After visiting a bunch of produce packing plants in the U.S. and Canada over the past decade, I have a keen interest in cleaning and sanitizing conveyor belts. They sure seem like they could be harborage sites for Listeria – especially with all the seams. Traditional conveyor belts are also pretty hard to take apart as part of a daily (or between lot) sanitation step.
A couple of years ago Michelle Danyluk and I wrote a factsheet on establishing a clean sanitation break in a fresh produce packing facility. I still think that while a packer attempts to separate products into lots (by date, farm source, or some other variable) that clean breaks aren’t well done.
My concerns are around how sanitation is carried out (maybe it’s a good compound, maybe not; all sanitation crews are also not built equally) – but equipment really matters too. Sorting machines haven’t been built with Listeria control as a design feature.
According to the Packer, JBT Corp is marketing a better belt.
The SaniClean belt conveyor from JBT Corp. has gained food safety approval and is now commercially available.
“The biggest feature of it is that it is super easy to clean,” Jeff Cook, aftermarket parts and equipment sales manager at JBT, said in a news release. “With most conventional conveyors, you can’t get into them and clean under or around the belt — you need the maintenance department to take them apart to do the cleaning.”
The sanitation precautions include disposable plastic belt supports directly under the conveyor, as well as “food-safe” welds that allow for cleaning of the machine’s hidden and hard-to-reach crevices to stop germs from manifesting.
The marketing sounds good; but who knows what it really means. Food safety approval? By whom? Against what standard? Show me the data (I couldn’t find anything on their website).
Don’t believe the hype without seeing the validation.