The food industry is a rapidly changing environment, and rarely do those changes make the lives of processors any easier.
Food manufacturers try to stay one step ahead of the tastes of a fickle public while juggling ever stricter government regulations and making investments that will support their growth without saddling them with debt.
Imagine it like an intricately balanced house of cards. And the processing facility is the table on which the house is built.
With so much to think about, food processors need a facility that can do four things:
· Maintain compliance with safety and hygiene regulations;
· Prevent worker injuries;
· Hold up under the unique chemical, thermal, and mechanical demands of the business;
· Keep its integrity for a very long time without needing replacement or repair.
Cutting corners during construction is a dangerous game in any industry, but for food processors the potential outcomes hardly bear thinking about. Saving money by using cut-rate building materials can result in more than just material failures down the line; it can mean a facility that quickly runs afoul of regulations or even result in a costly recall.
When building or remodeling a food processing plant, all the building materials need to be carefully selected. Food industry flooring must be particularly resilient – day in and day out, it will bear the weight of stationary and moving loads. It will connect warm areas with cold and wet areas with dry. Thanks to gravity, everything ends up on the floor – ingredients, effluent, cleaning solutions – so it must be able to bear frequent chemical exposure.
It’s a lot to ask. But if the floor cannot handle any one of these stresses, it will fail. And repairing or replacing it may not only cost more than the original installation, doing it properly will require halting operations and moving everything out of the way.
The FDA requires floor coverings in food preparation, food storage, utensil-washing, and walk-in refrigeration areas to be nonabsorbent, easily cleanable, and durable. Grout must also be nonabsorbent and must be made with epoxy, silicone, or polyurethane. Coving is required at the juncture of the floor and wall.
Floors that are hosed down or that receive effluent discharge must be properly sloped to trapped floor drains that have been properly installed.
USDA-regulated facilities, such as meat and poultry processing plants, must be “of sound construction, kept in good repair, and be of sufficient size to allow for processing, handling, and storage of product in a manner that does not result in product adulteration or the creation of unsanitary conditions.”
Floors in these facilities must be durable, impervious to moisture, and frequently cleaned and sanitized. Areas that are hosed clean must be graded to drain and have coving at the juncture of the floor and wall. Floors cleaned without being flushed with water do not require drains, but still require coving.
HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) is an internationally recognized method of identifying and managing risks pertaining to food safety. If you choose a flooring material that has been HACCP certified, it means an independent auditor has established that this material prevents or controls for microbiological, chemical, or physical contamination of food products.
Argelith tile is HACCP certified and is used in food industry plants worldwide. Bakeries, snack food processors, dairies, egg producers, and meat packers have all found Argelith products that meet or exceed their needs. For wet areas, we recommend Hexalith hexagon-shaped tiles, which can be laid to any slope.
Government regulations are constantly in flux. If you build your facility only to meet the minimum regulations for sanitation and hygiene, you chance being forced into expensive renovations should the standards tighten.
The dangers of using low-quality building materials are simply too great. If your floor is not up to snuff, you risk fines and expensive remediation to fix the problem. What’s more, these regulations exist to protect your customers. Ignoring them or doing the bare minimum to squeak by could put the health and safety of your customers at risk.
Fully vitrified ceramic tile is recognized by both the FDA and the USDA as an acceptable floor covering for all areas of a food processing facility. Tile is nonabsorbent, easy to clean, and the most durable industrial floor covering available. Argelith tile is HACCP certified.
Ceramic is a natural, inorganic material, containing no harmful chemicals or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). It is naturally inhospitable to mold and microorganisms and can be safely cleaned without the use of toxic chemicals. Because tile is temperature resistant, it can be cleaned using high-pressure steam, which can damage some floor coatings.
FDA and USDA regulations require that floors be “smooth” and “easy to clean,” but allow for slip resistance in high traffic areas.
The difficulty with nonskid flooring in the food industry is that the more slip resistance a floor has, the more it holds on to dirt and soil. This is true of all flooring types.
Unlike poured floors, pressed vitrified tile does not rely on grit for slip resistance. When the tile is made, it is pressed into a textured mold. The mold presses a raised pattern into the surface of the tile, like a fingerprint. The deeper the “ridges” in the “fingerprint,” the more slip resistant the tile. This texture cannot pop off or abrade like added grit.
The purpose of covering an industrial concrete floor is to protect the concrete from corrosion and wear. It is important to choose a floor covering that is chemical resistant to any substances that might land on it. Even seemingly innocuous ingredients like milk contain compounds that can chemically react to eat away at the floor.
The type of chemical resistance a facility requires depends on the products being made there. Fully vitrified ceramic tile is inert and does not react with acidic, alkaline, or oily substances. Hot oil, blood, sugar, alcohol, vinegar, salt – all can be cleaned away without affecting the integrity of the tile.
Some floor coatings are chemical resistant but are affected by ultraviolet light. This causes fading of floors near windows or skylights. In some cases, it is only the color compounds that react with the light, but it is difficult to know for certain whether a faded floor has also lost some of its chemical resistance.
Water resistance is also an important part of a corrosion protection system. When water seeps through microcracks in a floor coating, it can create dangerous conditions allowing microbial contamination in the concrete slab.
Vitrified tile is permanently water resistant. The tile is pressed and fired in such a way that there is not room for water molecules to penetrate between the ceramic molecules. The weakest part of a tile floor is the epoxy or urethane grout. If water gets under the tile, it is because it seeped through tiny holes or cracks in the grout – which is why the tile should be set in water-resistant mortar.
Thermal shock is an often overlooked facet of industrial flooring. This term refers to how a material reacts to drastic temperature swings – for example, when a blast of cold air from a walk-in freezer sweeps into a hot room.
It is the nature of building materials to expand when they get hot and contract when they get cold. When this change happens rapidly or when layers react at different rates, cracks and buckling can occur. For example, if the concrete subfloor contracts more quickly under that blast of cold air than the chemical coating bonded to it, the coating will crack or pop off.
A knowledgeable flooring contractor will minimize these risks by using expansion joints to break up large sections of floor. These joints give the flooring a fraction of an inch in which to expand to relieve the pressure that could lead to cracks.
Fully vitrified tile is an excellent choice in facilities with drastic temperature swings. Thick ceramic tiles heat and cool slowly and evenly, protecting the concrete slab from experiencing thermal shocks. This makes tile a smart choice for flooring cold rooms, walk-in freezers and coolers, hot rooms, and under boilers and commercial ovens.
In order to maintain the important water and chemical resistance that protects the slab, food industry flooring must be able to bear the weights and rolling loads of the facility without cracking or abrasion.
Floor covering should be sufficiently thick and hard to resist scratches or abrasions that weaken the floor or create vulnerable spots for chemicals and water to enter. It must have the mechanical resistance to hold up heavy equipment and sustain rolling vehicles, racks, or forklifts without cracking or buckling.
Small-format tile is particularly well suited to bearing heavy loads. The weight is distributed across multiple thick tiles, which then disperse it across a wider area of the slab. This allows high point loads, in which weight is concentrated on a small point, to be borne over a larger area.
Vitrified tile exceeds flooring industry standards in break resistance and abrasion resistance. In essence, a properly installed tile floor should never “wear out.” Eventually, the floor will need to be regrouted, as epoxy grout, like epoxy coatings, develops pinholes and microcracks over time. Most grouts are warrantied for between 10 and 20 years.
Fully vitrified tile makes an ideal chemical resistant floor surface for such food industries as:
· Candy factories
· Production bakeries
· Dairy and cheese plants
· Poultry plants and egg producers
· Pickles and preserves factories
· Abattoirs, slaughterhouses, and meat packers
· Snack food manufacturers
· Food oil manufacturers
· Sugar processors
“I’m a big fan of Argelith tile and have used it in both of my breweries. It’s a great product that holds up to the rigors of brewing, including heavy water exposure and forklift traffic.”
Ken Grossman, Founder
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.