with its clients including 2 Sisters, Faccenda, Dunbia, Dawn and ABP.
“Holchem has been supplying the food and beverage industry for over 30 years, and a big part of that is meat and poultry,” says Darren Saunders, head of support at Holchem Laboratories.
“This year, there has been a massive increase in demand for wash-down systems in the meat and poultry sector, a 200%-plus increase compared with last year.”
Whereas large processors might typically spend millions on new equipment, smaller companies have historically been more cautious in their spending on chemical hygiene systems.
But that could be changing. “Over the last 12 months, to spend £100,000 on a hygiene system people don’t seem to have a problem with that,” says Saunders.
Freeing up labour
Clients are recognising the benefits of putting an effective system in place which could, for example, reduce cleaning down-time from eight to six hours, freeing up labour for extended production times and resulting in payback in as little as six months, he adds.
Holchem advises processors on everything from the correct storage of chemicals through to compliance with British Retail Consortium and retailer standards.
It has been encouraging processors to use medium- rather than high-pressure wash down systems for the past 20 years, says Saunders, claiming that high-pressure washing potentially damages equipment and causes aerosol contamination of food products.
Interest has been rising in the adoption of hygiene systems more typically used in high-risk processing in lower risk applications, which Saunders welcomes as a positive and more uniform approach to food safety particularly for meat and poultry processors operating across multiple sites.
“I’ve seen a massive improvement in the design of equipment, with stainless steel construction and better design, which is easier to dissemble,” says Saunders.
“Generally speaking, food contact surfaces are a lot easier to clean now but, with areas like the motor house casing, there is still some room for improvement and that is where food processors tend to get caught out.”