The Challenges of Sealing in the Food Industry

Apr 26, 2020

In the food industry, there are a wide range of applications that come with a number of challenging requirements. Hygiene standards and legislative manufacturing regulations are constantly changing and so, seals must also comply with these.

Elastomers that are used in pipes and pumps, as well as reaction vessels and process equipment have to be suitable to deal with the aggressive cleaning and sterilising processes. Along with this, the food industry also uses a wide range of flavours, preservatives and colours, all of which can have different effects on the materials that are used in sealing.

The Challenges of Water

The Water Regulation Advisory Scheme (WRAS) is a subscription membership company limited by guarantee. It was brought in during 2008 and the 26 water suppliers in the UK are subscribers of the scheme. The aim of WRAS is to ensure that public health is protected by preventing the contamination of public water supplies while also encouraging the use of water efficiently through promoting and facilitating compliance with The Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations. As a result, sealing materials that have been given approval for use in drinking water applications have to adhere to the requirements of BS 6920. Therefore, all non-metallic materials are required to undergo strict testing as a way of determining how they affect water quality. This approval will prove that the non-metallic material does not contaminate water and meets all relevant regulations.

FDA Approval

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will approve products that are used in applications in which food or consumables are manufactured and produced. This is especially true in food processing, dairy, beverage and pharmaceutical industries. Products that have FDA approval are found in most packaging equipment with one example being gable-top machinery. The FDA takes a thorough approach and so, the regulations have been adopted as an international control standard. However, the jurisdiction of the FDA is restricted to the USA only.

The FDA website contains CFR21.177.2600 and this makes clear the relevant regulations that are in place for rubber articles that are developed for repeated use. It details thoroughly which elastomers can be used for production, manufacturing, packing and processing. They also detail what can be used in preparing, treating, packaging, transporting and holding food.

The food industry is unlike many other industries out there and that is because all processes within it are developed to be safe. This is because any risk can be passed onto the public and with that could come significant problems if the regulations are not adhered to. Seals are an integral part of the process and they are developed to carry out a specific role but first and foremost, they have to be suitable for the role that they play in the food industry.

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