When clean just isn’t clean enough

Making the case for anti-microbial cable protection in the food and beverage industry

The threat of bacterial infection is constant within the food industry and mechanical equipment posing a potential area of risk. Meirion Buck, Senior Design and Technical Manager at ABB for Adaptaflex, outlines the issue and provides insight into preventing contamination issues.

Health and safety regulations within the food manufacturing industry are notoriously strict and end-users fight a constant battle to ensure that process equipment is operating efficiently, safely, and hygienically, without compromising valuable power and data connections.

Given the volume of mechanical process equipment involved in the food and beverage industry combined with the shift towards increased automation such as conveyor and feeder systems, there are often thousands of power and data cables that need to be protected. However, cable protection systems like conduits and fittings, can in themselves become a home for bacteria and pose a direct threat to food manufacturing.

Stringent health and safety, along with strict infection control measures are required to ensure that bugs, such as listeria, e-coli and salmonella, are killed before they can enter the food production process. As we have seen in recent years, it can take just a single bacterial infection to eradicate decades of consumer trust, crippling a company’s finances in the process and miring it in costly litigation battles.

Many different types of conduit systems are used in the food and beverage industry, and these systems are not without their own challenges. It is well known and proven that bacteria can adapt and survive on the various surfaces, meaning a structured and thorough cleaning regime is a must for clean equipment and food safety. Typically, stainless steel equipment is cleaned up to five times a day in order in order to minimize potential infection. The chosen method, typically called wash-down, are high powered jets with or steam or hot water with chemical agents, typically anywhere from 50oC up to circa 130oC.

‘It can take just a single bacterial infection to eradicate decades of consumer trust.’

The repeated cleaning process can impact the integrity of cables and wiring leading to the need to replace to ensure an effective system. As such, manufacturers periodically carry out maintenance alongside the installation of cable protection conduit systems, to help mitigate the effects of repeated washdown, abrasion, impact and dust and liquid ingress.

Regular cleaning of equipment, including cable protection conduit systems is required, since it only temporarily reduces the threat of infection. However this increases the likelihood of liquid ingress and material corrosion. With a wash-down, the killing of bacteria is instant, but stops once stimulus (high pressure wash and chemicals) is removed and the equipment dries. This causes an obvious tension between the need for a dry environment to prevent water ingress, whilst, in turn, doing what’s needed to hamper bacterial growth.

The solution created with technology partner BioCote, is to integrate anti-microbial protection in to a new generation of liquid tight conduit. Featuring a smooth, FDA, EC and FSA compliant DuPont Hytrel® thermoplastic jacket, the conduit is complimented by, an industry first, single piece liquid tight 316 Stainless Steel fitting. The new system poses a viable alternative to other types of conduit systems and is perfectly suited for the protection of processing equipment and surrounding process area.
F&B conduit & fitting 2

‘The science behind anti-microbial protection is fascinating.’

The anti-microbial additive contains inert ionic silver, meaning it doesn't react or change the appearance of the final product, additionally the additive won’t diminish in extreme temperatures, such as steam or deep freeze. Crucially, the anti-microbial protection will not wear off or wash away, as it is more than just a surface coating, in that it is incorporated to form an integral aspect of the product during manufacture. Most importantly, the bacteria cannot survive contact with the silver ions in the anti-microbial protection, because it in effect turns off the bacteria’s basic properties.

The science behind anti-microbial protection is fascinating. The silver ions on the surface of a material treated with anti-microbial additives bind with microbes they come into contact with and irreparably damage them, disrupting their normal cell function, stopping them from reproducing and finally resulting in the death of the cell.

Tests completed by BioCote, see the level of bacteria reduced by up to 80% in the first 15 minutes and 99% in just two hours. Based on the work and materials BioCote provided to ABB, in addition to in-house testing, it’s been proven that the effectiveness of the anti-microbial treatment does not degrade over time, throughout storage, or during repeated wash-downs.

Given the size of the food and beverage market, ABB’s range of food and beverage conduit solutions can offer end-users a quantifiable return on investment and help eliminate the risk of bacterial contamination, which could cost the industry both time and money.

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‘... see the level of bacteria reduced by up to 86% in the first 15 minutes and by 99% in just two hours’

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