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Prevent Rubber Contamination in Food Processing Environments

preventing rubber contamination

Last year there was a significant increase in the number of recorded recalls of food products contaminated with rubber, a 22% surge compared to 2015. (Source: US market, Food Safety Magazine)

Whilst the rise in contaminated food products could be a sign of increased food safety monitoring, it could also be that food processing mistakes are occurring more frequently. Either way, it causes major concern for manufacturers and consumers.

Precision Polymer Engineering (PPE) explore the issues around rubber contamination and how best to prevent these occurrences across the food processing industry.

Rubber components and food products

Rubber O-rings and seals are used throughout food processing lines, in equipment such as tanks, blenders, mixers, grinders, kettles, dryers, filters, dosers/dispensers and pipe couplings, to name a few. Their role lies in creating a barrier containing gas, fluid or produce to prevent leakage. Repeated mechanical operation can, over time, damage rubber seals causing fragments to break off, this in turn can result in product contamination.

Seals may also become trapped or dislodged as a result of poor installation. Whilst regular maintenance cycles can help reduce the risk, further prevention is needed in the form of metal detectable rubber seals, providing extra security and peace of mind.

No immunity from rubber contamination

Rubber contamination can occur in various food processing disciplines including ready meals, dairy, bakery and confectionery and recent example show that no area is immune.

Last year in the US, Pilgrim’s Pride, Texas-based chicken producer recalled $5.5 million worth of food products after consumers found their chicken nuggets contaminated with metal, plastic, rubber and wood. (Source: FSIS-USDA)

In the UK, last year there have be product recalls from Lidl, Tesco and Sainsburys for yogurt and pasta products, plus Oatibix Flakes from Weetabix.  There have also been cases reported relating to Walkers Crisps, Maltesers, Country Life Spread and Mr Kipling mince pies (source Food Standards Agency).

What’s the solution?

Detectaseal is the name given to a range of FDA compliant, metal detectable elastomer materials designed to help manufacturers reduce the risk of rubber seal contamination during food processing.

Developed by Precision Polymer Engineering (PPE), Detectaseal fragments as small as 2mm can be identified by conventional, in-line, metal detection and X-ray equipment, ensuring early warning of rubber contamination.

Detectaseal materials have a number of benefits:

  •     7 material grades to suit most application requirements
  •     Identifiable by X-ray
  •     Custom shapes and sizes available
  •     Compliant with FDA & USP standards
  •     Quality Assurance with full batch traceability and ISO10402
  •     Consumer protected
  •     Reduced risk and recall prevention

Materials used in Detectaseal components include EPDM, nitrile (NBR) and fluorocarbon (FKM) and silicone (VMQ) grades. These materials can be moulded into standard and non-standard sized O-rings, gaskets and custom shaped seals in blue and black for use within all models and types of food processing equipment.

In the world of Fast Moving Consumer Goods, brand image is everything. Competition is fierce in the food industry and the quality associated with a brand is critical to a company’s success. It’s for this reason that the development of component materials like that of Detectaseal are essential for developing a food safe environment within the processing industry.

Process Industry Informer

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