Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) is a familiar term for those within the food and beverage industry. Less familiar is the idea that plant operators should include steam in their HACCP based approach. Francisco Pedrosa, Regional Clean Steam Specialist at Spirax Sarco, explains why steam should be central to HACCP in the food and beverage sector.
For food and beverage manufacturers, the proactive management of quality and safety is already of paramount importance. Indeed, preventing contaminants from entering into the production process is the central aim of those following a HACCP based approach. However, while HACCP may come as second nature to plant operators, it remains all too easy to bypass steam as a conduit through which contaminants could be introduced into the food processing chain – leaving the quality of the end product exposed to the risk of contamination.
Steam is as much a key ingredient in the production of the end product as the eggs, the sugar, or the milk. It is important therefore to remember that using the right grade of steam in the plant will have an impact on the quality of your end product.
Despite having passed through a fine stainless-steel filter, typically of five microns in size, the potential risk of both particulate contamination like rust, scale and other pipe debris and chemical contamination – from boiler chemicals or cross-contamination from other sources, such as Cleaning-in-Place (CIP) chemicals still remains. Stainless-steel filters are not designed to remove suspended water droplets within the steam. Therefore, if the filter is unable to remove boiler carryover and other contaminants, they could still find their way through the filter, leading to possible process or product contamination – impacting the quality of the goods.
Keep it clean
Plant managers questioning the alternatives could find benefits from introducing clean steam into the manufacturing process as a way of overcoming the potential contamination risks associated with filtered / culinary steam. Clean steam – though not mandatory in food and beverage manufacturing – is the highest grade of steam and is used as standard in a range of quality-critical processes by many food manufacturers to ensure that the quality of their produce is not compromised.
To produce clean steam, a secondary generator is used which allows for the control of feedwater quality – eliminating the risk of water treatment chemical contamination. Investing in quality is second-nature to those within the food and beverage industry. Making the move from culinary steam to clean steam generation is an investment in ensuring repetitive and consistent steam quality of the end product at all times.
Those managing food production lines already have a sharp eye for quality and safety procedures. Introducing clean steam into your plant can give you total assurance in improving quality standards – making it a great deal easier to tick that all-important HACCP box.
Steam can collect contaminants along its journey in a plant – no matter how attentive to detail a plant manager is. If a plant is manufacturing goods in the UK, then they will already be aware of European guidelines which state that “steam used directly in contact with food is not to contain any substance that presents a hazard to health or is likely to contaminate food” (EC No. 852/2004).
Taking the next step
All too often I find myself speaking with plant operators at food processing plants who know that they should be including steam within their HACCP approach but lack the knowledge to do so. By making use of a ‘walk the plant’ audit, plant operators can take the opportunity to find and explore new ways of improving the quality of food and beverage products by assessing the role of steam in the manufacturing process. This is increasingly a requirement from major retailers who, along with manufacturers, are responsible for ensuring the safety and quality of the products they sell.
The inclusion of steam within a HACCP approach will help you to ensure that the management of steam quality is at the core of your operation.
To see how you can enhance steam quality, download the quick-start guide here
Spirax Sarco is a leading provider of steam and thermal energy solutions headquartered in the UK