Dust is a major issue in the food industry thanks to the presence of airborne allergens, which, while a problem for workers' long-term health, can also pose issues further down the line for consumers.
Failing to undertake appropriate cleaning measures and tackling dust in hard to reach areas can affect product quality, while also running the risk of cross contamination – with potentially fatal consequences in the event of an extreme allergic reaction.
For the workers themselves, exposure to fine dusts from flour, cotton and pollens can cause inflammation of the airways, which can develop into infections such as bronchitis.
Overexposure to hazardous dust for a prolonged period of time can also cause permanent disabilities, and even death.
It is therefore essential that efficient measures are put in place within the food industry to ensure the protection of workforces and the quality of products, while adhering to the relevant health and safety regulations.
The food industry has special requirements and control of components and equipment used in production is extreme, with a special focus on migratory risk, surface finish and antistatic properties.
As a deeper understanding of the harmful properties of dust are better understood, businesses are taking steps to control and confine areas in the workplace where excessive dust is created, but the necessary cleaning required often takes a considerable amount of time, money and resources.
Research we carried out found that a third of UK food businesses spent between 11 and 20 per cent of their annual turnover on cleaning, with a further one in six claiming to spend even more than that.
On top of unnecessary costs, we also discovered one in four food companies spent more than 21 hours a week cleaning, while a third assess their cleaning processes at least once a week, on top of the time they spend actually cleaning.
It's a snowball effect - not having the equipment to effectively capture dust at its source, both where and when it's created, leads to an accumulation of dust, which in turn will naturally increase the time and money spent to combat it.
Streamlining cleaning processes and using the optimum equipment for each scenario plays a large part in reducing time consumption, as well as unnecessary costs. Source extraction systems are one of the most effective ways of achieving safe and hygienic food production, as they are designed to ensure food processing areas are the cleanest they can be – keeping the potentially serious side effects of dust to a minimum.
With hygiene requirements within the food industry being extremely stringent, a complete source extraction system can be fully integrated into the production process for recycling or used as a centralised vacuum cleaning system.
At Dustcontrol, we've just launched a new Good For Food (GFF) process extraction and general cleaning range that, when integrated with our GFF components, includes flap valves, suction brushes, flat nozzles, hose connectors, tubing system, joints, pre-separator, automatic shutter valves and filter units. In addition, all material is approved for food contact and several have been designed to be installed in Zone 22, according to ATEX Directives 2014/34/EU.
By combining safe food contact, autoclavable, colour-coded, detectable, antistatic and FDA compliant properties to fully integrate a comprehensive system, food processing companies can yield higher quality products, whilst making savings on factory-wide cleaning costs.
Overall, cleaning is a serious business in the food industry, courtesy of strict process and control. With companies spending considerable amounts of time and money on cleaning, it pays to make sure they're doing it right. Streamlining cleaning processes and using the optimum equipment ensures businesses are utilising resources and saving valuable time and costs on creating a safer working environment.