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Fluid Dynamics: Simplifying the process of identifying the right tubing solution

Cost management, performance enhancement and regulatory compliance are key considerations in tubing selection.

April 29, 2014
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With countless points of direct and indirect contact between tubing and product meant for human consumption, it is no surprise that safety concerns and regulatory pressures have increased so dramatically throughout the world. Pressures to manage costs and enhance performance, while navigating an increasingly complex regulatory environment, can complicate the process of selecting the best possible tubing solution for a given application, adding to the many challenges food and beverage manufacturers face.

Food Engineering recently discussed the issues with Iuliana Nita, global marketing manager, food and beverage, Process Systems Business Unit, to decode the tubing selection process and identify various challenges facing these operations—managing costs while maintaining efficiency and throughput, the rising safety concerns surrounding phthalates and globally increasing regulatory pressures.

 

The cost of doing business

 

FE: What steps can food and beverage dispensing equipment manufacturers take to manage their costs while maintaining the overall performance of their operations?

Nita: There are many different types of equipment used to dispense a wide range of products, from the iconic hand-pump used to put ketchup on fries to a peristaltic pump used to dispense slushies, smoothies and yogurt. Used under various levels of pressure and extreme temperatures on both ends of the spectrum, the durability of equipment and components is one of the biggest issues for most food and beverage operations making significant investments in complex dispensing equipment. Tubing solutions that exhibit excellent durability as well as chemical, high-temperature, corrosion, abrasion and pressure resistance, serve to reduce operational downtime and improve long-term cost savings.

With product consistency key to ensuring repeat customers, food and beverage operations also need to focus on materials designed to withstand frequent cleaning and sterilization-in-place (CIP and SIP) without impacting the taste or odor of their products. For example, Saint-Gobain’s Tygon S3 portfolio can provide the necessary performance benefits to take on various types of media and dispensing mechanisms.

In addition, food and beverage operations can look to other areas beyond just tubing to increase overall efficiency. Using fittings designed for continuous use and reuse can help reduce replacement costs, resulting in potential savings of up to 80 percent over time. Suppliers can also work as partners to advise on the best possible solutions for a given application since there is rarely a one-size-fits-all solution.

 

FE: Do the same cost management principles apply to dairy operations?

Nita: Managing costs while maintaining the bottom line is pretty universal—the applications are slightly different. For a complex dairy operation, maintaining consistent output is crucial because the ROI “clock” begins ticking immediately.

Material specification for tubing solutions is a good place to start when looking for ways to streamline operations. The key is finding a balance between durability, ease of use and flexibility. 

 For example, Saint-Gobain’s Transflow—and now Transflow S3 product line—was designed to provide superior performance solutions for safe and effective dairy transfer applications. Easily installed for seamless transition, the lines increase operating efficiency for our customers with minimal systems cost and downtime.

These and other solutions can offer easy cleaning with minimal work stoppage, which is an important attribute to maximize efficiency. Tubing, hoses and fittings that provide clean-in-place (CIP) convenience allow plant maintenance workers to quickly and easily sanitize the parts while maintaining product output.

To effectively reduce costs without sacrificing performance, companies must specify tubing with specific performance properties. By using highly durable, yet flexible, tubing that is kink and tear resistant, dairy operations can save significantly on the footage and labor required to install rigid, stainless steel, glass tubing or piping. Crucial to ensuring the quality of milk on its way to the processor, clarity for product inspection is another performance property to look for in tubing solutions.

 

For safety’s sake

 

FE: What is one of the biggest regulatory challenges facing food, beverage and dairy operations today?

Nita:For dairy operations, bacterial growth from the buildup of butterfat, milkstones and milksoil can be a major issue. As a result, manufacturers in this industry are facing an immense challenge to ensure tubing solutions meet the necessary food safety regulations across global markets, while maintaining a high level of performance.

There has been a global rise in regulatory attention paid to food safety with a notable focus on materials that come into direct contact with food and beverage products. Specifically, we have seen rising concerns over the safety of di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP), a plasticizer used to give tubing its flexibility, transparency and durability. Recent studies suggest DEHP may have negative human health impacts, and as a result, the use of phthalates is expected to be limited or prohibited on all direct and indirect food contact regulations. In fact, DEHP is currently on the European Union (EU) list of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC). Phthalates are also on California’s OEHHA Proposition 65 list of chemicals of concern, and Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare specifies that under the Japan Food Sanitation Law (JFSL), materials used during food processing must adhere to certain phthalate requirements.

When choosing advanced materials for tubing solutions, manufacturers need to identify potential issues on the horizon, mitigating any risks and potential damage to their brands in the future. As public concerns and regulatory scrutiny regarding phthalates continue to grow, processors have begun to recognize the need to get out ahead of potential consumer issues and impending legislation. 

 

FE: How can food and beverage operations best prepare themselves to handle global food safety regulations?

Nita: In terms of food safety regulations, it is important that they are familiar with the key regulatory bodies, as well as their safety standards and certifications, which vary from region to region.

In Europe, the EU has enacted the Regulation on Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) to protect human health and the environment from risks associated with various chemicals. Within REACH, various regulations are aimed directly at food contact materials.

For example, Regulation 10/2011/EU—also known as the Plastics Implementing Measure (PIM)—includes directives for food contact. In addition, Regulation 1935/2004/EC—known as the Framework Regulation—covers the safety of all materials that might come into contact with food. Regulation 2023/2006/EC lays out good manufacturing practices for the development of food contact materials, such as polymers, ensuring they meet legal standards.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates materials that come into contact with food and beverage products, requiring that all material ingredients are compliant with the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations. Regulation FCN 1126 is aimed directly at flexible tubing for food and beverage applications. In addition, the Food Safety Enhancement Act and the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) have been developed to increase food safety scrutiny and implement strict controls.

Other US-based certification standards include 3-A, a symbol indicating food contact materials meet 3-A Sanitary Standards. The 3-A standard is considered to be among the best, particularly within the dairy industry. Finally, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) lists appropriate materials and manufacturing processes for the production of food safety material, ensuring products coming into contact with food and beverage meet safety standards.

In Japan, the Ministry of Health, Safety and Welfare has enacted the Food Sanitation Law, designating select additives as safe for use in food and beverage processing.  Only approved additives on the “positive list” may be used.

Again, processors can lean on their suppliers to provide insights on new and existing regulations and work together to troubleshoot future compliance challenges and take the guesswork out of building operations that are conducive to growth. 

 

FE: What properties should they look for in tubing solutions to successfully navigate stringent food regulatory standards?

Nita: Tubing that comes into contact with food should be designed to prevent leachable particles from entering the product stream and jeopardizing the integrity and safety of the product. These solutions should also offer the necessary level of clarity to enable easy monitoring of product consistency and through the identification and elimination of particle buildup. The Tygon S3 portfolio has been developed with safe and effective performance in mind, complying with most recognized regulatory standards around the world, including those set by the FDA, NSF, 3-A, REACH and Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Specifically, Tygon products comply with Regulation 10/2011/EU and Regulation 1935/2004/EC for many food and beverage products.

In terms of performance, Saint-Gobain offers tubing solutions to serve food and beverage dispensing, as well as all stages of the dairy transfer process from dairy farms, to tanker trucks, to plant storage and within the plant itself. These solutions provide CIP convenience, high levels of durability, flexibility and clarity, as well as non-porous inner surfaces.

Clarity allows for visual inspection and the verification of cleanliness, while a non-porous inner surface minimizes the potential for bacterial growth by promoting a sanitary fluid path. A smooth, non-porous tube bore ensures a bacteria-free fluid path in a wide variety of dairy processing applications without affecting the taste or odor of product transferred through it.

Once again, there is hardly ever a one-size-fits-all tubing solution. A competitive marketplace, evolving regulatory landscape and the constant pressure to advance performance can make it challenging for food and beverage processors to cut through the clutter and find the right technology for their operation. However, working closely with knowledgeable suppliers can help in overcoming these hurdles.

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