4 Important Considerations When Designing Food-Handling Equipment

Food Handling Equipment

Designing a commercial kitchen or food-service processing facility requires careful planning to ensure all materials and construction techniques meet safe food-handling standards. Standards from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) must be diligently followed depending on the type of food being handled, processed or served.

If you’re in the process of planning a food-service operation from scratch, take time to familiarize yourself with the rules and requirements for your food-handling equipment. Pay attention to the four tips listed below as you create your equipment designs.

1. Create Projects Without Hidden Risks

As you design your equipment, avoid hidden areas where food can get trapped and begin rotting or growing bacteria. Dead ends in processing equipment, right-angle joints in tubing, lap-welded joints and other design flaws are ideal places for food to accumulate during processing.

Regulations for most food-processing equipment require that metals be joined smoothly via stud welding. Stud welding ensures that joined metal surfaces in contact with food don’t have holes, pocks or soldered seams that can catch food particles and liquids. Additionally, when sanitary fasteners are added to one side of a metal piece via stud welding, the reverse side of the metal remains unmarred.

An experienced stud-welding professional can help you design food-handling equipment that conforms to all standards. The welding professional can also analyze your design and show you how to use fewer components to have fewer joints in your end project.

Contact Northland Fastening Systems today to meet your stud welding needs. We provide both the specialized equipment and the experienced stud welders required for all types of commercial projects.

2. Study the Guidelines

While federal, state and other regulatory agencies issue rules and enforce laws governing food-service equipment, other organizations develop guidelines for food-service businesses. Their materials and insight are invaluable as you plan your new food-service operation.

These organizations include:

  • National Sanitation Foundation. An independent, accredited standards organization that develops certification programs and public health standards for manufacturers
  • 3-A Sanitary Standards, Inc. A nonprofit corporation that represents regulatory sanitation specialists, food processors and equipment fabricators
  • Underwriters Laboratories. A well-known standards company that is branching out more into food-processing operations; services offered by the group include inspection, testing and analytics

If your business involves handling dairy products, the USDA is in charge of regulations for equipment design. If your business will handle products like wild-game meat, pharmaceuticals or other high-risk products, you must adhere to strict rules about the fabrication of your equipment. Understand all of the regulations to properly budget and plan your project.

3. Choose Materials Carefully

The two main features to look for in the materials you choose are their safe use around food and their corrosion resistance. Surfaces must be easy to clean, smooth and safe for use with high-acid foods.

Regulators and standards organizations generally recommend stainless steel surfaces for food-service operations. But any old stainless steel will not do. It must be nontoxic and nonabsorbent.

The USDA and other organizations require the use of American Iron and Steel Institute (AISA) 300 series stainless steel. However, types 301 and 302 are excluded for direct contact with foods. AISA 400 series stainless steel is also allowed for blades and other pieces that must be more durable and hardened.

Standards are enforced for the following materials when used in direct contact with food:

  • Solder and brazing material
  • Carbon and tungsten carbide
  • Ceramics
  • Rubber and plastics
  • Adhesives

As you create your kitchen or food-handling design, your estimates will be far too low if you don’t take into account the specific materials you must use to comply with food-safety regulations. Cutting corners by using inferior, unsafe materials may lead to your entire project being denied certification on inspection.

4. Use the Correct Finish

Metals used in food service must be properly finished to meet food service requirements. In a dairy operation, all surfaces that come in contact with the product must be at least as smooth as the stainless-steel finish rated No. 4. All welded junctures have to be ground and polished to a No. 4 finish as well.

A finish of 2B mill is acceptable on flat metal as long as there aren’t any defects in the final metal finish. However, stainless-steel plates and bars must have a finer finish than 2B mill to be in compliance for use with dairy products.

Passivated metal is also required for direct-product contact in many food-service and food-processing facilities. The passivation process varies according to the metal used and the application. Debris and oils are cleaned from the surface of the metal. Then the metal is dipped in a bath of finishing material that helps the metal withstand corrosion.

Finishes for internal components are an important design consideration. Once measured in grit, internal surfaces are now measured in microinches (in the U.S.) and denoted as Ra values. An internal finish considered acceptable for piping in food, dairy and beverage applications is 40–24 Ra.