A rising spate of food contamination around the world, from the recent Brazilian meat scandal to the Mars chocolate recall a few years ago, has triggered public health scares. Breaches of food safety can have dire consequences for everyone involved—food manufacturers, retailers, brand owners and consumers. At worst, deaths and severe health complications may occur, undermining customer trust.
In many cases, food companies sustain financial losses, having to pay for damages, fines and penalties. At times, factories are shut down and costly product recalls undertaken. The damage to brand reputation may turn out to be incalculable.
Considering these negative impacts, food and beverage manufacturers have become increasingly cautious in food production and handling, while taking stringent control measures to prevent potential fallouts.
Food contamination has many causes. One of the most overlooked causes is related to substandard industrial flooring of facilities and areas where edible products are made and handled. When food is involved, it is essential to keep the floor clean due to the risk of cross-contamination. Contaminated flooring in a US food preparation facility caused a deadly outbreak of listeria bacteria in 2002, which killed 33 and caused 143 others to be hospitalised.
In the food industry, the highest standards of hygiene must be upheld. But maintaining a clean commercial kitchen floor is a huge challenge, and even more so for large industrial food processing plants. The flooring is expected to perform under pressure and withstand heavy equipment, a large amount of foot traffic and extreme temperature changes, all while staying sanitary.
Attributes Of An Ideal F&B Flooring Solution
There are many types of industrial flooring systems on the market. Whatever your choice, it is important to pick a flooring system with these key attributes:
- • Dense and impervious material for sanitation and easy cleaning
- • Non-tainting from mixing
- • Durable and tough
- • Slip-resistant
- • Chemical and thermal resistant
Food manufacturing facilities must be installed with flooring that is easy to clean and sterilise. The best flooring systems are those that create one continuous floor with an impervious finish, in which there are no cracks and crevices where grime, dirt, bacteria or germs could hide.
Heavy duty polyurethane is one of the best materials for industrial flooring, especially in an F&B environment, as it requires little effort to clean, is seamless and does not support microbial, bacterial or fungal growth. Some of the finest heavy duty polyurethane products are non-toxic and as cleanable as stainless steel. It is also crucial that the new flooring selected is non-tainting even during application, without imparting any odour on the food being prepared.
Durability is another attribute to look for. Choosing a durable and tough flooring will help eliminate the need for frequent repair and replacement, hence reducing downtime and increasing production efficiency. Good, heavy duty polyurethane flooring can remain functional over a long period of 30 years or more, despite its constant exposure to high temperature, aggressive chemical attacks, heavy equipment traffic and impact from moving trollies, alongside other intense operational activities.
For example, the Ucrete flooring system from Master Builders Solutions (BASF) installed in the UK-based Long Clawson Dairy in 1976 is still in use today. Flooring employed in the F&B sector also needs to have good resistance to high temperatures and thermal shock.
In addition, they must be resistant to the commonly used substances in the food processing environment such as acetic acid, lactic acid, vinegar, sauces and oleic acid. A suitable surface texture for any particular application will also depend on the nature of any spillage to be encountered.
Slips, trips and falls are leading causes of injuries and accidents. This is why having a non-skid flooring system is imperative in the F&B and food processing environment, where the floor surface routinely gets wet, oily and slippery. Installing an anti-slip floor will allow peace of mind and minimise liability as well as accident claims and compensations. Some industrial flooring brands provide a range of non-slip floor finishes for selection to meet one’s functional requirements.
Cost-effective flooring systems are highly preferable as they provide for easy maintenance and lower maintenance costs. They will enable users to avoid lost production time due to future flooring maintenance and replacement needs. Moreover, some flooring options come with a higher moisture tolerance to facilitate fast installation, hence reducing downtime further.
Solicit Expert Advice
For food businesses both large and small, the need to comply with global standards for slip resistance alongside the other requirements of governments and international regulatory bodies, such as International Food Standard (IFS), Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems and the Eurofins IAC Gold Certification criteria, will continue to guide their flooring selection.
Each processing plant has its own specific operational needs, including traffic and aesthetics, so decision-makers are advised to consult reputable experts on what choices they should make. Talking to the experts can help define the right product for you, with the right appearance and slip resistance, the right thickness to meet your temperature requirements and the robustness to provide a cost-effective yet long-lasting solution.