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PII Oct-Nov 2013

FOOD INDUSTRY FOCUS Meeting the requirements for ‘lead free’ products in hot water supplies in the food and beverage sector Continued concerns over the presence and effects of lead in water supplies to food and beverage production facilities has driven a raft of local, pan-European and global legislation and guidelines on maximum lead content in water. This issue has placed manufacturers under continued pressure to create solutions for the components of water processing equipment which minimise lead content. Dave Whelan of Norgren discusses the requirements and developments in technology being made to meet them Manufacturing and production in the food and beverage sector requires an understanding of the materials that will be in contact with food and the levels of lead within them to minimise the risk of contamination and therefore of harm to the end consumer. Essentially, food contact materials are products that are intended to be in contact with food and beverages in processes ranging from fruit and vegetable growth, harvesting and transportation, to the manufacture of confectionery and beverages such as beer, wine, as well as sauce, dressing and oil production. Obvious examples include a glass bottle or a soft drinks can, but food contact materials also include machinery in food factories and its components. More sophisticated packaging means a variety of materials could be in contact with the products at the same time, such as plastic, rubber, paper, aluminium and other coatings. For legislative purposes, areas within production facilities are split into a number of categories, depending on the levels of potential contamination. Food areas are defined as product-contact areas, while splash areas refer to surfaces across which food may splash but will not return to the product being manufactured. Products specified for usage in any of these areas must be washable, disinfectable, corrosion resistant, non-toxic and non-absorbent. Ensuring that water supplies used throughout the process of food or beverage production are, as far as possible, lead-free is crucial to guarantee that products leaving the facility do not contain harmful levels of lead and so are safe for the consumer. You can’t be too careful… There is a wide range of legislation governing pan-European guidelines on the maximum lead content allowed in water, but it is important to bear in mind that this varies from country to country. Local codes of practice differ widely. It is also crucial to note that manufacturing requirements and standards are often individual and bespoke, and determined by tailoring the best solution with the customer’s requirements. Similarly, the processes and chemicals used for cleaning will vary from plant to plant, although an improved focus on cleaning is pan-European. Regulations to ensure food safety are key, as during the production process, molecules can migrate from the food contact material to the final product. The EU Drinking Water Directive (1998) lays out the requirements in exacting detail, and is accompanied by the World Health Organisation’s 2006 Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality, and the 2011 EU Directive Plastic Materials for Food. Ever more stringent legislation continues to rightly put component manufacturers under pressure to create solutions for processing equipment which minimise lead content. In Germany, for example, the maximum allowable amount of lead in water has reduced from 0.040mg/l in 1990 to 0.025mg/l in 2003, and will reduce further to 0.010mg/l later this year. Calculation of likely contamination is generally considered in terms of the area of wetted surfaces which come into contact with metallic materials. This has driven a number of key technological breakthroughs in the area of system components in recent years, each of which perform significantly better in key areas – in particular, in minimising the potential for lead contamination within wetted surface contact areas. Stainless steel is regarded as a very safe option, with strong corrosion resistance and does not require the wetted surface calculation, but is generally expensive, while question marks remain over the quality of die casting and surface finish achievable. Another option is ‘lead-free’ brass which has a significantly lower lead content than the typical 5% found in leaded brass, but even that, at typically 0.1%, is nowadays still considered excessive. Calculation of the wetted surface is problematic as it applies to the average lead content of the entire wetted system, including all valves, fittings and pipework. Again, there are uncertainties over machinability, with the possibility of cross-contamination within the machining facility, meaning dedicated equipment is needed, while by no means can it be considered a ‘best cost’ option. The most recent innovation in material development in this sector is high-tech polymer. Capable of performing at high temperatures, it requires no wetted system calculation and meets all current legislative standards. As a cost-effective option, it can cope with a variety of challenging operating conditions, meeting all pan- European legislative requirements, and can be cost-effectively produced in high volumes, with very tight tolerances in terms of surface finish achievable. Norgren Limited, Lichfield, Staffordshire Can be contacted on Tel: 01543 265000 E-mail: advantage@norgren.com Web: www.norgren.com/uk/foodandbeverage 46 Process Industry Informe r October-November 2013


PII Oct-Nov 2013
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